- The Budget – Legislators have just a week left in the fiscal year to reach a compromise on their 2014-15 budget. Click here  for a House and Senate Comparison Report on the competing plans. And we should learn shortly whether the budget talks will be open to the public , as Sen. Tom Apodaca suggested to the Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill.
- Mega Moral Monday – The NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement have pledged to stage their largest demonstration of the short legislative session this afternoon. After an abbreviated program at 5:00pm on Halifax Mall, the protesters will head into the Legislative Building, divide up into breakout groups and hold what they are describing as ‘Sit-Ins, Stand-Ins, Teach-Ins, Plan-Ins and Pray-Ins.’ Rev. William Barber offered a preview in this opinion piece  that appeared over the weekend in the News & Observer.
- Coal Ash – On Tuesday the full Senate will take up Senate Bill 729, the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 . The measure would require the state’s highest risk coal ash ponds be shut down in the next five years, with all sites shut down within the next 15 years. Some environmentalists worry the bill does not go far enough and allows for the possibility of capping those sites and leaving the ash in place. The meeting gets underway at 10:00 a.m. in Room 1228/1327 of the Legislative Building.
- Opportunity Scholarships – On Wednesday, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority  (located in the located in Research Triangle Park) will hold its selection lottery to determine which applicants will get “opportunity scholarships” for the fall. Approximately 2,400 students will receive funding in the first year. Voucher supporters on Jones Street are pressing for another $8 million  to expand the program. (For more on the scholarship program, check out this three-part series  by education reporter Lindsay Wagner.)
- NC GEAR – Last year state lawmakers approved $4 million to fund the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiative, or NC GEAR . This afternoon, the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee will hear a presentation by Deputy Director Joe Coletti on NC GEAR’s purpose, cost, and the remaining tasks. (Coletti is the former budget policy chief at the John Locke Foundation.) In advance of the committee meeting, the governor’s office rolled out a press release this morning pledging that:
All [efficiency] proposals will be reviewed by the NC GEAR analysts and consultants. The strongest concepts will be evaluated further and included in the final report to the governor and General Assembly next February. Some proposals will be included in the governor’s budget. Others will be offered to the Legislature for its consideration.
Stay tuned…it’s gonna be another busy week in Raleigh!