Mar 1, 2013
NCGA Week in Review - February 25 - March 1
Debate over Boards and Commissions Bill Heats Up
The House tentatively approved Senate Bill 10 on Thursday after several hours of debate. SB 10 would remove over 100 appointees to state boards and commissions, allowing Governor McCrory and legislative leaders to reappoint new boards and commissions. The debate revealed a split between Senate and House leaders, who had differing views on what should be included in the bill. The bill would remove many board and committee leaders immediately or over the next few months, including members of the Coastal Resources Commission, the state Lottery Commission and the Wildlife Resource Commission. The size of other boards and commissions would be reduced. Some legislators claimed that this was the time to make big changes since a new administration just began. The bill moved quickly through the House Rules Committee Thursday before it was added to the House calendar shortly before the day’s session started. The Rules Committee decided to stagger the ousting of members of the Utilities Commission and Industrial Commission at the request of several members. Other members argued that the ousting of so many people would leave the boards and commissions without experienced leaders. This led to the House altering the bill from the original Senate version by retaining four members of the Coastal Resources Commission and Environmental Management Commission for a year or two. The House is expected to make a final vote during session on Monday evening.
Bill Filed Thursday Would Overhaul Auto Insurance in NC
Senate Bill 154, filed Thursday morning, would reform the automobile insurance industry in North Carolina. Currently, the NC Rate Bureau sets the maximum rate for auto insurance in the state. Insurance providers are allowed to offer lower rates, but cannot offer rates above the Rate Bureau’s maximum. Senator Wesley Meredith’s bill would allow auto insurance providers to opt out of the rate bureau process. A coalition of insurance companies and trade organizations claim that it would bring a free market system to auto insurance, allowing customers to get the lowest possible rates. The bill would also allow insurance companies to offer discounts to drivers that are already available in other states. Those against the bill argued that it would lead to rates going up for good drivers.
Senate Approves Fracking Bill
The Senate approved SB 76 Wednesday, which would allow hydraulic fracturing to begin in North Carolina by March 2015. Supporters of the bill, which passed with a 39-7 vote, claim that bill provides certainty to energy companies that North Carolina supports hydraulic fracturing. The bill sets up severance taxes for the industry, starting with a one percent tax on all shale gas extracted in 2015, and rising to six percent gradually. The bill also includes language to encourage Governor McCrory to work on offshore energy exploration. The bill now heads to the House.
House, Senate Block Medicaid Expansion
Both chambers approved legislation Wednesday to block the expansion of Medicaid provided under the federal Affordable Care Act. The bill also blocks the state from creating an online health insurance exchange that would allow customers to shop for the lowest rates. These final votes were required as a result of differences between the bills originally passed by each chamber. The proposed expansion would be fully funded by the federal government for the first three years, and it would cover 90% of the cost after that. The bill now heads to Governor McCrory’s desk for final approval.
Charlotte Airport Authority Bill Slows Down
Senate Bill 81, which would move Charlotte Douglas International Airport out of the city of Charlotte’s control and create a regional airport authority which would oversee the airport. The bill’s sponsors delayed debate on the bill until legislators could learn more about the issue. The bill was scheduled for floor debate on Thursday, but Senator Bob Rucho, the bill’s sponsor, Charlotte Mayor Malcolm Graham urged legislators to rethink the bill, as he believes that the airport should remain in the city’s control. The bill would create a 13 member authority for the airport. The members of the authority would be appointed by the governor, the House speaker, and the Senate president pro tempore, and also include members from the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg county, and five other surrounding counties.
House Passes Bill to Help Newborns
The House tentatively approved HB 105 Thursday, which would require pulse-oximetry screening on all newborn children. The pulse-oximetry screening is used to help detect potentially life threatening congenital heart defects. The screening determines the amount of oxygen in the blood and pulse rate. The test is an inexpensive way to potentially save lives of newborn children. Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen urged lawmakers to approve the bill in a committee hearing earlier in the week. The bill received unanimous support, passing 112-0. The bill will be heard for a third reading next week.
Digital Learning Bill Passes House
House Bill 97 passed the House Thursday with a 109-3 vote. The bill would allow school districts to use lottery funds marked for school construction to purchase digital learning tools and technology. It also allows the funds to be used to train teachers on how to use technology. The bill allows lottery funding to be used for technology through June 30, 2016. After that date, the funds can be used for technology purposes if schools can prove that the technology improved student’s learning. Bringing digital learning and technology into the classroom was one of Governor McCrory’s stated goals for his administration.
Please contact the Raleigh McGuireWoods Consulting team if you have any questions or comments:
Harry Kaplan, Senior Vice-President
Jeff Barnhart, Senior Vice-President
Franklin Freeman, Senior Vice-President
John Merritt, Senior Vice-President
Johnny Tillett, Senior Vice-President
Rita Harris, Vice-President
Bo Heath, Vice-President
Kerri Burke, Assistant Vice-President
Sarah Wolfe, Research Assistant
Katy Feinberg, Strategic Communications