May 12, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

This week, the Senate passed their budget proposal , which now heads to the House. While the legislature’s resources were primarily focused on the budget process, the House saw some action, holding a few committees on Wednesday and Thursday, and passing a handful of bills. Additionally, the legislature voted to override the Governor’s fourth veto.

Senate Passes Proposed Budget

The Senate has passed their version of the budget, SB 257: Appropriations Act of 2017, with a vote count of 32-15 along party lines around 3:00am on Friday, after considering 13 amendments on the floor on Thursday and Friday. For a comprehensive review of the Senate’s proposal, click here.

Here’s a look at some of the amendments approved by the Senate:

  • An amendment set forth by Sen. Ralph Hise aims to protect patients in emergent situations from being bill for out-of-network-benefits.
  • Sen. Louis Pate moved to provide additional funds to provide naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, to the NC Harm Reduction Coalition and law enforcement agencies.
  • Sen. Rick Gunn sponsored an amendment extending funds to the International Recruitment Coordination Office into the 2017-18 fiscal year.
  • An amendment sponsored by Sen. David Curtis would grant flexibility to local education agencies to purchase textbooks and digital materials from vendors of their choosing.
  • Sen. Shirley Randleman moved to clarify the jurisdiction of ABC and ALE law enforcement officers to grant them the authority to enforce criminal laws under certain circumstances.
  • An amendment sponsored by Sen. Brent Jackson eliminates funding for some projects, including funds for food deserts, operational funds for state parks, and Eastern NC STEM to increase funding for opioid treatment pilot projects.

When the senators returned to the chamber shortly after midnight, the Democratic caucus ran a number of amendments to implement programs proposed by Gov. Cooper, none of which were adopted. To review the differences between the Governor and the Senate’s proposals, follow this link.

The budget is now in the House where Senior Appropriations Chairman Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) noted that the House is on track to begin committee work on SB 257 the week after next, and vote on the budget during the week of Memorial Day.

What Happened in the House?

Though the Senate’s budget proposal was the focus of the week, there was some action in the House.

Justice & Public Safety

Both chambers are considering legislation to “raise the age” of juvenile jurisdiction to include 16 and 17 year olds. This week, two House committees gave approval to HB 280: Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, sponsored by Reps. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), David Lewis (R-Harnett), Duane Hall (D-Wake) and Susan Martin (R-Wilson). In introducing the bill, Rep. McGrady noted that the bill was before the committee to aid in negotiations with the Senate, whose plan differs slightly from the House. HB 280 would shift all misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases to juvenile courts by 2019, while the Senate proposal, which is included in their budget, would raise the age only for misdemeanors and would not go into effect until 2020. It is likely that these difference will be worked out by the chambers after the House passes their version of the budget later this month.

The House voted 112-1 on Thursday to pass SB 53: Law Enforcement Authority/ Custody of Child, which will now goes to the Governor. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Davis (R-Macon), would authorize law enforcement officers to obtain custody of a child if a court determines that the child is in danger.

Regulatory Reform

The House Committee on Regulatory Reform discussed, but did not vote on, HB 590: Interior Design Profession Act on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance), Pat McElraft (R-Carteret), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Susan Martin (R-Wilson), would allow interior designers to voluntarily register with the state if they had passed a national exam and proven continued education. Registered designers would then be allowed to submit their own plans for permitting purposes, which currently can only be done by an engineer or architect. The bill sponsors indicated that HB 590 will come before the committee in coming weeks for a vote.

The House voted 113-0 on Thursday in favor of SB 24: Allow Restaurants to Use Outdoor Grills. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Tom McInnis (R-Rockingham), Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) and Jim Davis (R-Macon), would allow restaurants to use an outdoor grill to prepare foods. This would allow smaller restaurants, who often cannot afford the fire safety equipment required to operate an indoor grill, an alternate means to prepare food. The bill has been sent back to the Senate, who must approve of changes made by the House, before it is sent to the Governor.

Veto Override

The House and Senate voted to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of HB 467: Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies. On Wednesday afternoon, the House voted 74-42 to override the veto and the Senate voted 30-18 the next day. The bill goes into effect immediately.

President Trump Appoints Gov. Cooper to Opioid & Addiction Panel

President Donald Trump has appointed Gov. Cooper to a panel on the growing opioid epidemic. Upon accepting the nomination Gov. Cooper noted, “we agree that opioid abuse, not only in North Carolina, but across the country, is a significant problem.” The panel will be chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

National Report on Transportation Examines North Carolina

A report released on Thursday by TRIP, a national transportation research group, “Keeping North Carolina Mobile: Progress and Challenges in Providing an Efficient, Safe and Well-Maintained Transportation System,” examines NC’s transportation infrastructure and funding. While the report finds that NC is ahead of most states, NC will only be able to fund 17% of necessary projects in the next decade under current plans. The state is experiencing significant population growth, 26% since 2000, which demands additional infrastructure to ease congestion. Additionally, the report found that 44% of urban and major roads in the state are in poor condition. The report concludes that the modest increases in transportation funding are insufficient to maintain and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.