Mar 24, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

The pace continues to rapidly increase at the legislature as the House and Senate successfully overrode Gov. Cooper’s veto of a partisan judicial elections bill, and the House filed 77 bills this week, with the Senate filing another 72 bills. The House released its version of a regulatory reform bill this week that would reduce regulations on businesses, individuals, and local government, and the Senate filed its tax reform bill on Tuesday.

Autocycle Helmets

A bill passed the House on Thursday that would remove the helmet requirement when riding an autocycle that is not fully enclosed. HB 214: Autocycles/No Helmet Required , sponsored by Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven), passed the House by a vote of 76-41. The bill defines an autocycle as a three wheeled vehicle that is similar to a motorcycle, but is operated by a steering wheel. Proponents of the legislation argue that the vehicle is more similar to a car than a motorcycle, and wearing a helmet restricts the vision of the driver. Opponents are concerned about potential safety hazards related to removing the helmet requirement.

Brian Garlock Act

Sens. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg), Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), and Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) filed SB 364: Brian Garlock Act on Thursday. The legislation would outlaw the use of a cell phone or any other electronic device while driving, unless it is done through a hands-free device. The crime would be punishable as class 2 misdemeanor and a $200 fine. The bill is named after a Charlotte teenager who passed away in a car wreck while using his cell phone in 2008.

Cooper’s Veto Overridden

The General Assembly overrode Gov. Cooper’s veto of HB 100: Restore Partisan Elections/Sup. & Dist. Court this week, which will return partisan elections to district and superior court. Races. The House voted to override Gov. Cooper’s veto on Wednesday by a vote of 74-44, and the Senate followed suit on Thursday by a vote of 32-15. Superior and district court elections have been non-partisan since 1996 and 2001, respectively.

Regulatory Reform

The House Regulatory Reform Committee met on Wednesday to introduce a proposed committee substitute to SB 131: Regulatory Reform Act of 2016-17 . The Senate version passed its chamber by a vote of 38 to 11 last week. The legislation is a revival of a proposed regulatory reform bill that passed the House and Senate last session. However, the two chambers failed to reach a compromise between their deregulation bills before the end of the short session. The bill eliminates or consolidates various reporting and permitting requirements in various industries such agriculture, environmental and natural resources, and state and local government.

Key differences in the House regulatory reform bill:

  • Repeals a provision that encourages local boards of education to administer additional testing
  • Removes certain motor vehicles emissions inspections
  • Eliminates part of the coastal area management act
  • Exempts landscaping material from storm water management requirements
  • Removes the licensing requirement from the practice of horshoeing
  • Modify stream mitigation requirements for intermittent streams
  • Instruct DEQ to study riparian buffer requirements for intermittent streams
  • Amend private drinking water well permitting requirements
  • Removes the print requirement for the state agency public records. Public records requirement can be satisfied by publishing online

Several committee members raised concerns about a new provision in the House version that would amend the sediment criteria regarding sand in the cape shoal. The General Assembly has used regulatory reform to reduce government regulations on businesses, individuals, and local governments, and has been an ongoing topic at the legislature in previous years.

Student Athletes

Reps. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), Greg Murphy (R-Pitt), and David Rogers (R-Rutherford) sponsored legislation that is aimed at increasing health and safety measures for school sports. HB 116: Student Safety in Athletics would require every head coach or athletic director to maintain CPR certification, and direct local boards of education to create heat stroke prevention measures. The legislation also mandates the State Board of Education to create database of major illnesses, injuries and concussions that transpire during school athletics, which will be maintained by the Department of Public Instruction.

Companion legislation was filed in the House and Senate this week that would create a legislative commission to study issues related to college athletes. HB 463/SB 335:Study/Fair Treatment of College Athletes would establish a commission that would be chaired by the Lieutenant Governor, and composed of six Representatives and six Senators. Representation would be proportional to the partisan representation in both bodies. The commission would study employment and health issues related to study athletes such as unionization, health insurance, sports and non-sports injuries, academic opportunities and full-tuition scholarships. Sens. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Warren Daniel (R-Burke), and Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) sponsored the Senate version, and Reps. Jeff Collins (R-Nash), Bert Jones (R-Rockingham), David Rogers (R-Rutherford), and Chris Millis (R-Pender) sponsored its companion in the House.

Wind Energy Moratorium

House and Senate leaders filed companion bills on Thursday that would place a temporary moratorium on permits for the creation and construction of wind energy facilities, commonly known as wind farms. HB 465/SB331: Military Operations Protection Act of 2017 would also direct the General Assembly to study the impact of wind energy facilities on military operations. Reps. John Bell (R-Wayne), Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin), and George Cleveland (R-Onslow) sponsored the bill in the House, and Sens. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico), and Louis Pate (R-Wayne) sponsored its companion in the Senate. The legislation is in response to concerns over the interference of wind energy facilities with military exercises.

Tax Reform

Originally reported on last week after the Senate leadership held a press conference, SB: 325 Billion Dollar Middle Class Tax Cut was filed by the Finance chairs, Sens. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), Andrew Brock (R-Davie), and Tommy Tucker (R-Union) on Tuesday. The bill, which also has the support of 17 Republican co-sponsors, is divided into three parts: personal income tax changes, business tax changes, and market-based sourcing.

If passed, effective January 1, 2018, SB 325 would:

  • Reduce the personal income tax rate from 5.499% to 5.35%.
  • Increase the standard deduction to $20,000 (currently $17,500) if married, filing jointly; $15,000 (currently $14,000) for head of household; $10,000 (currently $8,750) for single; and $10,000 (currently $8,750) if married, filing separately.
  • Expand the child deduction for people eligible for the federal child tax credit. Deduction ranges from $0 to $2,500.
  • Reduce the income tax rate for C Corporations from 3% to 2.75% beginning 2018, and to 2.5% in 2019.
  • Adopt market-based sourcing for multistate income tax apportionment.
  • Create a new general statute on market based sourcing for banks.