Apr 21, 2017
NCGA Week in Review
The House and Senate returned to Raleigh on Wednesday to resume work after
a week-long spring recess. Both chambers are hustling to move on bills as
April 27, the self-imposed crossover date when most bills have to move from
one chamber into the other to remain eligible, draws closer. Legislators
added an additional day of committee work to their schedules next Monday
and the following days will be a long push towards Thursday’s deadline.
This week, the legislature debated increasing the cap for beer
distribution, slow drivers in the left lane, and free speech on college
Campus Free Speech Bill Receives Deadlock Vote
HB 527: Restore/ Preserve Campus Free Speech, a bill to “restore and preserve campus free speech” in the state’s
university system, was heard in the House Committee on Education –
Universities on Wednesday and received a 6-6 vote, effectively killing the
The bill, which is sponsored by Reps. Chris Millis (R-Pender) and Jonathan
Jordan (R-Ashe), would direct the University of North Carolina Board of
Governors to develop a policy on free expression and would allow people to
file a lawsuit if they believe their speech rights have been violated, even
if they were disrupting a class, speaking event, or meeting.
In the House committee, lawmakers raised concerns about a provision of the
bill which would require campuses to remain neutral on public policy
controversies and questioned the need for the legislation. Ultimately, the
bill failed to receive a favorable report and remains in committee. The
SB 507, which is sponsored by Sens. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg) and David Curtis
(R-Lincoln), is in the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.
Environmental Laws Bill Amended in Committee
A bill which contains numerous changes to the state’s environmental laws,
SB 434: Amend Environmental Laws 2, was heard in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural
Resources on Thursday. Committee members considered and approved seven
amendments to the bill, including:
passed in 2009 that banned the use of plastic bags and non-recycled
paper bags in portions of the Outer Banks. Amendment sponsor Sen. Bill
Cook (R-Dare) argued that the ban, which has been in effect for two
years, has not changed behavior and poses an unnecessary burden on
industries creating jobs in the impacted portions of Dare, Hyde and
Repealing the Catawba River Basin Buffer
rule. Under the amendment, the rule would only apply to the downstream to
HB 434 now heads to the Senate Committee on Appropriations/ Base Budget.
Governor Cooper Vetoes Two Bills
On Friday morning, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed two bills passed by the
legislature last week. The Governor had threatened a veto on both bills
prior to their passage.
SB 68: Bipartisan Bd of Elections and Ethics Enforce, would merge the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission.
The legislature passed similar legislation in December, which was struck
down by a three-judge panel in March. In Gov. Cooper’s veto message, he states that this bill is also unconstitutional and will result in
deadlocked votes on the eight-member Board of Elections.
HB 239: Reduce Court of Appeals to 12 Judges, would reduce the size of the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12. In
message, Gov. Cooper states that the bill will increase the court’s workload and
that the bill is an attempt by the GOP to stack the Court.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Merger and House Speaker Tim Moore
to the Governor’s vetoes, stating that the Governor is motivated to
preserve his own partisan advantage.
To override either veto, the bill needs the approval of three-fifths of all
members present in each chamber.
House OKs Public-Private Partnerships to Increase Broadband
The House okayed
HB 68: BRIGHT Futures Act, which would allow local governments to partner with private companies to
increase broadband activity, on Thursday afternoon. A committee substitute
was heard in the House Committee on Energy and Public Utilities on
Wednesday, where several changes to the original bill were approved,
Allowing cities to lease wired or wireless network components that are
part of a public enterprise operated by the city
Establishing that cities and counties can lease wired or wireless network
components for up to 25 years.
The bill, which is sponsored by Reps. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Jason
Saine (R-Lincoln), Susan Martin (R-Wilson) and Brenden Jones (R-Columbus),
has been referred to Senate Rules.
No Deal on Raise the Cap
On Wednesday, an effort in the House to raise the amount of beer a brewery
can self-distribute from 25,000 barrels to 200,000 barrels fell flat.
