May 5, 2017
NCGA Week in Review
After a tiresome crossover week, the legislature enjoyed a light schedule
this week. Two committee meetings were held and there was very little
action on legislation. The reprieve will likely be short lived as the
Senate is expected to roll out their budget proposal early next week.
2016 Elections Revisited by House Committee
The House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law met on Thursday morning to
receive a presentation from the State Board of Elections. The presentation
reviewed elections held in 2016 and the actions of the Board to meet their
goal of increasing eligible voter registrations and participation.
In their presentation, the Board highlighted:
Voter registration activity that surpassed the 2012 and 2008 presidential
Efforts the Board has taken to provide greater access to and
participation in elections, particularly noting successes in counties
impacted by Hurricane Matthew weeks before the November 9th
The Board’s three point plan to make voting an efficient experience and
challenges they faced this year including Hurricane Matthew and voter ID
Issues faced in 2016 elections in Durham County and lessons learned.
audit released last month that found that examined fraudulent and ineligible
voters in the November 2016 elections.
The Senate is expected to roll out their version of the state budget for
the 2017-19 biennium early next week. After receiving the Governor's
recommended budget in March, legislative appropriations chairs have been hard at work debating
their priorities for the upcoming years. In February the NC Department of
state tax collections to increase by $552.2 million, a 2.5% increase from
the previous year. That said, legislators are still awaiting the "April
surprise," the final tally of personal income tax collections. If tax
collections are similar to last year, the April surprise
projections by $700 million. A good April surprise may make legislators
more comfortable spending more and cutting taxes, and may help the Governor
see his priorities reflected. This year, the budget will go through the
Senate first before heading to the House. This year’s budget will likely
include pay raises for teachers and state employees, support for business
and investments in the state's rainy day fund.
Governor & Legislature Honor Tarheel’s, NCAA Champions
The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill men’s
team paid a trip to Raleigh on Wednesday to be congratulated by the
legislature and Gov. Cooper on their 2017 NCAAA National Championship win.
The team, along with Coach Roy Williams visited the legislature, where a
joint session of the House and Senate passed a
HRJ 921: Honor UNC Men’s Basketball 2017 Championship. The Governor, a UNC alumnus, proclaimed May 3rd as a day of
recognition for the team. The day was not without playful protest from NC
State University fans, including Sen. John Alexander (R-Wake), who donned a
wolfpack red blazer and matching tie, though the resolution passed
On Friday, Gov. Cooper vetoed
HB 467: Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies. The bill, sponsored by Republican Reps. Jimmy Dixon (Duplin), Ted Davis
(New Hanover), David Lewis (Harnett) and John Bell (Wayne), would limit the
amount a court can award to a property owner who claims nuisance damages by
a nearby agriculture or forestry operation. In his
veto message, Gov. Cooper stated that, “special protection for one industry opens the
door to weakening our nuisance laws in other areas which can allow real
harm to homeowners, the environment and everyday North Carolinians.” The
bill passed the House 68-47 and the Senate 30-19. Approval of two-thirds of
present members in both chambers is required to override the veto.
State Employee Retirement Debated in Senate Committee
The Senate Pensions and Retirement Committee had a lengthy debate on a bill
that would phase out the state’s pensions and health care coverage for
state employee retirees on Wednesday. Currently, the state offers a
traditional pension plan and discounted or free health care coverage to
former state employees, but
SB 467: North Carolina Retirement Reform
proposes shifting to a 401(k)-style retirement plan and ending retirement
health care coverage for new hires.
The bill, which is sponsored by Republican Sens. Andy Wells (Catawba), Bill
Rabon (Brunswick) and Ronald Rabin (Harnett), was held for discussion only
at Wednesday’s meeting, where it received criticism from both sides of the
aisle. Sen. Rick Horner (R-Wilson) noted that the state should not be
making major changes to retirement benefits for partisan reasons and that
nothing should be done without the approval of Republican Treasurer Dale
Folwell, who has not taken an opinion. Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) stated
that the change could hurt the state’s ability to attract and retain state
and local government employees.
The bill sponsors argued that the state must take action to keep unfunded
financial obligations, currently around $60 billion, from getting worse.
Additionally, Sen. Wells noted that the changes would not impact current
employees or retirees, it would only impact future hires.