North Carolina legislative leaders said Thursday they were going separate ways next week, when the new fiscal year begins, but still want tax and budget talks to continue.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, told colleagues the chamber wouldn't do any formal work during the week of the July 4th holiday and would hold neither recorded votes nor committee meetings. But Senate Republicans planned to keep their normal work schedule through Wednesday.
The state government still doesn't have a final two-year budget in place, with days to go before the new fiscal year begins Monday. Republican leaders in each chamber also aren't in accord on a tax overhaul, which they are trying to finish before the budget.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law this week a stop-gap spending measure that allows non-essential state services to continue through the month of July.
But Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland and chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the House's negotiators for tax overhaul and budget compromises will be in Raleigh next week to keep working with the Senate.
Senate Republicans aren't happy with the pace of negotiations. Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, removed all of the bills on Thursday's floor agenda that originated in the House and didn't say when they'd return. Apodaca called his decision to hold back House bills an "incentive" to get House members to work out agreements.
"We need to get things moving here on tax reform and the budget and we'd just like to clear the table for everybody to have opportunity to work on those two items," Apodaca told reporters. "We've got to get something moving here."
Apodaca suggested that part of the negotiating struggles existed because of the McCrory administration. Senate Republicans and McCrory haven't seen eye-to-eye on several key matters this year.
"It's kind of difficult to negotiate with three bodies instead of two," he said. "The House and Senate seem to do a pretty good job. Sometimes it's difficult to have to negotiate with the governor's office."
McCrory, working on his first state budget as governor, said in an interview Wednesday that he's told Republican legislative leaders there are certain tax changes he wouldn't support. The Republican governor also has said he wants to make sure any spending plan has sufficient revenue to run state government. Both the House and Senate plans would reduce the growth of tax revenue through mid-2015 by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Moore said the legislative process ultimately involves the Senate and House and "there's always room for the involvement of the governor."
"We have a great partnership with our governor, and I think you'll see that the dialogue continues," he said.
Without a long floor calendar, the Senate adjourned for the weekend before noon Thursday. But the House worked until early Thursday evening to act on two dozen bills, several of which generated heated debate, before taking a 10-day break.
The House gave its final approval to legislation that would require public schools to teach, beginning in seventh grade, that abortions put women at risk of later premature births. But the House defeated a measure to direct transportation officials to study raising maximum speed limits to 75 mph.
A McCrory administration effort to begin the creation of a private nonprofit corporation to handle several Commerce Department duties is now just one vote away from final General Assembly approval. And the House tentatively agreed to give a more explicit role to an advisory committee that recommends charter school policies, including approving and closing schools, to the State Board of Education.
House Republicans also voted over objections of Durham-area lawmakers and other Democrats to require the city to extend sewer and water lines to a business development project even after city council members refused to do so. Durham County House members complained that Republicans were interfering again in local government, but GOP lawmakers said the project would create jobs and that city officials had thwarted property rights.
There was one casualty of the extended budget and tax negotiations. Tillis and a handful of other House Republicans said they wouldn't shave until the session adjourned for the year. With an adjournment unlikely now until mid-July, the "beard caucus" would be disbanded - at the request of the lawmakers' spouses, Tillis quipped.