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  • 20 March 2015 1:30 PM | David Pearson

    The legislature was shut down for most of the week due to a significant amount of ice and snow the area received Monday evening.  All appropriations committees that had been scheduled were cancelled.  A few bills were filed, but none related to parks.  

    We continue to work towards an event on March 3 with state leaders to commemorate 100th anniversary of the signing of the authorization of Mount Mitchell State Park.  More details to come!

    Have a great weekend and stay warm!

  • 06 March 2015 12:30 PM | David Pearson

    It has been an eventful week in the life of state parks.  Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of the passage of legislation authorizing North Carolina’s first state park at Mount Mitchell.  To celebrate the occasion, the Governor signed a proclamation at Umstead State Park to note the occasion and declare the first week of March as “State Parks Week.”  At the legislature, Senator Ralph Hise and Representative Michele Presnell made floor statements to commemorate the anniversary. 

    Thursday, Governor McCrory released his proposed 2015-17 budget.  Highlights include:

    • transferring state parks, the zoo, state aquariums, and the Museum of Natural Sciences to the Department of Cultural Resources;
    • $13M for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund each year (same funding level as FY 2014-15);
    • $11.4M for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund each year (reduction of $233,151 over FY 2014-15);
    • Reductions to state parks of $3,321,500 in FY 2015-16 and $7,140,900 in FY 2016-17 through “dynamic pricing and promotions, increase private support through creation of a unified pass for State parks, and realize savings by establishing seasonal hours."

    The last item is one that I am in the process of obtaining additional details about.  It appears that the Governor is proposing charging for parking in some State parks, and potential seasonal hour reductions.  As soon as I learn more details, I will pass them along. 

    As a reminder, the Governor proposing his budget is just the first step in the budget process.  The Governor’s budget will be presented to the legislature on Tuesday.  After a joint (House and Senate) review of the budget, the House will prepare and pass its version of the budget.  The Senate will then make their changes to the budget and send it back over to the House.  Typically, the House will not concur with the Senate’s changes, then the budget will go to a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two budgets.  The goal is to have a new budget in place prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. 

  • 13 February 2015 5:00 PM | David Pearson

    First, thank you to everyone who came out to the Friends conference this week.  We had great attendance at the legislative reception, and were proud to have Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown and House Speaker Tim Moore spoke at the reception about the importance of State Parks to our state.

    Appropriations committees began meeting this week, as the formal business of the legislature started at a slow pace.  The committees are undertaking their biennial review of agency functions, the budgeting process, and an examination of how much revenue economists expect the legislature to have for allocation.  Barry Boardman, the legislature’s chief economist, announced Thursday that he expects a $271 million shortfall for the upcoming year.  All eyes will be on the so-called “April surprise,” which is when legislators will find out from Revenue officials whether the true-up during the tax filing process was a positive or negative one.  Legislators are hoping that the surprise will be positive, with citizens withholding less from their income taxes following 2013’s tax reform measures (resulting in smaller refunds).  Legislators will also be watching the projected Medicaid budget, which has a large impact on the overall budget picture as well.

    The first official step in the budget process is the release of the Governor’s budget, which could be as soon as February 23.  We are advocating for the Governor to include the State Parks Centennial in his budget, along with funding the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.

    No bills related to parks were filed this week.  If you have any questions, please let me know.

  • 06 February 2015 5:30 PM | David Pearson

    This week marked the first full week of the 2015 legislative session.  While there has been a lot of activity behind the scenes, with legislators and lobbyists busily working on bill drafts, formal activity has been slow this week.  House members have introduced 59 bills so far, with Senators introducing 46.  We’ll expect to see these numbers rise dramatically in the next few weeks.  

    The Governor was invited to the General Assembly this week to give his biennial State of the State address.  Governor McCrory outlined five guiding principles, including:  creating jobs, education, connecting small towns with urban centers through roads and technology, improving quality of life and public safety, and reducing government inefficiency.   

    In addition to noting the upcoming Centennial for the NC State Parks System, McCrory also announced his intention to move State Parks, the Zoo, the Aquariums, and the Museum of Natural Sciences from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the Department of Cultural Resources.  His reasoning is that the attractions and park system are part of our cultural resources and should be managed as such.  

    This change will require legislation, so expect the move to be discussed throughout this session.

    Committees will begin meeting in earnest next week, as the work of the General Assembly kicks into high gear.  

  • 02 February 2015 5:30 PM | David Pearson

    The amount North Carolina could borrow without losing its top credit rating continues to grow as revenues rebound and the legislature has kept to a no-new-debt diet since the Great Recession, according to an annual report released Monday by State Treasurer Janet Cowell. The findings within the 2015 Debt Affordability Study is good news for Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders who are considering new borrowing this year to complete road and building projects. McCrory has said he will propose a transportation bond of at least $1 billion, and there's talk of another package for government infrastructure. After a borrowing surge by the General Assembly on state buildings just before the economic downturn, there was little or no capacity to issue more debt unless the state wanted to risk its triple-A credit rating. The principal on this and other active debt has slowly been paid down. "We've obviously been very prudent with our debt and we can issue some reasonable amount here," Cowell said in an interview, but "it's not going to solve all of our problems," particularly with transportation, she added.

