Sep 1, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

Legislators were in town for another week to finish up redistricting efforts in order to meet today’s court ordered deadline. Maps were given final approval on Wednesday and are not subject to the Governor’s approval. Additionally, the legislature overrode two of the five of the Governor’s vetoes. The adjournment resolution gives plans for the legislature to return to Raleigh on October 4. Judicial redistricting is expected to be the focus of the October special session.

Redistricting Moves Forward

This week the legislature approved SB 691: 2017 Senate Floor Redistricting Plan – 4th Ed and HB 927: 2017 House Redistricting Plan A2. The redistricting plans now go before the same three judge federal panel that gave the legislature their redistricting orders, for approval. If the maps are again found to be unconstitutional, the judges can take over redrawing the maps.

To read more about the redistricting plans, follow this link.

What Else Happened in Raleigh?

A conference report was introduced and passed :

HB 56: Amend Environmental Laws was sent to conference in June during the last days of the 2017 long session. On Wednesday the conference committee submitted its report to the General Assembly. The Senate passed the conference bill along party lines on Wednesday, 29-10 and the House passed the bill largely along party lines yesterday, 61-44, with one Democrat voting to approve and three Republicans voting no.

The debate in both chambers largely focused on the last section of the bill, establishing measures and appropriating $435,000 in response to the discharge of GenX into the Cape Fear River. In an August 8 letter to Representative Ted Davis, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Health and Human Services requested over $2.5 million in funding for “long-term solutions” to address the “discharge of unregulated chemicals into the Cape Fear River Basin.”

Some other provisions in conference report include:

  • Allows DEQ to waive the required financial assurance for risk-based cleanups in certain circumstances.
  • Modifies the Coastal Area Management Act.
  • Clarifies setback determinations for permitted disposal systems.
  • Amends protection of existing buffer rules to exempt certain applicability requirements for public safety.
  • Amends the rule for protection and maintenance of existing buffers in the Catawba River Basin to exempt certain applicability requirements for walking trails.
  • Establishes a study of excluding certain riparian buffers from taxation.
  • Amends the rules on pool lighting.
  • Requires the Division of Water Resources to test water quality in the Catawba River.
  • Amends mitigation services law.
  • Modifies solid waste provisions.
  • Repeals the plastic bag ban.

The bill now goes to the Governor. He has until September 30 to either sign or veto the legislation.

Two of Gov. Cooper’s vetoes were overridden this week:

On Wednesday the Senate voted 30-9, along party lines, to override the Governor’s veto of HB 140: Dental Plans Provider Contracts/ Transparency. The debate focused on the provision in the bill that Gov. Cooper objected to in his veto message, expanding the ability for lenders to require credit property insurance on a loan.

Also on Wednesday, Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto on HB 770: Various Clarifying Changes, 30-9, again along party lines. The debate focused on the provision, noted in Gov. Cooper’s veto of HB 770, allowing state employees to serve in a paid commission role while taking vacation pay from their other state sponsored job.

The House voted to override both of these bills last week, so both of these bills are now law. Click here for more information on these two bills.

The following three bills, vetoed by Governor Cooper in July, were calendared but not taken up this week. They are eligible for consideration during the October 4 session:

HB 205: WC for Inmates/ UI & WC/ Newsprint Employees which would:

  • Classify newsprint carriers, who have been classified as independent contractors in the state since 2003, as employees of the newspaper they are employed by.
  • Modernize publication of legal advertisements and notices to require newspapers to legal advertisements on their websites at no additional cost.
  • Allow Guilford County and any municipality within the county to use electronic means to provide public notice instead of publication.
  • Allow Guilford County to opt to post legal advertisements and notices on the county website for a fee, with money collected to be used for local supplements for teachers and other county needs.
  • Require the average weekly wage of inmates employed under the Prison Industry Enhancement Program be calculated in accordance with the NC Workers’ Compensation Act.

In his veto message, the Governor noted that he supports the original content of the legislation, but opposes the bill because it “enacts retribution on the media.”

HB 511: Game Nights/ Nonprofit Fund-Raiser, which 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. In his veto message, the Governor stated that the legislation could allow the video poker industry to “infiltrate our communities.”

HB 576: Allow Aerosolization of Leachate would have allowed lined landfills to dispose of leachate through aerosolization. In his objection message, Gov. Cooper stated his belief that scientists, not the legislature, should determine which technology can safely dispose of contaminated liquids from landfills. The bill passed the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities.