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North Carolina lawmakers avoided controversial bills during short budget revision session

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(Center Square) — North Carolina lawmakers wrapped up a brief budget revision session that boosted spending on teacher salaries, school safety, infrastructure and election integrity but left more contentious issues like medical marijuana, sports gambling and parental rights unresolved.

General Assembly lawmakers announced a $27.9 billion budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year shortly before wrapping up the short session ahead of the July 4 recess that increases spending 7.2% over the previous year.

Among the budget’s highlights is the allocation of $15 million to the Atlantic Coast Conference “to locate and occupy its headquarters within the state for a continuous period of at least 15 years,” a measure that has been sharply criticized by some lawmakers.

The money is part of a deal that would move the ACC’s headquarters from Greensboro to Charlotte and require the collegiate sports network to host multiple post-season tournaments in North Carolina by 2032-33, WFMY reports.

“The ACC has done an amazing job of manipulating North Carolina’s taxpayers,” Senator Michael Jarrett, D-Greensboro, told the news site. “I think it’s a bad appearance for MCC personally.”

Lawmakers also increased elementary teachers’ salaries and allocated $70 million to fund the salary supplement, spending a total of $170 million on teacher salaries. The budget includes a 3.5% increase for state employees and a 1% cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees as well.

Total education funding in the 2022-2023 budget increased by $1 billion over the previous year, bringing its total funding to $16.5 billion. The amount includes $3.9 million in discounted lunches for students. Other education expenditures included $15 million for school resource staff and $32 million for school safety grants.

Other expenditures included $193.1 million for the Highway Fund for Transportation Projects, $14.8 million for mental health resources, $883 million for water and sanitation infrastructure, $876 million for economic development, $5 million for grants to expand broadband access, and 1.8 Million dollars to modernize and maintain the voter. Lists, improved election integrity, and $300 million to renovate government buildings in Raleigh.

Lawmakers also created a $1 billion government inflation reserve in anticipation of a recession, according to the site.

“This is a responsible budget that responds to our current needs and plans for an uncertain economic future. This budget takes into account the unbridled spending pressure from our federal government that is putting little pressure on the budgets of North Carolina residents, and the burden of skyrocketing fuel prices,” said Senate President Phil Berger, R. Rockingham, House Speaker Tim Moore, R. Cleveland, said in a joint statement. “It is imperative that we stay on the right track and continue the good work we have done in North Carolina to strengthen our economy, meet the needs of our citizens, and secure a bright future for our nation.”

Several controversial measures taken during the hearing did not win final approval.

Efforts to legalize sports betting eventually faltered when lawmakers voted against one of two bills to make it happen. The General Assembly also failed to approve a measure to legalize medical marijuana.

Other big issues left unresolved include a Senate push to expand Medicaid that faltered in the House, though the lower house suggested the move be considered further.

The controversial parental rights law approved by the Senate in June has also been suspended by House Speaker Tim Moore, R Cleveland, who told the newspaper there was not enough support to override a potential veto by Governor Roy Cooper.

The bill is designed to enhance public school transparency, define parental rights and responsibilities and install protective barriers on curricula that address gender identity and sexual orientation.

Supporters maintain that the bill is critical to ensuring that parents are informed of what their children are learning in school, while opponents have claimed that the legislation discriminates against LGBT youth.

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