This Week

After last week’s hiatus, more snow on Tuesday and Thursday further delayed legislative activity in the halls of the North Carolina General Assembly. The House went home Tuesday morning concluding its business for the week. The Senate however continued to hold committee meetings and session on both Tuesday and Wednesday before shutting down Wednesday afternoon.

House takes a snow break – WRAL 

Lobbyists outnumber legislators as NC General Assembly braves snow – N&O 

McCrory: Storms' impact on state budget unclear – WRAL

The winter weather has also delayed the release of the Governor’s budget proposal, which in turn has delayed the budget process at the legislature. In alternating sessions, either the House or Senate is designated to initiate the budget. In the 2015-16 session, it is the task of the House. On Monday, Rep. Dollar (R-Wake), senior chairman of House Appropriations, filed House Bill 97 along with co-chairs Rep. Johnson (R-Cabarrus), McGrady (R-Henderson) and Lambeth (R-Forsyth). Rep. Dollar also filed House Bill 98 and Rep. McGrady filed House Bill 101 independently. Currently, none of the bills carry any real substance. Each contains some version of “Appropriations 2015” in the title and any could be the bill that will end up containing the budget. Appropriations committees are scheduled to resume meeting jointly for base budget updates on Tuesday.

The Senate used the week to pass Senate Bill 2, controversial legislation that would allow magistrates to recuse themselves from performing any marriages for a six month period based on religious beliefs. The bill now awaits action in the House. Senators also unanimously gave their initial approval Wednesday to Senate Bill 19 entitled Revenue Laws Technical Changes. While largely technical as the title suggests, the bill would also require utilities to pass the savings from corporate tax breaks on to their customers. It also clarifies that utilities are exempt from local license, franchise or privilege taxes. The bill will be sent to the House after its third reading in the Senate this coming Monday.

NC Senate votes to force utilities to give tax cut to customers – N&O

NC Senate response to gay marriage rulings is approved – WRAL 

Same-sex marriage debated as magistrates law passes Senate – WRAL

Senate Rules chairman, Sen. Apodaca (R-Henderson) has also filed a bill to move the crossover deadline in the Senate from May 7 to April 30th. This will reduce by one week the amount of time legislators have to get their bills through one chamber to remain eligible for the remainder of the 2015-16 session.

Economic Incentives

House Bill 117 , the NC Competes Act, was filed Tuesday by Representatives Martin (R-Wilson), Jeter (R-Mecklenburg), Collins (R-Nash) and Steinburg (R-Chowan). The bill addresses a number of economic development and incentive issues that have been raised over the last several weeks. Among the provisions in the bill is a proposal to double the amount of money in what is currently called the JDIG (Job Development Investment Grant) fund, the state’s most commonly used business recruitment tool. The same section of the bill renames JDIG to the “Job Growth Reimbursement Opportunities – People Program” in an attempt to clarify that the program is not an upfront handout.

More controversial parts of the proposal include a single sales factor modification, which is expected to shift tax burdens away from entities with a large in-state presence to those corporations that do not. The bill also extends to 2020, the tax refund on jet fuel for airline carriers which is set to expire January 1, 2016. This provision is being criticized because another bill expected to become law, would effectively raise the state’s gas tax on motorists. Two provisions that were sought by manythat were NOT included in the bill are tax credits for film and historic preservation.

Sec. Skvarla addressed the Senate Commerce committee on Tuesday and expressed concerns that a proposed crowdfunding provision was absent from the bill. His comments can be viewed here.

House Finance co-chair, Rep. Saine (R-Lincoln) also spoke briefly on the bill in an interview with the N&O which can be viewed here.

House bill funds incentives but leaves out crowd-funding – WRAL

NC House jobs bill would double cap on incentive grants – Charlotte Observer

Federal Ramifications

The U.S Supreme Court handed down a verdict against the NC Dental Board of Examiners on Wednesday, regarding the regulation of teeth whitening. It is expected that this will have serious implications for state boards that are made up of active market participants unless there is adequate supervision by the state. This verdict could initiate legislation to ensure that all state boards and agencies that are populated by active market participants, are sufficiently supervised or the makeup is altered.

US Supreme Court says NC dental board can’t regulate teeth whitening – N&O

Another federal ruling that could have legislative effects in NC is the FCC decision this week to overturn state laws that limit municipality-run internet from expanding. The city of Wilson, NC currently operates a city owned high-speed internet service called Greenlight. Four years ago, state legislation prevented them from expanding beyond the city limits. The decision in North Carolina, currently only affects Wilson but could set a precedent for other underserved municipalities to follow suit.

FCC allows city-owned Internet providers to expand – WRAL