PRESS RELEASE President Pro Tempore Senator Phil Berger 919-733-5708 2007 Legislative Building Raleigh, N.C. 27601
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 3, 2012
Contacts: Amy Auth, 919-301-1737 Brandon Greife, 919-301-1735
Senate Concludes Productive Two-Year Session Raleigh, N.C. – After one of the most productive legislative bienniums in state history, the North Carolina Senate concluded its substantive business early Tuesday morning and will adjourn “sine die” later today. The Republican-led Senate passed more than 600 bills, including many long-overdue reforms that will put North Carolina on a path to better economic growth, greater prosperity and a stronger public education system. Below is a statement from Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham): “When Republicans assumed leadership in January 2011 for the first time in more than 100 years, our state was in far worse shape than we could have imagined. We inherited a record $2.5 billion budget deficit, the highest taxes in the Southeastern United States, burdensome regulations on job-creating businesses, unacceptable high school graduation rates and sky-high unemployment. We fulfilled our promise to the voters by making enormous progress getting government to live within its means, reforming public education and enabling the private sector to create jobs and lead our economy out of the recession. While we are proud of what we accomplished, we are just getting started and look forward to building on these successes in our next session.” Among other actions, the legislature:
Balanced a bipartisan two-year budget that cut taxes, reduced spending and reformed and improved public education – while closing a $2.5 billion deficit inherited from the Democrats. The budget restored hundreds of millions of state dollars to public education, took steps to achieve better results in the classroom, made Medicaid fiscally solvent, provided raises to teachers and state employees and cut the gas tax. And by reducing spending by more than $1 billion, it finally made North Carolina’s government live within its means.
Made tax reforms that will help the private sector create thousands of new jobs. The legislature eliminated the nearly $1 billion “temporary” sales tax hike that Gov. Perdue and legislative Democrats implemented at the peak of the economic recession and promised to end in 2011. The legislature also enacted a $50,000 income tax exemption for private businesses – the job-creating engines of North Carolina’s economy. The tax savings returned more than $1 billion to the pockets of North Carolina citizens and businesses, where it will create as many as 15,000 jobs in the short term and thousands more in the future, economists say.
Passed major education reforms to strengthen student literacy, improve graduation rates, reward effective teachers, eliminate the cap on the number of public charter schools and give parents tools to make better informed decisions about their children’s education. The education reforms will help boost North Carolina’s unacceptable graduation rates. Currently, more than 1 in 4 high school students do not graduate. Many that do graduate are ill-prepared for post-secondary education, straining our community colleges and universities by requiring extensive remedial coursework. Passed sweeping changes to the state’s regulatory environment that will simplify outdated rules and regulations. More than 15,000 new or amended regulations have hit the books over the past decade. Many are complex, confusing, and unnecessary rules that are imposed by unelected bureaucrats and cause uncertainty for the state’s businesses. Our changes prohibit new state regulations that are more restrictive than federal rules, and require the state to review and eliminate burdensome regulations annually.
Passed bipartisan legislation to create a vibrant energy sector that will lure jobs and private investment to the state. Too many North Carolina families are struggling to make ends meet because of high unemployment and soaring energy prices. The Clean Energy and Economic Security Act is a potential game-changer that can put more money into workers’ pockets and generate more revenue for the state to ensure long-term prosperity.
Approved medical malpractice and other tort reforms that will help North Carolina lure medical jobs and make health care coverage cheaper and more accessible for everyone. The lottery-like system let trial lawyers win big while doctors fled to other states where they could practice medicine without fear of frivolous lawsuits. North Carolina doctors long practiced defensive medicine, and often ordered unnecessary tests and procedures to avoid being sued. That enormous added cost was passed on to taxpayers in the form of higher insurance rates and taxpayer-funded medical programs for the poor.
Reformed the state’s annexation laws to protect private property rights. A referendum vote will now be required of an area’s registered voters prior to that area’s annexation by a municipality. If a majority of the voters oppose the annexation, the municipality may not move forward with an involuntary annexation process for a minimum of three years. The legislature also exercised its constitutional authority to
establish municipalities and set municipal boundaries by de-annexing areas of Kinston, Lexington, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, Asheville, Marvin, Southport, Goldsboro and Fayetteville that were involuntarily annexed. These municipalities will be prohibited from forcibly re-annexing these areas for 12 years.
Drew fair and legal voting districts. Every ten years, the legislature is tasked with drawing new Senate, House and Congressional districts to reflect changes in population. Last year, the General Assembly passed fair, legal and competitive maps that were approved by President Obama’s Justice Department. It’s the first time in more than 30 years that all three maps were approved on the first try.
Passed a measure to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. Studies show photo ID requirements boost voter confidence and increase participation at the polls. But the governor vetoed our common sense bill to energize the far-left wing of her base.
Let the voters define marriage. For years, voters asked for the chance to define marriage in North Carolina’s Constitution. We passed a bill that put an amendment on the ballot upholding marriage as between one man and one woman.
Corrected flaws in the so-called Racial Justice Act, an ill-conceived law allowing convicted murderers and child rapists on death row to appeal their sentences using arbitrary statistics that allegedly show racial bias. The law enabled nearly every criminal on death row, regardless of race, to file an appeal. In order to prevent convicted criminals from abusing the law, the legislature limited the use of statistics to the county or prosecutorial district where the sentence was imposed and stated that statistical evidence alone is insufficient to establish race played a significant factor in the defendant’s case.
Kept the State Health Plan financially solvent by requiring participants to pay $10 per month for high-quality health coverage. For years, the State Health Plan teetered on the verge of financial collapse, but after a year of responsible management, the Health Plan’s reserve now stands at roughly half a billion dollars.
Protected the Second Amendment rights of North Carolinians. The General Assembly passed legislation to further protect property owners who use a weapon in selfdefense and increased the number of places citizens with a concealed carry permit can carry firearms.
Protected a woman’s right to know. Democrats say they want abortion to be safe, legal and rare. While we don’t support abortion, we understand it is legal, and passed legislation to make it more safe and rare by requiring a 24 hour waiting period before a woman can choose abortion. The law also requires doctors to educate women considering abortions and give them the chance to see an ultrasound.
Passed a bill to generate at least $57 million for education while creating hundreds of new jobs in Western North Carolina through an agreement to allow the Cherokee Nation to replace electronic casino games with live card dealers.