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Coal ash is the waste that remains when coal is burned. It is usually collected in a dump, known as a pond. North Carolina has more than 30 such sites in 14 different locations across the state. A pipe running under one of the ponds run by Duke Energy in Eden NC ruptured in February of 2014. The coal ash spilled, largely affecting the Dan River which flows into Virginia. The spill is the third largest of its kind in U.S. history.Many see potential complications because North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for 28 years.

NC General Assembly Stories We’re Following: Week Of Monday, June 9

Photo: North Carolina's Old State Capitol building.

The North Carolina General Assembly is entering its fourth full week in session, and the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the central task of the season: the state’s budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

This is the third step in a four-step process. Gov. Pat McCrory has presented his suggestions for the state budget, the Senate has approved its proposal, and after the House sets its own, lawmakers will have to reconcile the four versions.

As the News & Observer reported last week, there already are stark differences, and McCrory says they will be difficult to reconcile.

The full House is expected to vote on its spending plan at a hearing scheduled for noon Thursday, and may take the required second vote on Friday, Speaker Thom Tillis said last week. Under this schedule, appropriations subcommittees would meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to go over individual budgets on key areas such as public schools and Medicaid, and a full appropriations committee hearing would be on Wednesday.

The House’s budget preparations will be the General Assembly’s focus, but here are other pieces of legislation that could move this week and have a broad impact on North Carolina residents:

NC Is Close To Repealing Common Core

House and Senate leaders could meet in a conference committee to iron out critical differences in education bills each chamber passed last week. The House passed a bill that would repeal Common Core, the national academic standards for public school students, with North Carolina’s own standards. Meanwhile, the Senate passed a bill that could also repeal it but sets up a study to look for the best possible standards for students in the state, and Common Core -- or parts of it -- would be considered under that study.

McCrory – as well as business and teacher groups – has opposed the state dropping Common Core. “This is not a smart move,” McCrory said, according to IndyWeek.

How Will NC Handle The 33 Coal Ash Basins Across The State?

Senate leaders are expected to release a bill draft that would outline how they want Duke Energy to handle 33 coal ash ponds across North Carolina that could contaminate nearby water systems.

The Senate’s arguably two most influential members, President Pro-Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson), have taken the leadership in this legislation, in part because two of the four highest risk ponds are in the districts they represent. In February, approximately 39,000 tons of ash spilled from a pond into the Dan River in Berger’s district.

Members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources  last week heard top officials from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources defend an action plan backed by the governor.

The Senate is likely to demand more than McCrory has from Duke to close or make changes to its coal ash ponds. Apodaca has said that he sees McCrory’s proposal as “a starting point.”

House environmental leaders, including Reps. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenberg) and Rick Catlin (R-New Hanover), listened to last week’s presentation. McGrady said he will present a proposal in his chamber after the Senate finalizes one.

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