MT Raleigh Report — The Beginning of the End of the 2023 Session

May 17, 2023 | MTRaleigh Report, Stay Informed

The arrival of spring means that things are heating up in Raleigh, as the General Assembly begins what lawmakers hope will be the beginning of the end of the 2023 legislative session.

Legislators have already cleared several important hurdles on their way to adjournment. Last month the House approved its version of the new state budget. And on May 4, they completed “crossover” – the deadline by which most bills must “cross over” from one chamber to the other to remain eligible during the two-year session. The Senate released its version of the state budget this week and should approve it in the coming days. Then the House and Senate will begin the budget conference process to finalize a spending plan and send it to Governor Cooper for approval or veto. 

Approval of a final budget typically means that the legislative session is close to ending. 

While the legislature is not required to have a new budget in place by the beginning of the new fiscal year – July 1 – this year there are unusual circumstances pushing them to do so. Missing the July 1 deadline would mean missing out on more than $1 billion in federal incentives to expand Medicaid. So lawmakers are particularly eager to get the budget in place, collect the federal Medicaid bonus money and go home for the summer. 

While MountainTrue welcomes lawmakers’ efficiency, the budgets put together by the two chambers are very light on details. Many of the specific projects and appropriations are left to be determined behind closed doors in conference negotiations to build the final version of the budget that will be sent to the Governor. 

We have several priorities that we hope will be addressed before lawmakers leave for the summer. At the top of this list is funding to help livestock farmers keep cattle out of rivers and streams in the French Broad watershed. Last September, environmental regulators declared the main channel of the French Broad River in Asheville and upstream, including several major tributaries, to be impaired for fecal coliform bacteria, which can make people who swim in or paddle the river sick. Thanks to WNC Senators Tim Moffitt, Kevin Corbin and Julie Mayfield for introducing legislation to provide $2 million to help these farmers defray the cost of farm upgrades — and help keep the French Broad clean and safe for the thousands of people who play in it every year. 

Other MountainTrue priorities include funding several projects to improve public access to our rivers and streams, including expansion of the newly created Blue Ridge Snorkel Trail to all WNC counties. 

With the budget close to completion, MountainTrue staff will be going back to Raleigh next week to meet with key legislators in support of our priorities and to ensure that they are included in the final budget approved by the General Assembly. You can learn more about MountainTrue’s work in Raleigh here. And as always, thanks for your part in helping us speak up and out for our mountains in the state capitol.