CONSISTENTLY DELIVERS

Feb 10, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

Business has picked up at the legislative building this week as committees have begun to meet and consider legislation. This week, 43 bills were filed in the House, and 35 in the Senate. Although only a handful of bills have been heard in committees, several have met to brief new members on the policies and procedures of their respective bodies.


Economic Development

Members of the House and Senate have sponsored SB 65/ HB 68: BRIGHT Futures Act this week. The bill aims to further economic development in rural areas by implementing infrastructure to support broadband, retail online services, grid power, health care, and training initiatives (BRIGHT). Sponsored by Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland) and Reps. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Susan Martin (R-Wilson), and Brenden Jones (R-Columbus), the legislation creates a grant and loan program for local governments, which will be offered by the Rural Infrastructure Authority. The loans will be directed toward physical infrastructure as well as digital infrastructure, such as broadband, computing and communications components. The legislation provides funds for work force development programs, and creates the “No Adult Left Behind” Initiative, which will evaluate adult education and job training in rural areas. The bill also starts the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology, and Innovation.


Education

HB 13: Class Size Requirement Changes received a favorable report from the House Appropriations Committee, and has been sent to the floor. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), Chris Malone (R-Wake) and Kevin Corbin (R-Macon), is an attempt to correct the issues regarding class size requirements that were passed in the previous session. Under this legislation, schools would be able to return to the previous flexibility offered for the teacher student allotment ratio, which is +/-3 over the current allotment of one teacher per 18 students.

HB 39: Amend Appointments/UNC Board of Governors passed the House on Wednesday, 108-4, and has been sent to the Senate. Sponsored by Reps. David Lewis (R-Harnett), John Fraley (R-Iredell), Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe) and Darren Jackson (D-Wake), the bill would decrease the number of members appointed to the UNC Board of Governors by the General Assembly for a two year term from 16 to 12. This would ultimately reduce the size of the board from 32 to 24 members. Proponents of the legislation believe a smaller board will bring in more focused and dedicated members. Concerns were raised, however, that a smaller board could limit the representation of the system’s historically black colleges and universities and smaller institutions.


Environment

HB 56: Amend Environmental Laws was referred to the House Committee on Environment on Wednesday. The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) and Larry Yarborough (R-Person), would implement additional emergency procedures for intermediate and high hazard dams. The bill would require the owners of dams that have been classified as “intermediate” or “high hazard” to submit an emergency action plan to the Department of Environmental Quality within 90 days of receiving its classification. The plan must include potential emergency conditions and security risks should the damn fail, and a description of a plan of action, warning and evacuation in an emergency situation. The emergency action plan will also include a map of the area that could be damaged by potential dam failure.


Finance

Members of the House of Representatives filed a bill on Wednesday to provide tax relief to small business owners. HB 61: Small Business Income Tax Relief , sponsored by Reps. Kyle Hall (R-Stokes), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Brenden Jones (R-Columbus), and Beverly Boswell (R-Dare), the bill would cap small business income tax at $50,000. For a couple filing married file jointly, the income tax would not exceed $100,000. The bill defines a “small business” as a business whose receipts are not greater than $1,000,000 annually.

Reps. Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg), John Szoka (R-Cumberland), and Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) filed HB 59: Revenue Laws Technical Changes on Wednesday, and the bill has been referred to the committee on Finance. The bill implements several tax provisions, and makes changes to the franchise tax on foreign and domestic corporations. The legislation also makes adjustments to sales taxes for motorsports teams, and implements excise tax changes.

House Finance Committee staff gave a presentation on Tuesday. The presentation covered general fund sources, and changes to state tax policy that have been implemented in previous legislative sessions. A link to the presentation can be found here.


General Government

A three judge panel issued a hold late Tuesday night on a law that gave the Senate power to confirm or deny appointments to the Governor’s cabinet. The panel will meet on Friday to determine whether to continue the hold on Senate confirmation hearings for a longer period of time. The judges halted the confirmation process that was set to start on Wednesday morning with a hearing for former House minority leader, Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham), who has been appointed to lead the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The trial for Cooper v. Berger is planned for March.

Reps. Bert Jones (R-Rockingham), Chris Millis (R-Pender), Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance), and Mitchell Setzer (R-Catawba) filed a bill on Tuesday to call for a convention to amend the United States constitution. Legislative leaders are working with a national organization, Convention of States, which would like to propose amendments to the constitution that would restrict federal spending and jurisdiction, and introduce term limits for members of Congress. Sens. Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico), Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), and Tommy Tucker (R-Union) have proposed companion legislation in the Senate, HB 44/ SJR 36: Convention of the States . Senators Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), and Ronald Rabin (R-Harnett) have filed SJR 40: Constitutional Amend.Convention/Countermend regarding the rules, operations and procedures of the convention and the selection of delegates. The same senators have also filed SJR 41: Amendment Convention Procedures, which outlines the application process for the convention. Reps. Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe), and Darren Jackson (D-Wake) have sponsored an opposition bill, HJR 52: Rescind Calls for a Constitutional Convention , which would rescind the application for a constitutional convention.

Legislation was filed in the House on Wednesday that would move all municipal elections to even-numbered years. HB 64: Municipal Elections to Even-Numbered Years was sponsored by Reps. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), Debra Conrad (R-Forsyth), Bert Jones (R-Rockingham), and Jeff Collins (R-Nash). If signed into law, the change would go into effect in 2022.


Health Care

HB 57: Enact Physical Therapy Licensure Compact was filed on Tuesday. Sponsored by Reps. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Grier Martin (D-Wake) and Holly Grange (R-New Hanover), the legislation is an effort to reform the licensure for physical therapists. The bill would create a compact that would allow for mutual recognition of physical therapist licenses in multiple states. The bill would benefit individuals in the practice of physical therapy who relocate frequently between states, especially spouses of active duty military members.

UNC School of Global Public Health gave a presentation to the House Health Committee on Wednesday. The presentation covered a broad array of topics related to chronic disease, current health trends in North Carolina, and substance abuse. Faculty members also answered questions regarding the expansion of Medicaid, particularly related to cost, quality of care, and potential health benefits. Gov. Cooper attempted to expand Medicaid early last month, which was temporarily blocked by a federal judge.


Transportation

Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, filed HB 81: STI/Regional & Division Weighting on Thursday. The bill would implement recommended changes to the state transportation investment strategy formula. The recommendations come from the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions. The adjustments to the formula will impact the funding of regional impact and division need projects.