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Oct 6, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

The General Assembly gaveled in for the third time since adjourning the long session in June to take up additional business this week. A two-day “special session” was held to consider several issues, including two veto overrides, judicial redistricting and technical corrections to the 2017 budget. Per the adjournment resolution , legislators will reconvene on January 10 for another special session.

Special Session Report

Agency & Budget Technical Corrections

A conference report to SB 582: Budget & Agency Technical Corrections was introduced on Wednesday in the House Committee on Appropriations. The bill makes clarifying changes to the state’s budget and other agency requested technical changes and modifications, including:

  • Narrows the scope of school construction projects that can be funded with lottery proceeds to only new building construction.
  • Eliminates the sunset for the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund, which was set to expire in July 2020.
  • Requires the average weekly wage of inmates employed under the Prison Industry Enhancement Program to be calculated in accordance with the Worker’s Compensation Act.
  • Removes a requirement for a randomized control group for a medication-assisted opioid use disorder treatment program.
  • Requires the Attorney General to handle all criminal appeals and prohibits delegation to any district attorney’s office.

SB 582 was approved with veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate on Thursday, and has been sent to the Governor.

Appointments Approved

Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) introduced SB 694: Further Modifications to Appointments on Wednesday. The bill includes a number of appointments, including former Rep. Mike Stone to the Oil and Gas Commission and Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) to the High Speed Rail Compact Commission, at the recommendations of House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), as well as corrections to existing appointments. SB 694 was passed by the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Thursday evening, it is not subject to approval by the Governor.

Electoral Freedom

When the legislature adjourned in June, SB 656: Electoral Freedom Act of 2017 had just been sent to conference. Both chambers reviewed and gave approval to the conference report with veto-proof majorities this week. The bill:

  • Reduces the number of signatures required for unaffiliated candidates to be included on a general election ballot for offices other than the General Assembly and municipal offices from 4% to 1.5%.
  •  Amends the qualifications for a group of voters to be recognized by a political party. Under the proposed legislation, parties that are included on the general election ballot in 35 other states will be recognized parties in NC.
  • Eliminates primaries for judicial offices in 2018. Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), the bill's sponsor, stated that this is needed since the legislature plans to consider different options for selecting judges, and the Senate plans to look at the House's judicial redistricting plan, in the coming months.

The bill has been sent to the Governor.

Judicial Redistricting

A proposal to redraw the state’s court districts from Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) moved forward in the House. HB 717: Judicial Redistricting & Investment Act , which has been discussed by a House select committee and the state’s Court Commission in recent weeks, passed the House on Thursday night with a veto-proof majority. The Senate did not take up HB 717 this week, but Sen. Berger indicated that judicial redistricting may be taken up in the coming months or in the short session.

Newspaper Notices

SB 181: Electronic Notice – Guilford County was introduced as a proposed committee substitute in the House Committee on Finance on Wednesday. The bill, which contains a nearly identical provision from a bill vetoed by the Governor in July, allows local governments in Guilford County to post public and legal notices on their websites in addition to or in lieu of in local newspapers. SB 181 was approved by the House and Senate on Thursday. Because the legislation is a local bill, it was not subject to the Governor’s signature and became law upon approval from both chambers.

Veto Overrides

The legislature overrode two of Gov. Cooper’s vetoes during the special session.

HB 56: Amend Environmental Laws which makes a number of changes to state environmental laws, including:

  • Establishes a study of excluding certain riparian buffers from taxation.
  • Repeals the plastic bag ban in effect for portions of the Outer Banks.
  • Appropriates $435,000 in funds to respond to the discharge of GenX into the Cape Fear River

In his objection message , Gov. Cooper criticized the legislature for failing to provide resources to any state agencies to respond to GenX, and objected to provisions in the legislation that he said weaken environmental protections.

SB 16: Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2017 , which makes changes to state law including:

  • Allows bed and breakfasts to provide additional, optional meals to guests.
  • Directs the Building Code Council to study electrical safety requirements for swimming pools.
  • Requires backup lights to be operational to pass a state automobile inspection.
  • Authorizes private condemnation of land for pipelines originating outside of NC.
  • Clarifies a number of stormwater laws including providing that when a preexisting development is redeveloped, increased stormwater controls may only be required for the amount of water-resistant surface being created that exceeds the amount that existed prior to the redevelopment

Gov. Cooper stated that he believes the legislation makes dangerous rollbacks to regulations protecting water quality.