    The panel that writes the report, led by Cowell, found officials could approve $698 million in new debt annually for the foreseeable future and still remain within self-imposed fiscal limits. This kind of debt is repaid with general tax revenues. A year ago, the annual additional capacity was $570 million. For transportation debt backed by gasoline and car-sales taxes and other fees, there's additional capacity of $226 million annually compared to $209 million a year ago. If the legislature wanted to authorize all of its excess transportation debt in one year, the capacity would go above $1 billion, the report said. The transportation capacity isn't growing as quickly because gasoline taxes haven't been as robust, Cowell said.

    The state had $6.8 billion in outstanding debt supported by taxes of all kinds as of last June, the report said. Cowell's office said the state made $722 million in debt payments in the previous fiscal year. The legislature would have to sign off any new debt. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in an interview last week he believes fellow Republicans don't want to borrow beyond what Cowell, a Democrat, believes is reasonable. Berger said they are waiting for details from McCrory. "We don't want to get ourselves into a situation where we jeopardize the bond rating," he said, but added "I think there will be some support for some bonding level. I think it all depends on the amount, the specifics."

    The study panel, whose members include State Budget Director Lee Roberts and State Auditor Beth Wood, said it preferred new debt be approved by voters in a statewide referendum. Legislators borrowed often during the past decade with a form of debt that didn't need voter approval. The last statewide debt referendum occurred in 2000, when voters backed $3.1 billion of debt for universities and community colleges.(Gary D. Robertson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2/02/15).

  • 30 January 2015 1:00 PM | David Pearson

    Legislators returned to Raleigh this week to begin the regular business of the 2015 legislative “long” session.  Following the 2014 elections, Republicans maintained strong majorities in both chambers.  Senate Republicans gained one seat in November, giving them a 34-16 majority.  In the House, Republicans hold 74 seats to Democrats’ 45.  Representative Paul Tine, elected as a Democrat from Dare County, announced earlier this month that he is switching his party affiliation to unaffiliated and will caucus with Republicans.  Senate leadership remains the same, with Senator Phil Berger remaining at the helm as President Pro Tempore.  Senator Tom Apodaca will remain in his role as Rules Chair, and Senator Harry Brown will continue in his role as Majority Leader and chief budget writer. 

    The House is undergoing a significant change in leadership, with former Speaker Thom Tillis moving on to Washington.  In its organizational session, held January 14, the chamber unanimously elected Representative Tim Moore as Speaker.  Moore, in his seventh term, is an attorney from Kings Mountain who is seen as an even-handed leader.  In addition to selecting the next Speaker, House Republicans also elected Rep. Mike Hager as majority leader, re-elected Rep. Skip Stam as speaker pro tem, Rep. John Bell as majority whip, Rep. Marilyn Avila as deputy majority leader, Rep. Charles Jeter as majority conference chair, and Rep. Pat Hurley as joint caucus leader.  


    Committee assignments have now been announced.  Of interest to parks:

    Senate Natural and Economic Resources Appropriations Subcommittee:  Senators Andrew Brock (Davie, Iredell, Rowan), Trudy Wade (Guilford), and Bill Cook (Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans), chairs.  

    Members:  Sen. John M. Alexander, Jr. (Wake), Sen. Angela R. Bryant (Halifax, Nash, Vance, Warren Wilson), Sen. Ben Clark (Cumberland, Hoke), Sen. Tom McInnis (Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly), Sen. Ronald J. Rabin (Harnett, Johnston, Lee), Sen. Jane W. Smith (Columbus, Robeson), Sen. Jeff Tarte (Mecklenburg).

    House Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources Appropriations Subcommittee:  Representatives Jimmy Dixon (Duplin, Wayne), Pat McElraft (Carteret, Jones), Roger West (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon), chairs.  Representatives Rick Caitlin (New Hanover) and Garland Pierce (Hoke, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland), vice chairs.  

    Members:  Representatives Pricey Harrison (Guilford), Chris Millis (Onslow, Pender), 

    Michelle Presnell(Haywood, Madison, Yancey), Bobbie Richardson (Franklin, Nash), Brian Turner (Buncombe), Michael Wray (Halifax, Northampton), and Larry Yarborough (Granville, Person).

    Parks Issues in 2015

    With the elimination of dedicated funding in 2013 for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, all eyes will be on the budget process.  We will be seeking millions of dollars in appropriations for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.  Last year, the trust fund received $14 million.  This year, we will look to increase that number.  Please join us at the 2015 Friends Conference on Feb. 10 so that you’ll have a chance, in person, to let legislators know how important the Parks & Recreation Trust Fund is to our state parks system!

    We’ll also be educating legislators about the upcoming State Parks Centennial celebration!  The Centennial presents a unique educational and promotional opportunity for our parks system.  Stay tuned for more information!

  • 14 January 2015 6:30 PM | David Pearson

    Senate committees were just posted.  For NER, it’s Cook, Wade, and Brock as co-chairs.  Senators Bryant, McInnis, Clark, Rabin, Tarte, Alexander, Smith are members as well.

Friends of State Parks, Inc.

PO Box 37655

Raleigh, NC  27627

Friends of State Parks, Inc. is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 58-1634155) under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

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