May 19, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

Legislative leaders have been hard at work this week as the House reviews the Senate’s proposed budget, and begins preparing to unveil its plan in the coming weeks. Major policy changes have moved through both chambers as well, including legislation that would raise the juvenile age for 16 and 17 year olds. Governor Cooper asked the federal government for more funds for Hurricane Matthew relief, and the United States Supreme Court struck down the state’s appeal of a voter identification law.

Budget Update

Following the Senate’s passage of its budget last Friday, the House has been busy reviewing the proposed funding allocations. House leaders plan to reveal their proposed budget after Memorial Day, and hope to pass it through the chamber around June 1st. Leadership in both chambers believe they will be able to pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30th.

Cooper & Federal Funds

Governor Cooper is calling on federal lawmakers and President Trump for additional funding for Hurricane Matthew relief. Cooper and members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation requested over $900 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but received only $6.1 million. The funds have been requested to aid housing repairs, health care facilities, government buildings, infrastructure, and to cover losses in agriculture. Governor Cooper’s letter to President Trump and congressional leadership is available here.

On Thursday, Governor Cooper announced that NC had secured a $31 million federal grant to help treat opioid addiction. The Governor and Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, made the announcement at a treatment facility in Raleigh where they stated that the funds would primarily go towards treatment. The Governor also called on the legislature to expand state funding towards the epidemic.

Fantasy Sports Regulations Fail

Legislation that would have regulated the online daily fantasy sports industry received an unfavorable report in the House Regulatory Reform Committee on Wednesday. Sponsored by Reps. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), Duane Hall (D-Wake), Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth), and Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), HB 279: Fantasy Sports Regulation would have required fantasy sports operators to register with the Secretary of State every five years. The bill would have also charged renewal and registration fees. The bill’s sponsors stated that the legislation was an effort to protect consumers. However, proponents argued that the bill further legalized gambling in North Carolina. The bill is no longer eligible this session.

Grill Bill Heads to Governor

A bill that would allow restaurants to use outdoor grills to prepare food has been sent to the Governor after the Senate approved some changes made to the bill in the House. Bill sponsors Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg), and Jim Davis (R-Macon) say that SB 24: Allow Restaurants to Use Outdoor Grills will aid small restaurants who are not able to purchase the fire safety equipment necessary to operate an indoor grill. The bill passed both chambers without opposition and is poised to be signed into law by the Governor.

Proposed Public School Bond

Reps. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg), Kevin Corbin (R-Macon), Craig Horn (R-Union), and Linda Johnson (R-Cabarrus) sponsored a bill that would place a $1.9 billion school bond on the ballot in November 2018. The funds would support capital projects for public schools across the state. The proposed bond would be the first for public schools since 1996. A previous bond was passed in March 2016, which supported maintenance and capital projects at the universities, community colleges, state parks, and wastewater facilities. A committee substitute to HB 866: Public School Building Bond Act passed House K-12 Education on Wednesday and now heads to the Committee on Finance.

Raise the Age Passes the House

HB 280: Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act passed the House 104-8 on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Duane Hall (D-Wake), Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), David Lewis (R-Harnett), and Susan Martin (R-Wilson), would allow 16 and 17 year olds to be tried as juveniles for all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Under current law, North Carolina is the last state to try 16 and 17 year olds as adults for these crimes. Juveniles would continue to be tried as adults if charged with Class A through E felonies. The legislation has the support of law enforcement advocacy groups, the state’s judiciary, and the Chief Justice Mark Martin of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Bill sponsors and proponents believe “raising the age” will reduce recidivism in youth, which often leads to a lifetime of crime and poverty. Opponents maintain concerns about the cost to the state’s judicial system. The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Leaders Propose Revenue Laws Changes

Sens. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), and Tommy Tucker (R-Union) have sponsored a bill that would amend state revenue laws. SB 628: Various Changes to the Revenue Laws was discussed in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The bill contains numerous codifying and conforming changes in state law as well as substantive changes, and adjustments requested by the Department of Revenue. Committee members raised questions about provisions related to the franchise tax and taxes related to petroleum based liquid and gas pipelines. The bill also attempts to clarify a capital improvement as it regards to a repair, maintenance or installation on real property, which was passed last year. A new proposed committee substitute will be unveiled next week, and voted on by the committee.

US Supreme Court Rejects Voter ID Appeal

The United States Supreme Court rejected North Carolina’s appeal to reinstate a voter ID law passed in 2013. The law was struck down by the 4 th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016. However, Speaker Tim Moore, Pres. Pro Tem Phil Berger, and former Governor McCrory filed for an appeal to the Supreme Court. Newly elected Governor Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein withdrew the appeal in February, but state law allows legislative leadership to defend lawsuits on behalf of the state. Although the appeal has failed, leaders in both chambers have not given up on legislation to address voter identification. A joint statement from Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore is available here.

Wireless Infrastructure Expansion

A bi-partisan group in the House has proposed legislation to expand wireless infrastructure in cities across the state. Sponsored by Reps. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), John Torbett (R-Gaston), and Michael Wray (D-Northampton),HB 310: Wireless Communications Infrastructure Siting would modify existing state law governing small wireless communications facilities. The bill would allow wireless communications facilities to use public rights-of-way for wireless infrastructure. The bill prohibits cities from instituting a moratorium on issuing permits for small wireless facilities as well. Proponents of the legislation say this is the first step in an effort to broaden 5G internet access across the state. Opponents have issues with the provisions related to the bill’s environmental review process, and say the law is in conflict with Federal Communications Commission policy. The bill received a favorable report from the House Energy and Public Utilities Committee on Wednesday, and was sent to the House Finance Committee. Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) sponsored its companion bill ,SB 377: Wireless Communications Infrastructure Siting, in the Senate.