Jun 2, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

The budget process continued this week with the House passing their $22.9 billion spending proposal early Friday morning. Meanwhile, both chambers considered legislation impacting a number of issues including alcohol sales before noon on Sundays, environmental regulations, gun laws and more.

Budget Bill Passes House

After hours of debate on the House floor on Thursday and Friday, the House has passed their proposed budget with a vote count of 80-31 During the Thursday evening debate, the House considered 39 total amendments, 22 of which were adopted, including:

  • Removing a provision that would limit the imposition of impact fees on low-income housing developments.
  • Allocating $120,000 to Operation Medicine Drop, a program through the Department of Public Safety that hosts events for people to safely dispose of prescription medication.
  • Creating a Financial Literacy Elective Pilot Program.
  • Adding 250 additional Innovation Waiver slots to support individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
  • Creating a NC Ready Sites Fund with the Department of Commerce and appropriating $5 million to the fund in 2017-18. The fund would be used to assist local governments fund improvement of public infrastructure to attract employers and create jobs.

The House and Senate will are expected to begin the conference process next week, where differences between the two proposals will be negotiated. Conferees will be named from both the House and Senate on Monday afternoon.

For detailed reviews of the House and Senate proposals, follow these links:

NC House Releases Budget Proposal

NC Senate Releases Budget Proposal

Brunch Bill Passes Senate

A bill that would expand state alcohol laws, SB 155: Economic & Job Growth for NC Distilleries, passed the Senate on Thursday afternoon with a vote of 32-13. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), Dan Blue (D-Wake) and Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), would allow alcohol sales before noon on Sundays, subject to local government approval. SB 155 would also:

  • Allow distilleries to sell liquor for delivery outside of the state.
  • Create a special permit to allow distilleries to give free tastings at special events.
  • Allow the sale of certain alcohols at auctions with a special permit.

The bill has been sent to the House, where a companion bill, HB 460, has been sitting in the Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control since late March.

Changes to Environmental Regulations Bill in Senate

A committee substitute to HB 56: Amend Environmental Laws was unveiled in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources last week, and approved by the committee on Wednesday. The committee substitute added provisions to the bill that would:

  • Repeal a plastic bag ban in portions of Dare, Currituck and Hyde Counties.
  • Amend several laws concerning riparian buffer zones, including the requirement for Jordan Lake to be cleared if local law enforcement determines there is a public safety issue, and excluding certain buffer zones from property tax bases.
  • Revise laws concerning mining permits to require the Department of Environmental Quality to issue permits for a mining operation’s “life-of-site,” limit the amount of a bond the applicant must file to no more than $1 million and add an annual $400 operating fee per permit.
  • Grant eminent domain power to private condemners for pipelines originating outside of NC.

The bill, which is sponsored by Reps. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) and Larry Yarborough (R-Person), has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee.

Firearm Rights

A bill that would make a number of changes to state firearm laws passed through two House committees – Judiciary IV and Finance, this week and now heads to the floor for a vote. Sponsored by Reps. Chris Millis (R-Pender), Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus), Justin Burr (R-Stanly) and Michael Speciale (R-Craven), HB 746: Omnibus Gun Changes would:

  • Blend the open and conceal carry laws, with exceptions, which will also allow for individuals to carry a handgun at places that allow for open or concealed carry, at the age of 18. Currently, an individual may open carry at 18 and obtain a concealed handgun permit at 21.
  • Standardize the process to obtain a concealed handgun permit by allowing sheriffs to schedule appointments for applications, as long as the appointment occurs within 15 business days, requiring the permit to be issued or denied within 90 calendar days of the application being submitted, and requiring the sheriff to submit a second request for mental health records within 45 days, if no response was provided to the first request.
  • Modify the criterion that an applicant for a concealed handgun permit to require that the applicant not have a currently diagnosed and ongoing mental disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that the sheriff determines would prevent the safe handling of a handgun. Also would require a permit to be denied to someone if adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others due to mental illness or lack of mental capacity. Government agency administrative determinations would no longer be grounds for the denial of a permit.
  • Allow current legislators, legislative employees, or former sworn law enforcement officers with valid concealed handgun permits to carry at the legislature.
  • Change three restrictions of weapons on education property including allowing chaperones and spectators with a concealed handgun permit to carry to extracurricular activities that are occurring in a public place, and authorizing individuals with a concealed handgun permit to carry on the premises of a place of worship that also operates as a school during non-school hours.
  • Directs the State Board of Education to develop to high school elective courses on firearm education and wildlife conservation.

The bill now heads to the House floor.

Interior Design Act

A bill that would allow certain interior designers to approve design plans, that are in the scope of interior design, is one vote away from passing in the House. Sponsored by Reps. Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance), Pat McElraft (R-Carteret), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Susan Martin (R-Wilson), HB 590: Interior Design Profession Act would extend "plan approval authority" to any interior designer that has passed the profession's examination known as the NCIDQ. Upon passage, they would be eligible to voluntarily register with the state. Registered interior designers would then be allowed to approve their own design plans without needing the seal of an architect or engineer. The bill passed the House with a vote of 87-29 on Thursday and now heads to the Senate.

Megaproject Proposal Fails in Senate

Yesterday, the Senate voted 1-44 against HB 110: DOT/ DMV Changes – Megaproject Funding. The bill would have made a number of agency requested changes and created a Megaproject Fund to finance transportation projects with a statewide or regional impact and a cost of $200 million or more. The House has also included this language in their budget proposal. There is a Senate companion bill, SB 3, which includes only the agency-requested changes part of the bill, and it is currently residing in House Rules. On the Senate floor yesterday Sen. Kathy Harrington, a sponsor the Senate companion, said that the proposal undermines the Strategic Transportation Investment law. Because the bill failed on the Senate floor, the content of the bill is officially dead for the session.

Revenge Postings

Sponsored by Reps. Chris Malone (R-Wake), Gale Adcock (D-Wake), John Faircloth (R-Guilford) and Rena Turner (R-Iredell), HB 399: Stop Images Taken W/O Consent from Disem. would strengthen the state’s existing laws regarding revenge pornography. Under current law it is illegal to knowingly disclose, with the intent to embarrass, an image of another’s person’s intimate parts without that person’s consent. This bill would:

  • Expand the definition of an image to include computer or computer generated images or pictures.
  • Eliminate references to a “personal relationship” as current law only allows for an expectation of privacy in context of a “personal relationship.”
  • Prohibit obtaining an image under private circumstances.
  • Amends the standard of privacy from a “reasonable expectation of privacy” to “the depicted person expected the images to remain private.”

The bill passed both Senate Judiciary II and the Senate Committee on Rules this week and heads to the Senate floor next.

Wireless Infrastructure Passes House

A bill that would modify state law governing small wireless communication facilities has passed the House with a vote of 107-7. Sponsored by Reps. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), John Torbett (R-Gaston), and Michael Wray (D-Northampton), HB 310: Wireless Communications Infrastructure Siting 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. The bill now heads to the Senate, where a companion bill, SB 377, is currently sitting in the Committee on Rules