RALEIGH, N.C. – State lawmakers met in Raleigh Wednesday for the first day of this year’s legislative short session.
Cleaning up coal ash and increasing teacher pay are two top issues lawmakers will be tackling over the five to six week session.
“We know what happened in the Dan River which was a very serious problem,” said Representative Jon Hardister (R) who represents district 59. “What we want to do is try to prevent that from happening again.”
Senate Republicans filed the first bill of the session similar to Governor McCrory’s coal ash cleanup plan. The bill requires Duke Energy to close four of its coal ash ponds and cap others.
Close to 40,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River in February after a Duke Energy pipe burst. Senate Democrats say Duke should have to close all of its ponds.
“We don’t need to say we’ll do this one now and take care of the others later,” said Senator Gladys Robinson (D), who represents District 28. “That’s not acceptable.”
Higher pay for new and veteran teachers will also be the focus over the next few weeks.
The governor suggests a seven percent salary increase for new teachers and a two to four percent increase for veteran teachers.
“I think it’s a good plan,” Hardister said. “The economy is showing signs of improvement so we’re now in a position where we can provide teacher’s with a pay increase.”
But Democrats like Robinson say that plan isn’t enough.
“Two percent won’t do,” she said. “Two percent is almost an insult to our teachers across the state.”
Another big issue this session is whether or not to keep or get rid of common core standardized testing.