Sep 22, 2017
NCGA Week in Review
Judicial redistricting continued this week as a House select committee
heard comments from stakeholders in preparation to review proposed maps
next week. Meanwhile, the Governor vetoed an omnibus environmental bill
that was passed by the legislature last month.
Governor Cooper vetoes HB 56
Gov. Cooper issued his twelfth veto of the 2017-18 biennium on Thursday
HB 56: Amend Environmental Laws
was passed when legislators convened in August, after being sent to
conference in June during the final days of the long session. The bill
proposes a number of changes to state environmental laws, including:
Allowing DEQ to waive the required financial assurance for risk-based
cleanups in certain circumstances.
Amending protection of existing buffer rules to exempt certain
applicability requirements for public safety.
Amending the rule for protection and maintenance of existing buffers in
the Catawba River Basin to exempt certain applicability requirements
for walking trails.
Establishing a study of excluding certain riparian buffers from
Repealing the plastic bag ban in effect for portions of the Outer
Appropriating $435,000 in funds to respond to the discharge of
into the Cape Fear River:
, Gov. Cooper criticized the legislature for failing to provide resources
to any state agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services
and the Department of Environmental Quality, which requested a combined
$2.6 million to “put more experts on the ground.” Additionally, Gov. Cooper
objected to provisions in the legislation that he said weakens
environmental protections, including the plastic bag ban repeal, which he
notes is largely supported by the public and businesses in the impacted
portions of the Outer Banks.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore
(R-Cleveland) both encouraged the legislature to override his veto quickly.
the Governor for vetoing “the only proposal that will actually help clean
our drinking water in the lower Cape Fear region,” while Speaker Moore
the Governor’s decision to veto the legislation “shocking.” HB 56 is
eligible for consideration when legislators return to Raleigh on October 4.
The conference report passed in the House with a 61-44 vote, and the Senate
passed it 29-10; a three-fifths majority is needed to overturn the veto.
House Committee Considering Judicial Redistricting
On Tuesday, the House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting held their
second meeting as they work towards committee chair Rep. Justin Burr’s
(R-Stanly) objective to redraw state judicial maps. While
meeting was focused on informational presentations, this week lawmakers
heard feedback from stakeholders.
At the meeting, stakeholders, including Superior Court Judge Joe Crosswhite
and District Court Judge Athena Brooks as well as representatives from the
NC State Bar and the NC State Bar Association provided comments on
HB 717: Revise Judicial Districts
. Comments predominately
the committee to slow the process down and to consider the consequences of
redrawing districts, which, according to stakeholders, included increased
travel time, costs, and workloads, and eliminating up to half of the judges
in some districts, either by double bunking two sitting judges, or
eliminating the seat. The NC State Bar
taken a position on the maps and urged the committee to “keep the effective
administration of justice for the citizens of this state” as the primary
goal when considering revisions to judicial maps.
Republicans supporting changes to judicial districts
that new maps are needed because districts have been largely unchanged for
more than 60 years and disproportionately benefit Democrats, while
Democrats argue that the effort is a pretense to partisan gerrymandering.
The committee is scheduled to meet next Wednesday, September 27 and will
consider a proposed committee substitute to HB 717 as well as public
comment. Rep. Burr stated that he is optimistic that the bill will be
passed by the House when they convene in October. The NC Courts Commission
will also take up the issue when they meet next Friday, September 29.