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The NC House is one step away from passing a bill that would require unemployed workers to make five job inquiries a week (up from two) in order to receive jobless benefits.

Rep. Julia Howard told House members Thursday the legislation was intended to get jobless individuals “in the habit” of looking for employment.

But Rep. Yvonne Holley questioned whether Senate Bill 15 would have the unintended consequence of job seekers flooding employers with resumes, whether they were qualified or not, just to meet the higher standard.

Rep. Marilyn Avila suggested that the five job inquiry per week quota was certainly within reason for those truly looking to find work:

“If it’s an undue burden for somebody to make contact five days a week to find a job, is it going to be an undue burden five days a week to go to work?”

The state House could pass SB 15 on third reading Tuesday. Any changes to the legislation would need to be worked out with the Senate, which passed its version of the bill back in February.

Click below to watch a portion of Thursday’s floor debate:

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The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a proposed constitutional budget amendment that could sharply restrict state spending in future years, if the measure passes the state House and wins approval by the voters next year.

Senate Bill 607, which passed on 3rd reading 31-14, would cap the state’s personal income tax rate at 5 percent and would limit state spending growth to inflation plus population growth. Yet another provision would establish a rainy day fund requiring a two-thirds majority to tap into the emergency account.

Supporters contend the initiative will force future legislatures to spend sensibly.

But Senator Jeff Jackson says only Colorado has tried a similar approach, where the impact on education spending proved to be “swift and severe.”

Jackson says he’s troubled the public did not have a chance to weigh in on the proposal before his chamber advanced the legislation.

The bill now moves to the NC House, where members may give heed to State Treasurer Janet Cowell’s recent warning.

Sen. Jeff Jackson joins Policy Watch this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss SB 607 and the impact of the delayed state budget on local school districts. Click below for a preview of that radio interview.

To see how your own state senator voted on SB 607, click here.

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State senators  are expected to give final approval this afternoon a constitutional amendment that would have voters decide next year on placing strict limits on future spending while capping the state’s personal income tax rate at five percent.

On Tuesday, Senator Terry Van Duyn sought to amend Senate Bill 607 to hold off on enacting such arbitrary spending limits until North Carolina successfully raised teacher pay to the national average.

But Senator Tom Apodaca used a procedural maneuver to table Van Duyn’s amendment, ending further debate.

Click below to hear Senator Van Duyn speak on the so-called Taxpayer Protection Act.

The Senate convenes today at 2:00pm. If senators approve the measure it would move to the state House for consideration.

Learn more about the impact of SB 607 here.

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This morning in Wake Forest, the mayor of Morrisville is joining the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper and a prominent water resources scientist near the dam at Falls Lake to highlight water quality protections that could be jeopardized by pending legislation in the General Assembly.

Here’s more from the NC Sierra Club:

The policy in question is protection of the state’s natural buffers along waterways.  The buffer rules were put into place after the massive fish kills of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s on the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico Rivers. Buffers were chosen as the best way to protect our most polluted rivers because natural buffers are the cheapest, fairest and most simple way of filtering pollutants before they flow into waterways.

Pending proposals include H 44, Local Regulatory Reform 2015, which would drastically weaken the current buffer requirements and allow clear cutting of land next to our most sensitive waterways. The measure is pending in a joint conference committee between the two chambers.

Grady McCallie with the NC Conservation Network is also worried about how pending legislation (in this case both House Bill 44 and House Bill 765) will damage the buffers that provide natural protections for our streams and watersheds.

Click below to hear McCallie discuss the legislation on News and Views with Chris Fitzsimon. A podcast of McCallie’s full radio interview with Fitzsimon is available here.

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In case you missed it last week, UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt addressed the National Press Club and delivered a powerful reminder of why state lawmakers must do more to make sure college remains accessible to low-income students.

“We know that the lifetime earnings of someone with a college degree are considerably greater, ” explained Folt. “We also know that the new knowledge economy, the one that is bursting and growing, the one the country wants to compete in is requiring the skills of a college graduate. And it’s not just their STEM skills, it’s their writing skills, it’s their critical thinking, it’s their problem solving.”

The chancellor stressed keeping higher education costs low is critical to attracting capable students, and helping them to become part of a flourishing economy.

While the UNC system prides itself in low tuition compared to the rest of the nation, tuition and fees have been on an uptick to offset years of cuts in state funding.

Earlier this year, the UNC Board of Governors approved tuition and fee increases averaging 4.3 percent for in-state undergraduates entering college this fall.

To hear an excerpt of Folt’s remarks, click below. Her entire hour-long presentation is available on the National Press Club’s website.

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