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NC Legislative Update: April 21, 2017

April 21, 2017

This Week

Lawmakers returned Wednesday after taking a recess for the Easter Holiday. A short, but hectic week ensued as Committees in both chambers worked to move a flood of bills to the floor ahead of the crossover deadline. Crossover, scheduled for next Thursday, April 27th, is the deadline by which most bills must advance out of the originating chamber to remain eligible for consideration during the 2017-18 session. Some bills are not subject to the crossover deadline, including bills impacting State appropriations or revenues, adjournment resolutions, redistricting bills, Constitutional Amendments, and bill for gubernatorial nominations and appointments. A bill that does not meet the crossover deadline is no longer an eligible vehicle, but the contents of that bill can still resurface in other legislation. The House has one filing deadline left, and that is to file public bills that have an impact on Appropriations or Finance, which must be filed by April 25th. Next week is expected to be very busy leading to Thursday.

Bills fly through House as deadline looms – WRAL

After the crossover deadline passes, the focus will shift 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 June 30th, the end of the State's fiscal year. Meeting that deadline is a goal 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 NCAA announced Tuesday that North Carolina would be awarded several championships over the next several years following the compromise repeal of House Bill 2, the controversial “bathroom bill”. The NCAA had threatened to bar North Carolina from championship bids through 2022 if the bill was not repealed. The compromise however was enough for the NCAA to reconsider their position. The ACC has also reinstated several championships.

Raleigh, Greensboro win bids to host NCAA tournaments – N&O
NCAA returns championships to North Carolina, including Raleigh – TBJ
ACC returns title football game to Charlotte following HB2 repeal – N&O

Today, Governor Cooper (D) issued two vetoes, the first of which was 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 law, lawmakers set out to pass this bill that is similar, yet different from its predecessor.  This legislation 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 list provided by each of the two largest political parties.

He also vetoed House Bill 239, entitled Reduce Court of Appeals to 12 Judges, sponsored by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly).  The bill would lessen the number of judges by three, from 15 to 12, as vacancies arise due to a mandatory judicial retirement age.  Under current law, Gov. Cooper would appoint successors to any vacant seat.

Lawmakers OK slimmed-down appeals court – WRAL

Governor Cooper signed House Bill 7, entitled LRC/Strengthen Savings Reserve.  Following the bill becoming law, the statute now mandates that the General Assembly continue to strengthen the State’s “rainy day fund” by transferring 15% of each fiscal year's estimated revenue growth to the savings reserve.

The Senate rejected House changes to Senate Bill 131, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2016-2017, sponsored by Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba), in a bipartisan vote of 84-27.  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 new provisions.  The bill now sits in a Conference Committee where the two chambers will work to resolve their differences.

The Senate began moving 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 bill is scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee.

These NC counties would see job creation incentives cut by legislature – N&O
Proposal would limit state economic incentives to Triangle businesses – WRAL

In total 208 bills were filed over the last two weeks, all of them House bills, bringing the total number of bills filed so far this session to 1,546.  After 13 weeks of session, only 5 bills total have become law, with one bill pending on the Governor’s desk.  This session, the House has passed 195 of their bills to the other chamber, compared to the 40 Senate bills passed that have made it through the Senate.  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:

Effort to freeze NC's renewable energy requirements renewed – WRAL
School boards couldn’t sue county commissioners under NC House bill – N&O
UNC free speech bill silenced in House committee – WRAL
House passes ‘Bright Futures’ bill to spread fast internet – Fayetteville Observer
Should ‘right to work’ be added to NC constitution? Bill clears NC House committee – N&O
NC hunters seek changes to bill that could impact using dogs – WNCN
Passing lane bill fails to yield in Senate – WRAL
Who’s in charge of early education in NC? Soon it could be three offices in Raleigh – N&O
Wastewater spray bill moves forward – WRAL
A divide emerges among North Carolina Republicans on wind energy – Southeast Energy News
Local impact fees targeted in House – WRAL
Expansion of self-distribution cap hits snag for N.C.’s craft brewers – CBJ
House seeks wider window for child sex abuse lawsuits – WRAL
General Assembly considering bills on the birds and bees – Outer Banks Voice
NC bill explores breaking up large school districts – WNCN
House panel parks proposal to tow unlicensed drivers' cars – WRAL
Local billboard rules targeted in House bills – WRAL

In Other News

Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham), has expressed his interest in filling the district court vacancy that opened as a result of former judge, now Rep. Marcia Morey’s (D-Durham) appointment to the House. 

State Sen. McKissick seeks District Court seat vacated by Marcia Morey – N&O

Longtime Rep. Larry Bell (D-Sampson) announced that he will not seek another term in 2018.

Bell will not seek 10th term – Sampson Independent

In the News

Some Bills Will Never Come Due – The Mountaineer
508 ineligible voters cast ballots in 2016, according to NC elections agency report – N&O
Lawsuit contends General Assembly held illegal session – WRAL
Board chair 'baffled,' 'shocked' by NC superintendent's actions in ongoing legal battle – WRAL
Duke Energy: Opponents to coal-ash accounting put cart before horse – CBJ
NC pension investment fees cut, says treasurer – N&O
Folwell pursuing fees from pension fund managers – Carolina Journal
Justice Department drops NC LGBT rights lawsuit – WRAL
Report: Fentanyl Overdoses Jumped in 2016 – NC Health News
Wrapping up $5.1 million renovations at General Assembly – NSJ
Mayor Jennifer Roberts’ two Democratic opponents agree: ‘Only one of us needs to run’ – Charlotte Observer

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 to be added to the list.