In the midst of bill filing deadlines, some time was reserved for entertainment and fun this week on April fool’s Day. The NCGOP arguably won top honors, duping many across the state on social media when it unveiled a website to parody the announcement of Roy Cooper’s 2016 Gubernatorial campaign, highlighting former Governors Easley and Perdue as his co-chairs. The website included a contribution link which redirected users back to the NCGOP website. The Senate also scheduled a Ways and Means Committee meeting with a number of Democratic bills scheduled to be heard 15 minutes after session on Wednesday. The meeting was cancelled just before session adjourned. Ways and Means is considered the “graveyard” for bills in the Senate and is where bills that leadership finds unpalatable are sent, never to resurface. Sen. Apodaca (R-Henderson) chairs the three person committee and it has not met in decades. In addtion, the colors of each chamber's printed calendars were swapped, throwing off a number of lobbyists who are used to the Senate calendar being blue and the House calendar being yellow. And finally, Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore each gavelled the opposite chamber into session.
April Fool’s: NC GOP Debuts Fake Cooper Website – Politics NC
Some of the business that was carried out this week included a compromise between the House and Senate on Senate Bill 20, the gas tax legislation which moved quickly through both chambers this week. The conference report reduces the gas tax rate from 37.5 cents per gallon to 36 cents per gallon until the end of 2015 and then drop to 35 cents per gallon on January 1, 2016 and 34 cents per gallon July 1, 2016. That is of course unless lawmakers are able to pass an overhaul of the gas tax as they desire to do before the end of the year. The gas tax was previously scheduled to drop to roughly 30 cents on July, 1 of this year. That decrease would have cost the Department of Transportation several hundred million dollars and crippled road construction and maintenance statewide. The Governor signed the bill into law on Tuesday.
The House also passed Senate Bill 181 sponsored by Sen. Barefoot (R-Wake) on Wednesday. SB 181 increases the number of members on the Wake County Commission from seven to nine, while also drawing commissioners into individual districts for the 2016 election. Rather than voting at-large in all County Commission races, the bill changes the electoral structure so that voters would only be able to vote in two races, their individual district, and one of the two new regional districts in which they reside. Because it was a local bill and was not amended in the House, it does not require further review in the Senate or the approval of the Governor and stands as law. The bill is likely to face litigation from Wake County.
Two identical bills have been filed, Senate Bill 550 and House Bill 348, which are similar to legislation that has drawn controversy this week in Arkansas and Indiana. Opponents argue that the legislation would allow employers to discriminate against employees on “religious grounds”. Speaker Moore (R-Cleveland) and Governor McCrory (R) have expressed concerns with the legislation and the implications it would have on the state’s ability to attract businesses.
Tensions again flared in the House Thursday over a revision of a number of House rules, including some restrictions on the handling of bills. A number of amendments were offered in the Rules Committee, some were adopted and others were defeated. The final version of House Bill 481 among other things increases the number of “public bills” that each House member may file from 10 to 15. It also extended the deadlines to request bills to Bill drafting and to files bills. It also moved the crossover deadline from May 7th to April 30th to coincide with the Senate deadline. The increase in the number of public bills filed was a request of the minority caucus and the bill passed the House 107-1.
Lawmakers are taking a “spring recess” next week, holding skeleton sessions with no votes scheduled to be recorded.
Legislation in the news:
Bill Would Move Presidential Primary To March – Carolina Journal
Proposed laws could impact high school sports in NC – High School OT
Bill proposes extensive overhaul of N.C. death investigations – Charlotte Observer
Changes sought to NC school grade legislation – Citizen-Times
N.C. General Assembly bill would treat teens age 16 and 17 as minors except for felonies – Fayetteville Observer
There have been a number of conflicting bills filed recently regarding Medicaid reform. Notably, Senate Bill 703, Medicaid Transformation filed by Senate Pro-Tem Sen. Berger (R-Rockingham), would move Medicaid from a fee-for-service model to a capitated, risk-based, managed care program. Senate Bill 574, sponsored by Senators Jackson (R-Sampson), Pate (R-Wayne) and Tucker (R-Union) and House Bill 372, sponsored by Representatives Dollar (R-Wake), Lambeth (R-Forsyth), Brown (R-Pitt) and Jones (R-Rockingham), are serving as vehicles to move towards provider-led Accountable Care Organizations (ACO). No agreement on the different approaches seems imminent.
N.C. legislators file competing bills to reform Medicaid – Winston-Salem Journal