Mar 10, 2017
NCGA Week in Review
Last Friday, Gov. Cooper
signed his first bill into law
, and the General Assembly passed
two more bills
this week, which now await his approval. Additionally, many bills were
heard in committee this week related to reshaping the state’s judiciary,
regulating fantasy sports, and drone use around prisons and jails.
Confirmation Proceedings Continue
Arguments began this week before the three judge panel that will decide the
constitutionality of the Senate confirmation process. However, this did not
deter the Senate from continuing to hold hearings, and issue subpoenas for
Gov. Cooper’s cabinet appointments. Senate committees issued subpoenas on
Wednesday for Jim Trogdon, Secretary of Transportation, and Erik Hooks,
Secretary of Public Safety. A subpoena was also issued on Thursday for Susi
Hamilton, Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources. Larry Hall,
Secretary of Military and Veteran Affairs, was confirmed this week. He was
Cooper’s first appointee confirmed by the Senate.
Court Elections, Reductions and Vacancies
Several bills moved through the General Assembly this week that would
impact the state’s court system.
HB 100: Restore Partisan Elections/ Sup. & Dist. Court
has been passed by the House and Senate, and was sent to Gov. Cooper for
his approval on Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Justin Burr
(R-Stanly), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Dana Bumgardner (R-Gaston), and Cody
Henson (R-Transylvania), would return superior and district court races to
partisan elections. Superior and district court elections have been
non-partisan since 1996 and 2001, respectively.
Reps. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), David Lewis (R-Harnett), and Sarah Stevens
(R-Surry), have sponsored legislation that would gradually reduce the size
of the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 judges. Opponents of
the legislation say that reducing the size of the court would strain the
court. Proponents say the court grew in size because of political
HB 239: Reduce Court of Appeals Judges
passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 71-42.
HB 240: GA Appoint for District Court Vacancies
passed the House by a vote of 66-47 on Thursday. The bill, sponsored by
Reps. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), Kyle Hall (R-Stokes), and Dana Bumgardner
(R-Gaston), would require the General Assembly to appoint judges to
district court vacancies. If the General Assembly is not in session when a
seat becomes vacant, then the Speaker of the House and President Pro-Tem of
the Senate may leave the seat vacant until the legislature reconvenes.
Under current law, the Governor appoints judges to fill vacancies on
Drones Over Jails
Reps. Allen McNeill (R-Randolph), John Torbett (R-Gaston), and John
Faircloth (R-Guilford) sponsored legislation that would prohibit drone use
within 500 horizontal or 250 vertical feet of a state, federal or local
HB 128: Prohibit Drone Use Over Prison/Jail
is in response to incidents across the country where contraband has been
flown into jails and prisons by a drone. An individual would be charged
with a class H felony for transporting a weapon into a detention facility,
and a class I felony for transporting illicit materials. Other individuals
would be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor.
Legislation sponsored by Reps. John Torbett (R-Gaston), John Blust
(R-Guilford), and Justin Burr (R-Stanly) would create criminal offenses for
what proponents call “economic terrorism.”
HB 249: Economic Terrorism
states that an individual is guilty of the crime if he or she obstructs
traffic, damages property, or disrupts business that results in damages or
losses of more than $1,000 for a business or individual. If found guilty,
an individual would be convicted of a class H felony. Opponents of the
legislation say this legislation is a violation of first amendment rights.
Proponents say the bill protects citizens and business owners from riots
and violent protestors.
Fantasy Sports Regulation
A bipartisan group of House members filed a bill this week to regulate
fantasy sports gaming in North Carolina. Sponsored by Reps. Jason Saine
(R-Lincoln), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth), and Duane
HB 279: Fantasy Sports Regulation
would require the operator of a fantasy sports company to register with the
Secretary of State, and pay initial registration and renewal fees. The
initial registration fee would be 10% of the operator’s gross revenue from
the previous year, but cannot exceed $10,000. The renewal fee would be 10%
or $5,000 of the previous year’s net revenue. Renewal would be required
every five years.
Lottery Funds for Rural Schools and Principal Pay
Sens. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), and Jerry Tillman
(R-Randolph) sponsored legislation that would use lottery funds for rural
school construction, provide bonuses for principals, and increase
compensation for assistant principals.
SB 234: SBA Pay/Needs-Base Pub. Sch. Capital Fund
would provide $75 million for school construction and over $24 million for
principal and assistant principal pay. The bill allocates a one-time bonus
of $2,600 for every principal in the state, and establishes a competitive
bonus program for each school district, which would be administered by the
district’s superintendent. Assistant principals would also see a
significant salary increase.
Raise the Age for Juvenile Offenders
Reps. David Lewis (R-Harnett), Susan Martin (R-Wilson), Chuck McGrady
(R-Henderson), and Duane Hall (D-Wake), sponsored legislation this week
that would allow 16 and 17 year-olds to be tried as juveniles. Currently,
North Carolina is one of two states that allows offenders of that age to be
tried as adults.
HB 280: Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act
would continue to allow offenders under 18 to be charged as an adult for
certain violent felonies and drug crimes. The bill also includes provisions
to create more juvenile justice diversion programs, increase juvenile
justice training for law enforcement, and to authorize a new juvenile
jurisdiction advisory committee.
Renewable Energy Requirements
Reps. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin) and John Bell (R-Wayne) filed
HB 267: Utilities/Amend REPS Requirements
this week. The bill would reduce the percentage of renewable energy
required in energy portfolios of utility providers. Under current law,
utility providers are required to have 6% of their sales from renewable
energy sources. The rate is scheduled to increase to 10% in 2018 and 12.5%
in 2021. This legislation would permanently cap the rate at 8%. The bill
also allows utility providers to meet up to 40% of their renewable energy
requirements through savings from energy efficiency practices.
Protection for Ex-Government Officials
Sens. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg) and Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) sponsored
legislation that would provide security for a former governor for one year
after the end of his or her term.
SB 229: Protection for Former Government Official
would provide one member of the state highway patrol on the occasional
basis at the request of the former governor. The expense would be paid by
the office of the sitting governor.
Scholarships for STEM and Special Ed Teachers
Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake) and Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) announced a
proposal to recruit new teachers for special education and STEM (science,
technology, engineering and math) subjects. The proposal, which would be
known as the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, would provide $8,250
in forgivable loans to participants. Current teachers, as well as high
school and college students, would be eligible for the program. Legislative
leaders were joined by Margaret Spellings, President of the UNC System, Dr.
Randy Woodson, Chancellor of NC State University, Mark Johnson, State
Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Dr. Hope Williams, Director of
the North Carolina Colleges and Independent Universities, for the
announcement. Sen. Barefoot is expected to introduce the legislation next
Teacher Bonus Expansion
Sens. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston) and Trudy
Wade (R-Guilford) sponsored
SB 169: Teaching Excellence Bonus Expansion
. Under legislation passed last session, 3rd grade teachers who
met achievement requirements would receive a $3,500 bonus. However, many
teachers, who met the requirements, were moved to other positions within
their schools, which resulted in a loss of the bonus. This legislation is
an effort to correct the missed bonuses.