- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina General Assembly leaders are taking actions to try to close down this year’s primary work session two weeks after lawmakers left Raleigh without an agreement on when to return to take up pending legislation.

Both the House and Senate scheduled daily floor meetings for Thursday, with the House also likely to meet Friday morning and take votes on legislation that’s yet to be finalized, according to Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, the chamber’s No. 2 ranking leader. A pair of committees also announced meetings - the Senate Rules Committee planned to convene shortly before a floor voting session Thursday night, with the corresponding House panel early Friday.

Stam said Wednesday in an interview that he anticipated the House would pass an adjournment resolution to try to formally end the work period that began in May. The Senate also would have to agree to any adjournment plan. Senate Republicans have said their preference is to leave until mid-November and work on bills to overhaul Medicaid and implement a plan to clean up coal ash pits owned by Duke Energy.

Senators are hopeful House members will agree to “conclude all substantive business until a special session on both Medicaid reform and coal ash mitigation in November,” Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement. “We are waiting to see if they agree, and will proceed from there.”

House Republicans wanted to resolve the coal ash legislation this week, but that seems increasingly unlikely. A House-Senate agreement disintegrated in the early hours of Aug. 1.

The House also proposed taking up several other pieces of legislation starting Thursday, as described in their adjournment offers they formally approved and sent to in early August. But Senate GOP leaders have repeatedly said they are through with business until after the elections. Stam said it was unclear which bills, if any, the House and Senate would agree to take up.

“There’s a lot of discussions going back and forth between the House and Senate at this point,” said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, but “I think it’s clear to everyone out there that it’s time for us to come home. We’ve exceeded our stay in Raleigh.”

Without an adjournment agreement, the House and Senate have held perfunctory no-vote sessions about every four days to comply with state constitutional requirements. Only a handful of legislators attend the sessions, like the one held Wednesday morning in the Senate.

Similar skeleton sessions were expected Thursday in both chambers, but Berger’s office announced a regular floor session would resume Thursday evening to take up an adjournment resolution. The Senate Rules Committee’s agenda beforehand lists five bills, including a resolution and three directing legislative studies.

Gov. Pat McCrory has wanted lawmakers to take up some economic development legislation before they leave. State Budget Director Art Pope also said last week the governor’s administration hoped to change a budget provision so school districts wouldn’t have less money to spend if they used funding earmarked to hire teachers for other education items.

The extended session has grated on legislators, particularly Democrats who have been largely out of the loop on the negotiations and have had to be ready to return to Raleigh.

Lawmakers used this year’s session to pass a $21.1 billion budget adjustment bill, replace Common Core school standards with something else and open the door for fracking permits next year.

Without a formal extensive adjournment, legislators running for re-election in November are prevented from receiving campaign contributions from political action committees linked to organizations with General Assembly lobbyists.

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