After a public hearing last week where beer and wine distributors spoke in
force against the provision, which they say would harm their businesses, a
new version of the bill emerged in the House Alcoholic Beverage Control
(ABC) Committee on Wednesday. The
HB 500: ABC Omnibus Legislation, which bill sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) called a "shadow of
its former self," strikes this section of the bill. Though craft brewers
say they are disappointed, they still support the legislation.
HB 500 makes other reforms to state ABC laws, including formally
authorizing breweries, wineries and distilleries to provide tastings at
brewery tours and allowing brewery taprooms to obtain permits to sell other
Right to Work Constitutional Amendment
The House Judiciary I Committee approved
HB 819: Protect NC Right to Work Constitutional Amendment
with a narrow 6-5 vote on Thursday. NC is one of 28 states that has “right
to work” laws, which ban mandatory unions. The bill, which is sponsored by
Reps. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin), Michele Presnell
(R-Yancey), and Chris Millis (R-Pender), would ask voters in the November
6, 2018 election to amend the state’s constitution to include that ban.
Supporters of the bill stated that the legislation would further support
the rights of workers, while opponents argued that the bill would make it
more difficult for voluntary trade groups to serve workers. The bill now
heads to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.
Tickets for Slow Drivers?
Slow drivers in the passing lane can be a nuisance to speedy-drivers around
them, but some NC lawmakers have tried to prohibit the act.
SB 303: Use of Passing Lane/Increased Penalty, which is sponsored by Sens. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg), Tom McInnis
(R-Rockingham), Jim Davis (R-Macon), would have created a $200 fine for
impeding traffic in the left-most lane of a limited access highway.
Though advocates for the bill argue that such policy makes roads safer,
committee members in the Senate Committee on Transportation disagreed at
the bill’s hearing on Wednesday. The bill would have applied to drivers who
were obeying the speed limit, a provision which committee members objected
to. SB 303 was voted down almost unanimously in Senate Transportation,
meaning the bill is effectively dead.
HB 827, which is identical to SB 303, remains active in the House, where it has
been referred to the House Committee on Transportation.
Transportation Project Funding
The House Committee on Transportation okayed
HB 220: State Infrastructure Bank Revisions
on Wednesday. A committee substitute to the bill, which is sponsored by
Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), would enact a State Infrastructure Bank to
provide financial assistance for transportation projects. The program would
be complimentary to state’s existing transportation infrastructure program.
Additionally, the bill would create an oversight board to review and
approve loans and other financial assistance provided by the bank. The bill
now heads to the House Committee on Finance.
A committee substitute approved in the House Committee on State and Local
Government II combined two transportation bills into one.
HB 110: DOT/ DMV Changes – Megaproject Funding, approved by the House on Thursday afternoon, combines the original
language of HB 110, with
HB 219: Transportation Megaproject Funding. The bill now makes a number of changes to the Department of
Transportation and the Division of Motor Vehicles, and establishes a fund
within the Highway Trust Fund to fund transportation projects with a cost
exceeding $200 million in total costs. HB 110, which is sponsored by Reps.
John Torbett (R-Gaston, Frank Iler (R-Brunswick) and Phil Shepard
(R-Onslow), sits in Senate Rules.
Wider Window for Child Sex Abuse Victims to File Lawsuits
On Thursday afternoon, the House voted 112-3 on a bill to extend the
statute of limitations for civil lawsuits by victims of childhood sexual
abuse. Under current law, there is no statute of limitations on criminal
charges for sexual abuse, but there is a three-year window on civil suits.
HB 585: Extend Statute of Limitations/ Child Sex Abuse, which is sponsored by Reps. Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance), Beverly Boswell
(R-Dare), Brian Turner (D-Buncombe) and Linda Williams (R-Wake), would
remove the current three-year statute of limitations and would raise the
cutoff age to file a civil suit from 21 to 40 years old. The bill sponsors
encouraged lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill to allow victims to find
closure as adults. HB 585 has been referred to Senate Rules.