May 26, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

Business steadily increased this week at the legislative building as House Appropriations subcommittees worked on their budget proposals. Subcommittee chairs presented their proposed funding allocations to committee members on Thursday. Subcommittee budget reports will go before the full House Appropriations Committee next Wednesday morning. The House plans to vote on the full budget next Thursday and Friday. Also, a bill to legalize casino games at non-profit fundraisers, and a bill to increase penalties for crimes posted on social media were heard in committee this week, among other legislative issues.

Budget Proposals Released by Subcommittees

House subcommittee budget proposals were debated and amended by committee members before being voted out favorably to the full appropriations committee. Next Tuesday, the House Finance Committee will review the finance portions of the budget, and House Appropriations Committee will debate the complete version of the House proposed budget on Wednesday morning. Copies of the subcommittee budget proposals are available here:

Agriculture and Natural Resources, Money Report

Agriculture and Natural Resources, Special Provisions

Capital, Money Report

Capital, Special Provisions

Education, Money Report

Education, Special Provisions

General Government, Money Report
General Government, Special Provisions

Health and Human Services, Money Report

Health and Human Services, Special Provisions

Information Technology, Money Report

Information Technology, Special Provisions

Justice and Public Safety, Money Report

Justice and Public Safety, Special Provisions

Transportation, Money Report and Special Provisions

Farm Act Moves Through Senate

Sponsored by Sens. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico), and Andrew Brock (R-Davie), SB 615: North Carolina Farm Act of 2017 would make various changes to the state’s agriculture laws. The bill would change the general statutes to allow agricultural, horticultural and forest land to be valued at present value as it relates to property taxes, exempt certain farm facilities from odorous emissions requirements, and modify zoning and land regulations related to whether or not a facility is classified for agritourism use. The bill also instructs the Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission to study any modifications that should be made to the Handlers Act, which regulates the practices of individuals who handle fruits and vegetables. The bill received a favorable report from the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and was referred to the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Game Nights for Non-Profits

HB 511: Game Nights/ Nonprofit Fund-Raise, sponsored by Reps. Jamie Boles (R-Moore), Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland), and Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), would allow non-profits to serve alcohol at fundraising events where gambling is taken place. Commonly known as “casino nights,” the events feature casino style games, where participants could win prizes or awards. Serving alcohol at these events is currently illegal, however, district attorneys rarely prosecute it. Proponents of the bill say the legislation would provide clarity and uniformity across the state. Opponents believe this will open the door to loosened gambling regulations in North Carolina. The bill received a favorable report from the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, and was referred to the floor.

Outdoor Advertising

A bipartisan group of House members sponsored legislation to modify North Carolina’s outdoor advertising regulations related to the removal of signs and billboards along federal and state highways. HB 581: Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws, sponsored by Reps. David Lewis (R-Harnett), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Ken Goodman (D-Richmond), and Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth) sets nine factors the Department of Transportation (DOT) must consider when determining just compensation for billboards and signs. The owner of the billboard or sign would also be able to recoup relocation and other costs from DOT, who opposes this bill along with several environmental groups. Proponents of the bill say this would provide a fair process for billboard and sign owners to recover property and just compensation for their losses.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

Sens. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), Harry Brown (R-Onslow), and Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) sponsored legislation that would modify plaintiff requirements in asbestos lawsuits. SB 470: Personal Injury Bankruptcy Trust Claims would require plaintiffs to disclose all bankruptcy trust claims they have made and to which trusts, in their lawsuits. Proponents of the bill say this will prevent individuals from receiving more than 100% compensation for their injuries. Sen. Lee a sponsor of the bill, stated that this bill would preserve bankruptcy trust funds for future victims. Opponents of the legislation say this would complicate the process for asbestos and mesothelioma victims to receive funds, which could cover damages and medical bills. The bill received a favorable report from the House Judiciary II Committee on Tuesday.

Posting Crimes on Social Media

HB 918: Post Crime on Social Media/Enhanced Sentence received a favorable report in House Judiciary II Committee on Tuesday, and was sent to the House Appropriations Committee for its review. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Garland Pierce (D-Scotland), Joe John (D-Wake), Mitchell Setzer (R-Catawba), and John Blust (R-Guilford), would increase the penalty for an individual convicted of a violent felony that posts a video or photograph of the crime on social media. The legislation is in response to recent news stories on violent crimes posted on social media.

Supreme Court and Congressional Districts

The United States Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling on North Carolina’s congressional districts on Monday. In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court stated that districts one and twelve, both represented by Democrats, relied too heavily on race when the districts were drawn in 2011. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) represents district one, which covers parts of northeastern North Carolina along the Virginia border and Durham County. Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) represents district twelve, which includes parts of Greensboro, Charlotte, and some of the area between the two cities. In response to the lower court’s ruling, state legislative leaders redrew the districts prior to the 2016 election. The state’s current congressional delegation is seated to represent those districts, which favor Republicans 10 to 3.