The news in Raleigh was dominated by snow and ice and skeleton sessions and empty calendars. However there were a few items of interest:
Fee Increases at the Secretary of State’s Office
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall proposed several fee increases to generate funds for additional investigator positions in her office in advance of anticipated enactment of crowdfunding legislation. She proposes increasing the fee to incorporate and LLC from $125 to $150, and increasing the fee to register as a securities salesman from $125 to $135. Increasing these fees is expected to generate $2.68 million per year with $1 million funding twelve investigator positions in her office and $1.68 million in new revenues for the state’s general fund. Legislators from both parties asked her to come back with fee increases that only generate $1 million.
Waiting for the Governor’s Budget
The Governor expects to deliver his budget to the General Assembly next week. The Governor’s Budget is typically received by the General Assembly as mere “recommendations” and bears whatever relevance to the enacted state budget as the legislators give it. The House and Senate budget committees will likely refer to it but not defer to it; they work from their own budget templates.
In reaction to the federal court rulings that struck down North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage, between winter storms in Raleigh the Senate debated and passed SB 2 – An Act to Allow Magistrates, Assistant Registers of Deeds, and Deputy Registers of Deeds to recuse themselves from performing duties related to marriage ceremonies due to sincerely held religious objection. The bill allows magistrates to refuse to perform marriages without fear of being fired. Current law defines a refusal to discharge a duty such as this as a Class 1 misdemeanor that requires an employee be “removed from office.” While the bill avoids mention of gay marriage specifically, it would allow magistrates to recuse themselves from performing marriages by citing a “sincerely held religious objection.” Once they submit their objection in writing, they would be barred from performing any marriage for six months or until they removed their objection. The bill would also apply to registers of deeds who issue marriage certificates. Bill sponsors insist that this bill is necessary to protect freedom of religion of public servants; opponents warn that passing the bill could result in other public servants refusing to perform their duties – such as performing interracial marriages. A Senator in the Minority warned that if the bill were taken to its extremes, clerks of the Department of Revenue could refuse to process tax returns of same-sex couples or ticket takers at the state-owned zoo could refuse to process family tickets for same-sex couples. Interestingly, two Republicans voted against the bill and two Democrats voted for it. In listening to the legal merits of the debate we pondered as to whether they should appropriated funds to defend legal action against this bill should it become law now or wait for the budget bill. No word on what the House plans to do with the bill. #WWJD