The legislature wrapped up a whirlwind week ahead of next Thursday’s April 30th “Crossover” deadline. Crossover is the date by which a bill must pass out of its originating chamber in order to remain eligible during the 2015-16 session. Although the House was the busier of the two chambers, the deadline pushed an influx of bills to move at a rapid pace in both bodies.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sent the North Carolina redistricting case back to the NC Supreme Court for further review. The NC Supreme Court was told to review whether race played too large of a role in the drawing of the existing maps. House and Senate map drawers, Rep. Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Rucho (R-Mecklenburg), defended the maps, saying they were not surprised by the “largely procedural” decision and that they remain confident the NC Supreme Court will uphold the existing maps.
Supreme Court orders review of NC redistricting – Citizen-Times
House Bill 681 suffered a narrow 14-16 loss in the House Public Utilities Committee on Wednesday. Five Republicans joined all of the Democrats on the committee in defeating the bill which would have ended the requirement for Duke Energy to use renewable sources for a certain amount of the power generated. Proponents were unsuccessful in convincing the Committee to dispose of the current law. They argued that existing law is merely a mandated subsidy for selected alternative energy outfits, causing increased cost that is passed on to ratepayers.
House Bill 117, the House economic incentives package, received its first hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday along with two other economic incentive bills,Senate Bill 526 and Senate Bill 338. The Senate has been skeptical of incentive packages, especially the JDIG program which overwhelmingly benefits population dense counties. The meeting took place shortly after NC was ruled out by Volvo in its site selection for a $500 Million U.S. manufacturing facility. The hearing was for discussion only.
Both the House and the Senate held meetings of their respective Health Committees to discuss whether or not reforms are needed in NC regarding the Certificate of Need law. The two chambers each have contrasting bills, House Bill 200, sponsored by Rep. Avila (R-Wake) would exempt a few specific facilities from the CON law and maintain the rest of the law. Senate Bill 702, sponsored by Sen. Apodaca (R-Henderson), would eliminate the law all together. Both hearings were for discussion only.
Bill proposing CON exemptions sparks House debate – Winston-Salem Journal
A proposed constitutional amendment, House Bill 344 sponsored by Rep. Jones (R-Rockingham), failed on the House floor Wednesday. The constitutional amendment would have required the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to run together on a “team ticket” beginning in 2020. Currently the Governor and Lt. Governor run separate campaigns and are elected independent from one another. A majority of members voted in favor of the proposal 60-58, but the number was insufficient as the three-fifth's majority threshold, required for constitutional amendments, was not met.
House tears up 'ticket' election idea – WRAL
House Bill 8, also sponsored by Rep. Jones, did pass the full House on Monday and would return party labels next to the names of statewide judicial candidates on the ballot. Partisan statewide judicial elections previously existed in NC, but were changed to “nonpartisan” elections in 2004. Proponents of the bill argue that judicial elections, even without party labels are still partisan, beacuase both political parties endorse judicial candidates and include them on their party slates. Opponents say that the nonpartisan elections help to maintain a certain level of integrity in an attempt to transcend party politics in their rulings. The bill now awaits action in the Senate.
The House also gave approval to a bill that would push the NC presidential primary back to March 8th. Traditionally, the primary in NC has been the first Tuesday in May, but election law changes from last session moved the date for the 2016 election cycle up to February. As a result, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has threatened to remove delegates from the state at the national GOP convention if the date of the primary remains in February. The bill now awaits action in the Senate.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) announced Thursday afternoon that the NCGA would not move the controversial religious freedom legislation, which is similar to legislation passed in the Indiana and Arkansas. Critics of the legislation say that such a law would allow businesses to openly discriminate against same-sex individuals or couples, while proponents argue that it would protect religious liberties. The legislation has divided the House Republican caucus and has received strong opposition from the business community.
Governor McCrory made a surprise visit to the House Republican Caucus on Tuesday evening to discuss his proposed transportation and infrastructure bonds which have a total price tag of over $3 Billion. Treasurer Cowell has conveyed that the state is capable of assuming the proposed debts, but there are many lawmakers in both chambers that remain skeptical. Gov. McCrory was joined by Transportation Secretary Tony Tata and Budget Director Lee Roberts. Should either or both bonds successfully pass the legislature, they would be put before the voters for a final determination.
McCrory thinks big on bond initiative – Rocky Mountain Telegram
Legislation in the news:
N.C. House approves bill to extend abortion waiting period – Charlotte Observer
In Other News
- The U.S. Senate Thursday confirmed NC native Loretta Lynch to serve as the next U.S. Attorney General. Lynch previously served as a U.S. Attorney in New York and is the first African American woman to serve in the role. Read more in the Charlotte Business Journal here.
- The state of South Carolina has proposed legislation to clarify the North and South Carolina borders. GPS used to pinpoint the state-line has determined the boundaries within inches and apparently, roughly 90 properties are currently within the borders of the wrong state. Both states must pass the same language in order for the new boundary line to become effective.