- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina Senate and House are holding low-key floor meetings this week with few or no recorded votes to give time to negotiators on the state budget and a handful of other bills to work out their differences before the session adjourns. Here are five things the legislature is likely to accomplish before the legislature ends the 2014 session, which began May 14:

BUDGET ADJUSTMENTS: Changes to the second year of the two-year budget approved last summer are the main reason why lawmakers are still working more than a week into the new fiscal year. The Senate passed a $21.2 billion plan May 31, while the House followed with a proposal June 13 that spent $49 million less.

Talks were delayed because Senate Republicans said their House counterparts and Gov. Pat McCrory, which had his own budget offer, were too conservative on projected Medicaid spending. The Senate set aside an additional $250 million.

The House plan doubled North Carolina Education Lottery advertising expenses to generate more money for teacher salaries. But the idea got slammed because it also contained restrictions on ad content, and fiscal analysts said it wouldn’t generate the $106 million the House initially said it would.

The two chambers agreed on Medicaid figures just last week. Budget negotiators met Tuesday afternoon to discuss their differences on the lottery and public employee compensation.

COAL ASH PITS: Completing a plan that tells Duke Energy how to clean up its 33 coal ash pits in North Carolina will happen after the coal ash spill on the Dan River in February not far from the home of Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. First, the Senate is likely to reject the House proposal, setting up a conference committee to work out differences.

The House and Senate versions require all pits to be cleaned up by the end of 2029 - with those at four locations completed within five years. But the House would allow for timeline delays if the state environmental secretary agreed Duke Energy had good reason.

COMMON CORE: House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement to replace K-12 academic standards called Common Core with something else that’s fashioned by North Carolina experts and educators.

Final votes are needed on the bill, which lawmakers say would still allow the State Board of Education to keep some Common Core provisions if they are deemed as the “most aligned to assess student achievement,” according to the agreement filed Tuesday in the Senate.

The move is likely to satisfy McCrory, who has said he wants to ensure high standards are in place. Parents and some teachers have complained Common Core, used by more than 40 states, is confusing and encourages the use of age-inappropriate curriculum.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: The two chambers must determine whether it can find common ground on film incentives and the future of Medicaid.

The state’s film incentives program is slated to expire at the end of 2014 and there’s been no consensus from the legislature on whether to extend the program, retool it or let the program die.

The House last week agreed to a Medicaid overhaul proposal that would replace traditional fee-for-service payments to doctors and hospitals with a method in which networks receive a flat payment for every patient treated. The Senate wants to start on Medicaid reform from scratch and move the state Medicaid office out of the Department of Health and Human Services.

CLEANUP BILLS: Before they go home, lawmakers historically have approved bills that make technical corrections to laws and approve appointments by the House speaker and Senate leader to dozens of state commissions and boards. Those bills were being worked on Tuesday.

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