Feb 24, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

Business at the General Assembly has picked up significantly this week. Joint House and Senate appropriations subcommittees met to discuss budget provisions, procedures and funding. Additionally, legislative leaders are facing off with the Governor regarding the state’s voter ID law case and confirmation hearings for cabinet appointments.

Bipartisan HB2 Proposal

A group of Republicans and Democrats have sponsored a bill that would repeal the controversial House Bill 2, which was signed into law last year. Reps. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland) and Ken Goodman (D-Richmond), filed HB 186: Repeal HB2/State Nondiscrimination Policies late Wednesday afternoon. Fifteen members signed on as co-sponsors since the bill was filed, twelve Republicans and three Democrats. The bill would repeal House Bill 2, and restrict municipalities from regulating private bathroom facilities. However, a municipality would be able to regulate bathroom access in public facilities. Any local non-discrimination ordinance would take effect 90 days after local approval or if voter referendum petitions are produced. Additionally, the bill contains a statewide non-discrimination law.

Committee Work Ramps Up

House and Senate appropriations subcommittees held introductory meetings this week in order to prepare for writing the 2017-18 state budget. Committee members heard presentations from Legislative Analysis and Fiscal Research on the budget process, and Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson, testified in front of the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Review the presentations from this week’s joint appropriations subcommittees here:

Joint Appropriations on Agriculture, Natural & Economic Resources
Joint Appropriations on Education
Joint Appropriations on General Government
Joint Appropriations on Health & Human Services
Joint Appropriations on Justice & Public Safety
Joint Appropriations on Transportation

Constitutional Amendments

A number of House members filed bills this week that propose amendments to the North Carolina Constitution. If passed, the referendums would be on the ballot in November 2018.

HB 145: Repeal Const. Reg. of Concealed Weapons would propose a referendum to remove the language that allows the state to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Michael Speciale (R-Craven), Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) and Jay Adams (R-Catawba).

HB 146: Citizen’s Allegiance to U.S. Constitution , sponsored by Reps. Michael Speciale (R-Craven), George Cleveland (R-Onslow), Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus), and Michelle Presnell (R-Yancey), would hold a referendum to change the North Carolina Constitution to say “Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the constitution of the United States,” instead of “the government of the United States.”

HB 147: Amend NC Constitution-Remove Secession was filed on Tuesday. If passed, the language in the North Carolina Constitution that bans secession would be removed. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Michael Speciale (R-Craven), George Cleveland (R-Onslow), and Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus).

HB 148: Amend NC Constitution-Literacy Requirement , sponsored by Reps. Michael Speciale (R-Craven), Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus), Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan), and Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland), calls for a referendum to remove the literacy requirement to vote.

HB 193: Legislative Four-Year Terms would lengthen the legislative term from two to four years for both the House and Senate. However, it would also limit legislators to three terms in each body. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), and Larry Yarborough (R-Person).

Foreign Relations

A bipartisan group in the House has sponsored legislation that would divest state funds from companies that boycott Israel. HB 161: Divestment From Companies That Boycott Israel, sponsored by Reps. Stephen Ross (R-Alamance), John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland), would also prohibit state agencies from contracting out services with companies that boycott Israel.

Governor Announces Teacher Pay Proposal

Gov. Cooper announced his plan to raise teacher pay at a Charlotte elementary school on Monday. Cooper stated that his recommended budget will call for an average 10% raise in teacher pay over the next two years. The proposed pay increase is expected to cost $813 million over the biennium, which Cooper says can be done without a tax increase. Instead, he has called for a halt in corporate tax cuts. Cooper has also proposed a stipend of $150 to every teacher in order to cover the cost of school supplies. Teachers received an average raise of 4.7% in the previous year, which brought their average salary to around $50,000. Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) have stated that they would like to increase the average to $55,000 over the biennium. Review the press releases regarding teacher pay from Gov. Cooper, Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore here:

Gov. Roy Cooper

Sen. Phil Berger

Speaker Tim Moore

Governor vs. Legislature

Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein have rescinded North Carolina’s appeal to the United States Supreme Court regarding a lawsuit over the voter ID law passed in 2013. The 4th U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the voter ID law in July 2016, which was appealed to the Supreme Court by former Gov. Pat McCrory. Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and President Pro-Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) condemned the actions of Cooper and Stein.

Senate leaders have continued to hold confirmation hearings despite resistance from the Cooper administration. Former Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham) failed to appear before the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee on Thursday for the second time this week and the third time this session. At the end of the hearing on Thursday, the committee voted to issue a subpoena for Hall to appear on March 2 nd. Hall was appointed by Gov. Cooper to serve as the Secretary of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and was sworn-in January. The confirmation hearings are a result of a law passed late last year. A three-judge panel has denied Gov. Cooper’s request to block the law, and will go to trial on March 7th.

Immigration & Sanctuary Cities

The House Judiciary II Committee held a discussion-only hearing for HB 63: Citizens Protection Act of 2017 on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), Jeff Collins (R-Nash), Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe), and Jay Adams (R-Catawba), would increase penalties for the manufacture, sale and possession of false identification. The legislation creates a rebuttable presumption for the pre-trial release of illegal immigrants who are charged with a class A through E felony, as well as other violent crimes. The bill also implements a process to withhold state funds from sanctuary cities. If passed, the Secretary of Revenue would be directed to withhold state funds from the beer and wine excise tax, the telecommunications tax, the video programming services and telecommunications services tax, and the tax on piped natural gas.

Local Option Sales Tax Changes

SB 126: Change the LOST Adjustment Factor would replace individual adjust factors for counties with economic development tier based adjustment factors: Tier One-1.10%, Tier Two-1.00% and Tier Three-0.90%.The bill is sponsored by Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow).

Partisan Judicial Elections

HB 100: Restore Partisan Elections/Sup. & Distr. Court received approval from the House on Wednesday by a vote of 65-51. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Dana Bumgardner (R-Gaston), Cody Henson (R-Transylvania), would return Superior and District Court races to partisan elections. Superior Court elections were changed to nonpartisan in 1996, and District Court was changed in 2001. Supporters of the bill say partisan affiliation provides voters with more information on a candidate’s basic judicial philosophy. Opponents say the legislation would harm the independence and fairness of the judicial system.

Regulatory Reform

The first regulatory reform bill of this session was filed on Thursday. SB 131: Regulatory Reform Act of 2017,sponsored by Sens. Andy Wells (R-Catawba), Bill Cook (R-Dare) and Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) would reduce environmental and natural resources regulations, as well as state and local government regulation. Many of the provisions are identical to those in the regulatory reform bills from last year, due to the General Assembly failing to pass a regulatory reform bill in the 2016 short session.