Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday Quick HIts: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

The General Assembly is starting this session with a series of meetings on the budget. We are also witnessing a waiting game of sorts.  Here is how this works. Before the budget can really get going, the members of the General Assembly need to see what type of economic stimulus plan comes down to the state from the federal government.  What is clear about the budget is that for this fiscal year we are facing a deficit around $2 billion dollars. Governor Perdue has already told state agencies to send up cuts, freezes and to prepare layoff contingencies.  Hold on tight folks it is going to be a bumpy ride.

So here are your hot policy topics for the week:

North Carolina General Assembly:
There are no meeting scheduled for this week.  Committee assignments have yet to be made. It may be another two weeks before we have standing legislative committees meeting.


Economic Recovery

Despite zero support from Republicans and the defection of eleven Democrats, the strong House Democratic Majority won passage of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The final vote was 244-188. The bill would spend $819 billion, with about one third ($275 billion) set aside for individual and business related tax cuts. H.R. 1 contains billions of dollars to support disability programs, including $87 billion for Medicaid, $13 billion for special education, $600 million for IDEA Early Intervention services, $500 million for Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants, several billion dollars for HUD housing programs and at least $3 billion for community based block grants.

By a vote of 14-1 the Senate Finance Committee passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (S.2). The formula for determining how the $87 billion increase in the federal share of Medicaid spending will be distributed to states over two years was changed from the House bill. For an analysis of how this will affect your state see http://www.cbpp.org/1-26-09bud.htm

Health Care

By a vote of 66-32, the Senate passed legislation (H.R. 2) to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program for four and a half years and expand coverage to an additional four million children. Since the Senate bill is very similar to the House bill, later this week the House will vote on the Senate bill instead of resolving differences via Conference Committee. The legislation will then be sent to President Obama for his signature.

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