Apr 26, 2013
NCGA Week in Review - April 22 - April 26
Voter Identification Bill Passes House
The House passed the Voter Identification Verification Act Wednesday on an 81-36 vote. House Bill 539 would require voters to present a government issued photo ID before filling out their ballot. Several amendments were discussed during the three hours of debate, but the majority of them failed. One successful amendment, brought forth by Democratic Rep. Charles Graham of Robeson County, added state tribal IDs to the accepted forms of identification listed in the bill. Those in favor of the legislation have argued that it would prevent voter fraud, while those against the bill claim that it would suppress voter turnout among social groups less likely to have ID.
House Committee Votes to Uphold Renewable Energy Requirements
The House Public Utilities and Energy Committee defeated House Bill 298 on Wednesday. The Affordable and Reliable Energy Act would have removed many of North Carolina’s renewable energy requirements. These requirements forced utility companies to create a percentage of their power through renewable energy sources. Supporters of the renewable energy portfolio claim that the renewable energy requirements have resulted in a large boost to the development of the alternative energy industry in North Carolina. Meanwhile, those in favor of the bill argued that the renewable energy requirements were an energy subsidy that results in higher energy rates for North Carolina taxpayers.
Governor McCrory Announces IT Changes
Governor Pat McCrory announced the creation of a new Innovation Center that would help the state government be more efficient in its information technology projects. The Innovation Center, located on the first floor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, will be a gathering place for state agency chief information officers, public schools, universities and citizens to create and test new technology solutions. State Chief Information Officer Chris Estes claimed that the new center would connect people and help agencies deliver more projects on time and within budget. The Innovation Center announcement comes on the heels of a state audit that found IT projects that, on average, were twice as expensive as originally thought and took 389 days more than expected to complete.
Boards and Commissions Bill Falls in House, Passes in Senate
Senate Bill 10 went to the floors of both chambers Thursday after a conference committee reported back to both chambers. The Senate passed the bill only to see it voted down in the House about an hour later. Senate Bill 10 would remove and reorganize numerous state boards and commissions. Two of Governor McCrory’s judicial appointees would have been removed had the legislation passed, which led to the differing votes in the two chambers. The Senate did not have issue with removing the two appointees, while the House found it reason to give a unanimous no vote. The two chambers previously disagreed on the bill, passing markedly different versions. In the original bill, the Senate proposed eliminating special judges. Meanwhile the House did not want to remove them, which led to the creation of the conference committee.
Bill Removing Film Incentives Appears to be Dead on Arrival
A bill removing many tax incentives for film production appears to have a great deal of opposition. Under current law, film production companies can claim a 25 percent tax credit of up to $20 million on productions costing over a quarter million dollars. House Bill 994 would eliminate that tax credit, and instead, waive any tax liability the company accrues over the next five years up to an equivalent amount. Only companies in North Carolina pay the taxes that would be waived, meaning the overwhelming majority would not qualify for the waiver. Opponents of the bill claim that the bill sponsors do not understand the nature of the industry or the effect that film production can have on attracting jobs and tourists. Supporters of the bill argue that the state is allowing the film industry to walk away with millions in taxpayer money for little loyalty to the state.
Senate Passes Welfare Drug Testing Bill
The Senate passed a bill that would require welfare applicants to pass a drug screening before receiving benefits. Senate Bill 594 would require applicants to pay for the drug tests, but those who passed would be reimbursed through their benefits under the Work First program. An applicant that fails the drug test cannot reapply for benefits for a year unless they complete a substance abuse treatment program. Supporters of the bill argue that every child has the right to grow up in a drug free home, and that people should not be able to use taxpayer money on illicit substances. Meanwhile, opponents of the bill argue that the drug test would be an unconstitutional search of a person. Opponents also claimed the legislation would hurt the children of applicants who do not receive benefits and that requiring people to pay out of pocket would defer potential applicants.
Senate Committee Votes to Rollback Environmental Regulations
The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill that would rollback many environmental regulations meant to protect the environment. Senate Bill 612 would require cities and counties to repeal any rules stricter than federal law. The bill would also require a list of environmental oversight boards and agencies to repeal or rewrite any state rule stricter than federal regulation on any given matter. This includes the Mining and Energy Commission, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Environmental Management Commission, the Commission for Public Health, the Pesticide Board and the Coastal Resources, Marine Fisheries, Wildlife Resources and Sedimentation Control commissions. The legislation would also remove riparian buffers on private property throughout the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins. Supporters of the legislation believe that it will help businesses throughout the state. Opponents of the bill argue that local governments should have more control over their environmental regulations, and that they should not be taken to a statewide level. SB 612 will head to the Senate floor next week.
Economic Outlook on Target
Barry Boardman of the Fiscal Research Division updated the House and Senate Finance Committees on the economy’s performance. Numbers have been trending in the right direction, as through March, general fund revenue is $110 million higher than expected. Tax revenues are also $126 million above target. Boardman stated that North Carolina’s economy has stabilized and is on a steady growth track, but would not go as far as calling the economy “robust.” North Carolina’s economic growth is still behind the nation as a whole, but Boardman claimed that the state could surpass the nation by the summer of 2014. He noted the rebound of several important industries, such as construction, manufacturing, and the service sector.
The Fiscal Research Division’s Economic Outlook can be found here
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