By Mark Binker, WRAL Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. — The state House has given final legislative approval to the $21.1 billion state budget, but has failed to close down the summer's legislative session. 

Gov. Pat McCrory has said he will sign the bill.

Debate on the budget followed along the same themes that dominated an initial vote on Friday

"You have set the right priorities, you have funded those priorities," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

Republicans by-and-large backed the measures, but Democrats universally voted against the measure, pointing to places where they say programs have been sacrificed. 

"We talked a lot about teachers during this session, but we didn't talk a lot about students," said Greg Meyer, D-Orange. "The one cut in this budget that bothers me the most is the $9 million cut to our at-risk student fund."

Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland, questioned why most rank-and-file state workers got a $1,000 raise and five extra vacation days while non-teaching school employees like bus drivers and custodians only got a $500 raise.

"I don't understand," he said.

The final vote was 66-44. 

Other matters in limbo

While passing the budget is the main work of the summer legislative session, lawmakers had a long-list of priorities, many of which have been left hanging. 

Among the most pressing of those priorities is a bill that would mandate the cleanup of coal ash ponds across the state like the one that spilled into the Dan River on Feb. 2. As well, several different measure meant to push forward with economic development are left unfinished. And lawmakers have failed to come to an agreement on reforming the state's Medicaid health insurance system for the poor and disabled. 

When Senators ended their work for the year in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning, they filed an adjournment resolution that would allow lawmakers to return on Aug. 14, mainly to handle any vetoes by the governor. That resolution anticipated returning after the November General Election to handle Medicaid and coal ash. 

However, House leaders want to push forward with several matters, including coal ash, before the end of August. They drafted a new adjournment resolution that would allow lawmakers to take up coal ash, autism coverage, regulatory reform measures, and changes to environmental laws. That measure was pending as of 9:45 a.m. 

However, Senators will only hold skeleton session with a handful of members Saturday morning. Such sessions cannot approve bills and resolutions. This means the General Assembly will be left without a formal document sketching out the legislature for the rest of the year. 

As a result, a great deal of uncertainty surrounds the end of session. Tentatively, House lawmakers say they will return on Wednesday, Aug. 6 to agree to terms of a shutdown. But with no agreement to such an action by the Senate, and given the well of ill will between the two chambers, it is entirely possible lawmakers will simply leave themselves in legal limbo until the Aug. 14 session.


AuthorDavid Crawford