RALEIGH, N.C. — The Latest on legislation unveiled by North Carolina Republicans addressing public school class sizes but also containing other provisions that bother Democrats (all times local):
Gov. Roy Cooper’s new legislative lobbyist got a surprise when he appeared at a joint House and Senate budget hearing.
Legislative director Lee Lilley got grilled by Republican lawmakers Thursday for nearly an hour about an agreement Cooper’s office reached with utilities seeking to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That deal would set aside $58 million for environmental mitigation and possible economic development along the pipeline route.
Complicating matters is that Lilley previously worked for a consulting firm that lobbied in Washington for Dominion Resources, one of the pipeline’s developers. GOP lawmakers questioned whether the mitigation fund had been mandated in return for regulators in Cooper’s office issuing a key pipeline permit. Lilley said the two actions were separate and the mitigation fund voluntary.
Democrats in the budget hearing objected to the strident questioning of Lilley, who said he had been on the job only five days.
North Carolina Republicans have offered wide-ranging legislation that fixes anticipated class-size challenges in the public schools next fall, but it’s loaded with other provisions that give Democrats heartburn.
A bill negotiated by House and Senate GOP leaders unveiled Thursday would require classes in kindergarten through third grade to meet lower averages by the 2021-22 school year. The legislature also located $61 million to help districts pay for music, art and physical education teachers.
But the measure also would divert $57 million to be paid by utility companies wanting to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to public schools, instead of using it for environmental and economic projects as Gov. Roy Cooper’s office wanted. It also would rework a combined ethics and elections board that the Supreme Court struck down last month.