There's a new standoff between the governor and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly.
Gov. Bev Perdue thinks she has found about $100 million to help out the state's universities, community colleges and grades up through high school. It would come from money that state agencies had budgeted but didn't spend by the end of this past fiscal year.
In most years, agencies can apply for that unspent money and usually receive it, but things are tighter this year. Chrissy Pearson, the governor's spokeswoman, says the more than half-billion dollars in savings the General Assembly ordered this year took a big bite out of the leftover fund. Pearson says about $120 million will be available, and the governor wants most of it to go to education, which sustained big cuts in this year's budget.
Perdue also wants the legislature to chip in $10 million of its unspent $13 million, which by law doesn't go into the big pot of leftover funds. In at least one recent year, the General Assembly chipped in some of that money at year's end. But Perdue can't tell the General Assembly to do that, and it isn't likely that the House and Senate leaders have the authority to do it on their own, either.
Barnhart leaving House
Veteran state legislator Rep. Jeff Barnhart is retiring, effective Sept. 30.
The Cabarrus County Republican issued a statement Tuesday explaining only that "the time has come for me to step aside and allow someone else the opportunity to serve our county."
Soon after his announcement, the consulting firm McGuire Woods announced that Barnhart will begin work for the firm Oct. 1 as a senior vice president.
Barnhart has been in the state House for 11 years, and before that he served 10 years as a member of the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners.
Barnhart was one of the chief Republican budget writers this session, and he was instrumental in getting a series of bills passed that gave gun owners more rights. In March, Barnhart's vote against a bill outlawing the use of a Mexican consulate document as a form of identification prompted the anti-immigration group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC to call him a "sellout" and a "traitor" to the Republican party. Barnhart ultimately voted for the bill, which later stalled in the Senate.
Barnhart is the second longtime lawmaker to announce his impending retirement. Rep. Jonathan Rhyne, a Lincoln County Republican, said last month that he would leave office effective Aug. 15.
Barnhart will work out of the Raleigh and Charlotte offices of McGuire Woods, one of the state's most prominent law and lobbying firms. Its lobbyists represent companies such as Amazon.com, Edison Learning, CVS/CareMark, and Koch Companies Public Sector LLC.
State law prohibits legislators from stepping from their elected positions into jobs lobbying their former colleagues.
Barnhart will observe the waiting period before he registers to lobby, said Harry Kaplan, McGuire Woods senior vice president for state government relations. Barnhart will be able to register once the short session ends next year, Kaplan said.
During the cooling-off period, Barnhart can work with local governments, help build the national business, and work on strategic communications not related to lobbying, Kaplan said.
Book debut for Hunt
University presidents, former Cabinet secretaries, legislators and a couple of hundred other people showed up Tuesday afternoon for the presentation of the papers of Democrat Jim Hunt's fourth term as governor.
"He's a legend," Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue said in presenting a copy of the book to Hunt at the N.C. Museum of History.
Perdue - doing a not particularly good Jim Hunt impression - recalled his calls asking for her support when she was Senate budget chairwoman to push through Smart Start, the early childhood program, and to raise teacher pay to the national average.
Hunt, in turn, heaped praised on Perdue's fight for education, saying "she is getting better and better every single day. I am proud of her."
He also urged the crowd not to be discouraged by the current political climate and assured that North Carolina would continue to build for the future.
"We will get over this rough patch in North Carolina," Hunt said. "Don't you give up. Our best days are ahead."
Hunt then autographed copies of the book for many in the crowd.
email@example.com or 919-829-4576