April 28, 2017
Crossover has come and gone. Lawmakers finished on Thursday after marathon sessions Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday including early starts for Committee meetings that lasted throughout the day and sessions lasting late into the night. Over 100 bills passed this week, dealing with numerous subjects. Next week we will give a broader analysis. Bills that were subject to the crossover deadline in their existing form are no longer eligible to be heard for the remainder or the 2017-18 General Assembly. While this is encouraging to opponents of some of these bills, there are several ways to resurrect legislation once thought dead.
After crossover, the focus, at least in the Senate, shifts to the State Budget. Senate Budget writers have been working on their budget proposal with the Chairs of the various Appropriations Subcommittees. Senate leaders anticipate unveiling and voting on their proposal in the first part of May, allowing time for the House to pass their own budget proposal and then resolve the differences in a Conference Committee before the end of the current fiscal year, June 30th. Meeting this goal is one that is regularly set, but rarely attained, and often requires a Continuing Resolution to keep State government operating until the new Budget becomes law.
The NCGA overrode Governor Cooper’s (D) veto of Senate Bill 68, entitled Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. This is the second attempt by lawmakers to consolidate the powers and duties of the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission, as well as the Secretary of State’s oversight of lobbyists, into a single board. After a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the Governor regarding a lawsuit over the previous attempt, lawmakers passed this bill that is similar, yet different from its predecessor. This new law retains the Governor’s authority to appoint the members and the Chair of the board, but would still require a bipartisan 4-4 split, and would require the Governor to select members from a small list of partisans provided by each of the two largest political parties. Following the override, Gov. Cooper quickly filed a lawsuit against the new law.
Lawmakers also overrode the Governor’s veto of House Bill 239, entitled Reduce Court of Appeals to 12 Judges, sponsored by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly). The law reduces the number of judges on the Court of Appeals by three, from 15 to 12, as vacancies arise due to a mandatory judicial retirement age, or otherwise, preventing Gov. Cooper from appointing successors to the next three vacant seats. Prior to the veto override, Judge McCullough, a Republican who disagreed with the changes proposed by the NCGA and was nearing his mandatory retirement age, resigned his seat a month early. McCullough’s move in putting the institution ahead of his political party, enabled Gov. Cooper to appoint his successor. The Governor chose former Court of Appeals Judge John Arrowood, who is a Democrat, to fill the seat.
Lawmakers agreed to a Conference Report on Senate Bill 131, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2016-2017, sponsored by Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba). The bill amends several State laws related to agricultural, energy, business, environmental, and natural resources, and State and local government regulations. The bill title notes 2016 because the legislation contains the provisions that passed both chambers from last year’s Regulatory Reform Act, which ultimately failed to pass, as well as some new provisions. The House passed the bill 90-26 and the Senate passed the bill 35-13.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 660, a proposal to modify the way the State handles its economic incentives. The measure is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow) who has been a primary sponsor of previous legislative proposals regarding economic development. The intent of the bill is to encourage and incentivize more economic development in rural counties, and in particular, those facing a higher rate of economic distress. The bill would limit the 20 wealthiest Counties in the State to cumulatively receive no more than half of the $20 Million available in the Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) fund. The other half of the fund would be directed towards the remaining 80 Counties. Businesses moving to one of those 80 Counties would be eligible to get a greater percentage of their withholding taxes refunded as well. Additionally, Wake, Chatham, Durham, and Mecklenburg Counties would be individually capped at $5 Million each from the JDIG fund. These four Counties, or “attainment areas”, would also be required to match $4 for every $1 in State funding. Other Counties would continue using the existing matching formula with tier three Counties required to match $1 local to $1 in State funding, tier two Counties $1 local to $2 in State funding, and tier one Counties $1 local to $3 in State funding.
The Senate also gave its approval to Sen. Brown’s bill, Senate Bill 126, entitled Change the LOST Adjustment Factor. LOST is an acronym for local option sales tax, the 2%-2.25% local portion of sales tax collected. The majority of the local sales tax is distributed via “Point of Sale”, or in the County where the tax was collected. The bill would eliminate a method that distributes a portion of that tax calculated using “adjustment factors”. The bill proposes distributing that portion based on each County’s poverty level according to the NC Department of Commerce. The bill had both bipartisan support and opposition.
The House had its last filing deadline this week, filing a handful of bills bringing the grand total to 1,597 bills filed this year. After 13 weeks of session, the NCGA has passed 9 bills into law, with two bills pending on the Governor’s desk. A link to next week’s announced Committee calendar can be found here, although other meetings are expected to be added throughout the week with several meeting more than once. A cumulative list of House and Senate bills filed so far this year, links to each bill, and its current status can be found here.
Legislation in the News
Lawmakers play beat the clock – WRAL
Wind farms, military compromise sought – N&O
NC Senate votes to strip funding from immigration ‘sanctuary cities’ – N&O
Should hunting be allowed during Sunday church services? House looks to loosen law – N&O
Bill addressing UNC school records on athletic groups OK'd – N&O
House passes modest changes in craft brewery rules – Carolina Journal
Proposed study on how to break up NC school districts moves forward – N&O
Spikes hidden on park trails prompt House lawmakers to seek a new law – N&O
Senate OKs elections changes – WRAL
Campus free speech debate is now being waged in the NC legislature – N&O
Lawmakers want to allow handgun concealed carry without permit – N&O
NC lawmakers OK limiting nuisance lawsuits against hog farms – N&O
Workers’ groups like SEANC would lose payroll dues deductions under NC Senate bill – N&O
Drivers who hit protesters blocking roads could be protected under NC House bill – N&O
Change the U.S. Constitution? NC senators want another constitutional convention – N&O
Anti-union ‘right to work’ amendment gets NC House backing – N&O
Crime victims’ rights could be constitutional amendment – N&O
Stricter term limits sought for NC governor – N&O
NC House OKs random ballot order to avoid listing Democrats first in 2018 – N&O
Newspapers could lose legal ads to government websites – N&O
Governor signs reprieve on smaller class sizes – N&O
Should NC drop its literacy requirement for voting? House wants to update constitution – N&O
NC may change what is labeled a low-performing school – N&O
Moore toddler's death inspires tighter custody rules – WRAL
House votes to tweak drunken hunting ban in Orange County – N&O
NC House votes to give political parties more power in filling US Senate vacancies – N&O
North Carolina Primary Moved Permanently in Senate Bill – US News
N.C. Senate taking up ‘fair treatment’ bill for college athletes – Herald-Sun
Bill to break Asheville into council districts advances – Citizen-Times
Access to police body cameras would slightly expand under proposal – N&O
In the News
John Hood: Caution on the state budget – Salisbury Post
N.C. to offer REAL ID cards starting May 1 – N&O
Cooper administration withdraws from WOTUS lawsuit – NSJ
NC wants more ideas on the move to managed care for Medicaid – N&O
Troxler joins Trump as president signs order to rethink agriculture policy – NSJ
The Nexsen Pruet Public Policy team provides attorneys and clients with a newsletter summarizing the week's activities and conveying the inner workings of the legislative process and state government in Raleigh. Please feel free to pass this along to your clients or other interested parties, email Kdjones@nexsenpruet.com to be added to the list.