Jun 9, 2017
NCGA Week in Review
The legislature is moving full steam ahead towards passing a two-year
spending plan as budget conferees have begun negotiating the House and
Senate’s budget proposals. As the long session begins to wind down, House
and Senate leaders are also wrapping up the confirmation process for Gov.
Cooper’s remaining cabinet appointees, and discussing major policy
proposals regarding rural economic development, the regulation of firearms,
and newspaper carriers.
Autonomous Vehicle Regulations
Sponsored by Reps. Phil Shepard (R-Onslow) and John Torbett (R-Gaston),
HB 469: Regulation of Fully Autonomous Vehicles
seeks to regulate the emerging technology of driverless vehicles.
Presently, NC is being used as a test site for autonomous vehicles, but
state law does not permit the personal use of the vehicles. The bill, which
passed the House in April by a vote of 119-1, was brought to the Senate
Committee on Transportation on Wednesday for discussion only. If passed, HB
Clarify that the operator of an autonomous vehicle must be a licensed
Prohibit minors under the age of 12 from riding in an autonomous vehicle
without an adult in the car.
- Define a fully autonomous vehicle as one that is able to perform all
real-time operational and tactical functions required to operate in on-road
traffic without driver interference.
Require similar safety standards as traditional vehicles, such as
requiring all passengers to wear a seatbelt and requiring liability
If the bill receives approval from the committee at a future meeting, it
will have a final stop in the Senate Committee on Rules, where a Senate
SB 337, has been sitting since late March, before heading to the floor for a
Budget Conferees Named
House and Senate leaders named their respective budget conferees on Monday,
and began the process of negotiating their budget proposals. Conferees are
expected to work through the weekend and are on track to release their
conference report as early as next week and no later than June 30, the end
of the fiscal year. Once the budget is on the Governor’s desk, he will have
ten days to either sign or veto the spending plan.
The list of conferees for both chambers can be found
To read more about the House and Senate’s differing proposals, follow these
NC House Releases Budget Proposal
NC Senate Releases Budget Proposal
Confirmation of Remaining Appointees
Governor Cooper’s final two cabinet appointees appeared before Senate
committees for their respective confirmation hearings on Tuesday. Ron
Penny, Secretary of the Department of Revenue, appeared before the Senate
Finance Committee, and Eric Boyette, Secretary of the Department of
Information Technology, appeared before the Senate Commerce and Insurance
Committee. Both appointees received recommendations for confirmation and
the appointments now head to the Senate Select Committee on Nominations,
and then to the full Senate for final approval.
Energy Policy Reforms
A bill to modify the state energy policies moved through the House this
week after months of stakeholder negotiations. The bill aims to reshape the
relationship between traditional utilities and renewable energy providers,
which has been managed by Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS) since
HB 589: Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina, sponsored by Reps. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Dean Arp (R-Union), and Sam
Watford (R-Davidson), passed the House this week, 108-11. Among other
provisions, the bill would:
Align the state definition of small power producers in state law with the
federal definition of small power production facilities as a generating
facility of 80 MW or less whose primary energy source is renewable,
biomass, waste or geothermal resources.
Require utilities to offer standard contracts to small power production
facilities for up to ten years, dependent on the size of the facility.
Create a process for the competitive procurement of new renewable energy
resources for public utilities with 150,000 customers or more.
- Create a new renewable energy procurement program for large energy users,
the military and the University of North Carolina system.
- Enable public utilities to recover the cost of Public Utilities
Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) qualified facility purchased power through
the existing fuel clause rider.
Reduce the cost of Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard requirements for
residential customers from $34 per account per year to $27.
Enact a new Distributed Resources Access Act to authorize leasing of
third-party owned solar development.
Direct the NC Utilities Commission to establish standards that include an
expedited review process for swine and poultry waste to energy projects.
Enact a solar rebate program to provide incentives to customers that
install or lease solar energy facilities.
