Mar 31, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

In the midst of bill filing deadlines and with crossover, the date which bills must cross from one chamber to the other, looming next month, the General Assembly has had an eventful week. A bipartisan compromise on HB 2 has been the big story this week. Meanwhile, 189 bills were filed in the Senate and 65 in the House this week.

HB 2 Repeal

Just over a year ago, HB 2: Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, now commonly referred to as the bathroom bill, was passed in response to a local ordinance enacted by the Charlotte City Council that would have allowed people to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity. This week, the legislature and the Governor reached a compromise and signed a repeal into law.

On Wednesday night, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced that they had reached an agreement with Gov. Cooper on a repeal bill. In their statements, the Governor noted that the compromise is not perfect, but it is necessary, while Rep. Moore and Sen. Berger noted that they are pleased that the proposal protects bathroom safety and privacy.

HB 142: Reset of S.L. 2016-3 was introduced in the Senate Rules Committee Thursday morning. The bill:

  • Repeals HB 2.
  • Clarifies that state institutions, including the University of North Carolina and the Community College Systems, and local boards of education, are held to state laws on multiple occupancy restrooms, showers and changing facilities, not local ordinances.
  • Places a four-year moratorium on local governments enacting non-discrimination ordinances.

The bill was first heard in the Senate, where it passed 32-16, six Democrats and ten Republicans voted against the repeal. The bill was then immediately sent to the House for consideration and passed 70-48, 15 Democrats and 33 Republicans voted in opposition to the bill. Gov. Cooper signed the repeal into law later that afternoon and the law went into effect immediately.

HB 142 faced criticism from both social conservatives, who opposed a repeal, and social liberals, who considered the compromise to be continued discrimination against the LGBT community.

Higher Education Reforms & Workforce Development

In an effort to improve outcomes in the UNC system, Sens. David Curtis (R-Lincoln), Harry Brown (R-Onslow) and Tom McInnis (R-Rockingham) introduced SB 519: NCGRADE on Wednesday. Currently, the average graduation rate in the UNC system is six years, which the bill sponsors consider to be too long. The bill would:

  • Establish that applicants to UNC system schools must have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher on a seven-point scale for admission.
  • Create the NC Graduation Rate Acceleration Double Enrollment (NCGRADE) Program. This program would allow students who do not meet the GPA requirement to participate in a dual-enrollment program between the university and a participating community college. The student would earn an associate’s degree at the designated community college before enrolling at the selected constituent university.
  • Found a NCGRADE Grant Fund to grant $1,000 per academic semester for participants in the NCGRADE Program.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.

Many legislators and the Governor believe that reestablishing a teaching fellows program for future educators may help the state respond to teacher shortages. North Carolina had a teaching fellows program from 1986 to 2011, which awarded scholarships to students with a promise that the student would teach in NC for at least four years. Sponsored by Reps. Craig Horn (R-Union), Stephen Ross (R-Alamance), Holly Grange (R-New Hanover), and Frank Iler (R-Brunswick) and Sens. Chad Barefoot (R-Franklin), Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Deanna Ballard (R-Watuaga) HB 339 / SB 252: North Carolina Teaching Fellows, would re-establish the program with a focus on STEM and special education teachers and low performing schools. The bill would provide forgivable loans of up the $8,250 per semester to students and in return, the students would be required to teach in schools across the state for an allotted number of years to receive loan forgiveness. The House version of the bill has been given the OK by the House Committee on Education – Universities, and has now been sent to the House Committee on Appropriations. The Senate version of the bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education/ Higher Education.

Regulatory Relief for Alcohol Industry

Along with HB 460 / SB 155: Economic & Job Growth for NC Distilleries, which was reported on earlier this month and moved forward in the Senate yesterday, the General Assembly introduced an omnibus bill concerning the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission this week.

Sponsored by Reps. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) and Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), HB 500: ABC Omnibus Legislation would make a number of changes to the state’s ABC laws:

  • Authorize the sale of growlers of beer and wine by locations with a retail permit.
  • Allow breweries, wineries and distilleries to store alcoholic beverages off site.
  • Authorize tastings at brewery tours.
  • Amend home brewing laws to allow homebrewers to serve their product at organized affairs and exhibitions.
  • Allow brewery taprooms to serve other alcoholic beverages.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Support for Nonprofits

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Insurance reviewed and gave a thumbs up to SB 154: Charitable Fundraising for Nonprofit Orgs, which would ease regulations for charitable fundraising events, this week. Sponsored by Sens. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) and Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), SB 154 would:

  • Allow nonprofits to hold no more than four raffles per year. Current law allows nonprofits to hold two raffles per year.
  • Increase the total allowed cash prizes and fair market value for prizes offered in nonprofit raffles from $125,000 to $250,000.
  • Allow nonprofits to obtain ABC permits to serve alcohol at raffles and to offer alcohol as a prize in raffles.

The bill has been sent to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate, its last committee stop before heading to the floor for a vote.

Similar to SB 154, a bill sponsored by Reps. Jamie Boles (R-Moore), Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland), would allow nonprofits to hold game nights as a means of fundraising. HB 511: Game Nights/ Nonprofit Fundraiser was filed on Tuesday and has been sent to the House Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control. The bill would require nonprofits to acquire game night permits and hold up to four game nights per year as a means of fundraising. The bill would also allow nonprofits to serve alcohol at these events.

Sponsored by Sens. Don Davis (D-Pitt) and Louis Pate (R-Wayne), SB 497: Nonprofit Sales Tax Exempt would provide a sales tax exemption for tangible personal property, digital property, and services for use in carrying on the work of the following entities:

  • Nonprofit hospitals and over-the-counter drugs purchased for for-profit hospitals.
  • Organizations that are exempt from income tax under the 501(c)(3) code and meet other classifications.
  • Volunteer fire departments and volunteer emergency medical service squads that are financially accountable to a local government.
  • Certain single member LLCs that are disregarded for income tax.
  • Certain retirement facilities.
  • University-affiliated nonprofits that procures, designs, constructs, or provides facilities to a school in the UNC system.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Rues and Operations of the Senate.

Sponsored by Sens. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg), Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), and Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), SB 304: Required Financial Audits would require financial audits of all state offices and nonprofits that receive state funds. Originally, the bill would have required audits every four years for all nonprofits that receive state funds. A change made in the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week changed that provision to require quadrennial audits only for nonprofits that has annual revenues of $1 million or more and independent financial reviews for nonprofits with annual revenues of less than $1 million. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations/ Base Budget.