May 26, 2017
Last weekend, Matt Hambridge, a policy advisor to Speaker Moore (R-Cleveland), passed away unexpectedly at age 52. A memorial fund has been set up for his family which you can contribute to here.
The week began Monday morning with the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a lower court’s decision that 2 of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts, under maps drawn in 2011, were unconstitutional due to the reliance on race in their drawing. Last year, the General Assembly enacted new congressional districts to comply with the lower court’s ruling. Those maps will remain in place, but are also being litigated. Although not addressed in this case, the ruling reinforces the likelihood that lawmakers will have to redraw the legislative districts also. When lawmakers redrew the congressional districts in 2016, they noted that the new maps were in fact drawn for a GOP advantage, using partisan statistics. This allowed lawmakers to address the population shift since 2011 in the 2016 congressional map to strengthen several seats. Lawmakers will likely use the same procedure if forced to redraw the legislative districts.
The House began reviewing sections of their preliminary budget proposal yesterday. Beginning Tuesday morning, the House Finance Committee will review the revenue related provisions of the budget, followed by the Pensions & Retirement Committee that afternoon. The full Appropriations Committee will meet Wednesday, likely all day as members will be able to offer amendments and the budget will be heard for 2nd and 3rd readings Thursday and Friday. The two chambers will then begin meeting in a Conference Committee to resolve the differences between the differing spending proposals.
On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee heard a PCS for Senate Bill 628, entitled Various Changes to Revenue Laws, for discussion only. The bill, which is largely technical, makes a number of changes regarding business tax, sales and use tax, tax collection and enforcement, administrative changes, and property tax. A link to the summary of the PCS can be found here.
Senate Bill 410, entitled Marine Aquaculture Development Act, also received a favorable report from the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The bill seeks to create a fish farming industry off the coast of North Carolina by leasing anywhere from 100 to 1,500 acres of both the State’s sounds and the Atlantic Ocean. The bill will now head to the Senate Rules Committee before going to the Senate floor.
House Bill 918, entitled Post Crime On Social Media/Enhanced Sentence and sponsored by Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Scotland), received a unanimous favorable report from the House Judiciary II Committee. The bill would add up to 2 years to the prison sentence for convicted criminals who post a video of their crime on social media. The bill will be hears next in the Appropriations Committee, before it gets to the floor.
House Bill 511, entitled Game Nights/Nonprofit Fund-Raiser, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Boles (R-Moore), passed the House Finance Committee. The bill would allow nonprofits to host “casino night” fundraisers at establishments that serve alcohol. The bill is supported by the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association and opposed by various conservative religious groups.
On Wednesday, the House Finance Committee passed House Bill 310, entitled Wireless Communications Infrastructure Siting, sponsored by Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln). The bill addresses the permitting of “small cell” technology, which is the wireless infrastructure that is being deployed by providers for “5G” wireless communication. The bill establishes permitting rules for the colocation of small cell technologies in the right-of-way within city limits. The bill next heads to the House floor.
House Budget Proposal
House budget writers partially released Senate Bill 257, their two-year spending proposal this week for FY 2017-19, sections of which were unveiled in their respective Appropriations Subcommittees. The proposal would spend the same amount of money as the Senate proposal, $22.9 Billion, but that’s where the similarities end. In recent years, the House proposal has been more modest than the Senate proposal in terms of reducing taxes and cutting spending, and it appears that trend will continue. A number of notable components were absent from yesterday’s release including pay increases for teachers or state employees and tax reform. The Speaker previously noted that the House spending proposal would not contain as much policy as the Senate proposal.
Notably, the House did not make major cuts to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), or the University System (UNC). The proposal also does not include the Senate’s tougher eligibility requirements for the State’s food stamp program. It is also worth noting that the proposal does not include the elimination of Certificate of Need (CON) or the balanced billing requirement, two Senate provisions staunchly opposed by most medical providers. It does include funding for a revamped teaching fellows program and also provided funding to eliminate the waiting list for at-risk Pre-K programs. It also eliminates a cap on light rail funding. More detail will be provided when the full proposal is released next week.
House Democrats held a press conference where they criticized the process, but conceded that the House budget was a “step in the right direction”, but missed several opportunities. The various sections yesterday released have not been incorporated into a PCS to the full bill available to the public.
N Carolina House make clear budget differences with Senate – AP
NC House wants to keep some programs cut in Senate budget – N&O
House budget outlines sharp differences with Senate – WRAL
House Committees OK Pieces Of Budget, But Picture Still Incomplete – WFAE
NC House partly restores education money from Senate’s 3 a.m. cut – N&O
N.C. House budget writers release spending plan for UNC system – N&O
Questions of process plague education appropriations committee – EdNC
House would drop NC Promise tuition break for out-of-staters – N&O
In Other News
The House held a special session on Wednesday in its original legislative chamber in the State Capitol in celebration of the 242nd anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Signed on May 20, 1775, the “Meck Dec” is argued to be the first declaration of independence within the Thirteen Colonies from the British monarchy.
During the session, the legislators spoke to the significance of the “First in Freedom” anniversary.
In the News
A warning for those who would drink and drive a boat– N&O
BCBSNC outlines why it filed for a 23% rate increase for ACA plans next year – TBJ
Court of Appeals Judge Elmore won’t seek reelection– WWAY
Lt. Gov. Forest presses ahead under new governor – NSJ
Senate budget helps connected judges – WRAL
Bill opening up career paths for teachers passes Senate committee – EdNC
House leaders back asbestos claim changes – WRAL
Renee Ellmers lands Trump Administration job – NSJ
No Matter What Washington Does, North Carolina & Wisconsin Taxpayers Set To See Tax Relief In 2017 – Forbes
Lawsuit Alleges State Neglected Needs of Intellectually/Developmentally Disabled – NC Health News
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.