To read more about the details of HB 589 and how it compares to existing
law, follow this
In an unusual fashion, Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) spoke in support of
the bill in the House chamber on Wednesday. Proponents of the bill state
that it will make solar more competitive in the state, while lowering costs
tremendously for all ratepayers. The bill was referred to Senate Rules
A bill that would change the employment status of newspaper carriers from
independent contractors to traditional employees of the newspaper is headed
back to the House for concurrence this week, after receiving approval from
the Senate with a 29-14 vote. Sponsored by Reps. Allen McNeill (R-Randolph)
and Lee Zachary (R-Yadkin),
HB 205: WC for Inmates/UI & WC/Newsprint Employees
passed the House in early March as a bill to provide worker’s compensation
for certain prisoners working in prisons. However, when the bill arrived in
the Senate, Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) added provision that would remove
a carve out for newspaper carriers, which allows them to be classified as
independent contractors instead of employees entitled to benefits such as
worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, and taxation. Those opposed
to the bill say it would cripple the state’s newspapers, especially in
small towns. Proponents argue that this is a way to fairly treat
individuals who work as employees, and are not currently provided benefits.
Omnibus Gun Changes
Legislation to make various changes to state gun laws received approval
from the House by a vote of 65-51 on Thursday.
HB 746: Omnibus Gun Changes., sponsored by Reps. Chris Millis (R-Pender), Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus),
Justin Burr (R-Stanly), and Michael Speciale (R-Craven), would allow an
individual to carry a concealed handgun in areas where it is allowed to be
carried openly. Also, the bill would lower the age to carry a concealed
weapon from 21 to 18, and remove the requirement for a conceal carry permit
unless the individual is prohibited from owning a gun under current law.
Proponents of the legislation argue the bill provides clarity in current
law, and allows for parity between open and concealed carry. Opponents say
eliminating the conceal carry permit removes necessary safeguards and
required firearms training that protects the public. The bill now heads to
the Senate. Eight House Republicans joined the Democratic caucus in voting
against the bill, so the current vote count would not be able to override a
veto from Gov. Cooper.
Rural Investment Fund
Sponsored by bipartisan group of House members,
HB 904: North Carolina Rural Job Creation Fund
would create the NC Rural Job Creation Fund, a new economic development
fund aimed to target investment in rural areas. Sponsored by Reps. Stephen
Ross (R-Alamance), Ken Goodman (D-Richmond), Jeff Collins (R-Nash), and
John Faircloth (R-Guilford), HB 904 calls for an annual $50 million
appropriation, which was not included in either chamber’s proposed budget,
· Provide matching funds to businesses that expand operations in rural or
economically distressed areas.
· Invest at least 70% of its funds in tier one or two counties, with the
remaining portion targeted to economically distressed areas in tier three
· Require repayment of the investment if certain job growth measures are
not met, and no more than $5 million in state funds may be invested in one
Bill sponsors say this legislation would increase access to capital for
companies in rural areas, and would encourage private equity firms and
other investment groups invest in rural North Carolina. HB 904 was heard by
the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development on Wednesday and has
been sent to the Committee on Appropriations.
Primary Date Change
In general election years, NC holds primaries on the first Monday in May,
though a law
in 2015 pushed the primaries to March in 2016 only, in an attempt to give
the state more influence in the presidential election. A bill sponsored by
Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), would make that change permanent.
SB 655: Change Date When Primary Elections Held
passed the House 71-46 on Tuesday. The bill now heads back to the Senate
after an amendment from Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake), changed the bill’s
effective date from 2018 to 2020.
Supreme Court and Legislative Districts
Last year, a three-judge federal panel determined that 28 NC legislative
districts were racial gerrymanders, and ordered the legislature to redraw
the maps and hold special elections in 2017. The special elections were put
on hold as legislative leaders appealed the decision to the United States
On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a
affirming the lower court’s decision, following a similar
last month on the state’s congressional districts. The Court ordered the
same three-judge panel to reconsider how to correct the maps. As the week
continued, House and Senate lawmakers and Gov. Roy Cooper have disagreed on
when the maps will be redrawn.
The Governor issued a
for a two week long special session on Wednesday afternoon, calling
legislators to begin redrawing new legislative maps the following
afternoon. On Thursday, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Ralph Hise
(R-Mitchell), chairmen of the elections committees in their respective
chambers, called the Governor’s proclamation unconstitutional and a
political move, before cancelling the special session.