It appears that House and Senate leadership will keep their word on adjourning before the 4th of July, with leadership of the two chambers apparently agreeing to a budget over the weekend. The Senate worked through Friday while Speaker Moore (R-Cleveland) and Sen. Berger (R-Rockingham) finalized the finance portion of the budget and raises for State employees, eventually leading to an agreement later that evening. The budget is expected to be released late Monday evening after it is approved by the two majority caucuses, meaning the Senate could vote on the budget as early as Tuesday. The House has a rule preventing a vote on the budget Conference Report until 3 days after the report is signed by the Conferees. However, that rule could be suspended to allow an earlier vote. If all goes according to plan, the General Assembly could officially adjourn its 2015-16 session sine die Thursday, but more likely scenarios adjourn session on Friday or Saturday.
Two high-profile bills were addressed for discussion only, with no action taken. The Senate Finance Committee heard a PCS for House Bill 1007, Amend Occupational Licensing Boards Statutes/Fees. Among the provisions, the 21-page bill would restrict licensing boards to only collect revenues directly from licensing fees and would eliminate all licensing board that have less than 1,500 licensees as of July 1, 2016 effective October 1, 2019. The House Insurance Committee heard House Bill 1048, entitled Reduce Barriers to Improve NC Health & Safety. The bill prevents health insurers from requiring a process called step therapy, whereby patients must try less expensive, generic drugs before they will be covered for the a more expensive drug. The bill is scheduled to receive a vote in the Insurance Committee on Tuesday.
Two bills reducing regulatory burdens that passed either chamber two weeks ago have stalled. The Senate voted not-to-concur with the House changes to Senate Bill 303, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2016 and has not yet appointed a Conference Committee. House Bill 169, which the Senate turned into the Regulatory Reduction Act of 2016, was sent to the House Regulatory Reform Committee for further review. Both bills are stalled for now, but could gain traction in the waning days of session, and surface as a compromise between the two bodies.
Senate Bill 481, the “crowdfunding” legislation, moved swiftly through the House. The two provisions that were included in the Senate version were unchanged, but the House added a third provision in a PCS. The first provision of the bill exempts certain transactions from the North Carolina Securities Act. The new exemption allows crowdfunding transactions where in-state businesses can sell securities to in-state investors, called an intrastate transaction. The amounts of securities that can be sold by NC issuers and bought by NC investors are limited. An offering would be limited to $1 Million for a business without a current audit or review and $2 Million for a business with a current audit or review. Each non-accredited investor would be limited to contributing no more than $5,000 individually. Accredited investors may purchase an unlimited amount, subject to the limit on the offering size. The second provision would require the Department of Revenue to publish on its website, private letter rulings that give specific guidance to individual taxpayers who request it, within 90 days after the written determination is provided to the taxpayer. The new third provision would prohibit a city from imposing a fee on gas, telecommunications, electricity, or video programming utilities for activities conducted in the city's right-of-way, unless the city's right-of-way management expenses related to these activities exceeds distributions. The bill has been place on the House’s Monday calendar for its 3rd reading.
NC crowdfunding bill clears committee hurdle – WRAL TechWire
Governor McCrory signed Senate Bill 734, entitled Statewide Standing Order/Opioid Antagonist, sponsored by Sen. Pate (R-Wayne). The bill is designed to help combat overdoses from various legal and illegal drugs, by making it easier for individuals to access an opioid antagonist. The bill would allow anyone to purchase naloxone hydrochloride, which is used to treat overdose from heroin and prescription pain killers, at a pharmacy under a standing order from the NC State Health Director. Expanding access to the drug is seen by many as a way to save countless lives as the rate of deaths caused by overdose in NC has skyrocketed in recent decades.
Legislation in the News:
I-77 toll foes hit a dead end in Senate – Charlotte Observer
NC committee OKs bill that strips funding from cities accepting IDs created by nonprofits – Winston-Salem Journal
'Beach bingo' to be regulated – Burlington Times-News
Omnibus Constitutional Amendments
Regularly, the legislature passes “omnibus” bills that contain multiple unrelated matters. Rarely however are multiple proposed amendments to the State’s constitution passed in such a manner. The Senate Rules Committee used House Bill 3 as a vehicle to do this. It was originally a Constitutional Amendment dealing only with eminent domain, but the Senate added two other constitutional proposals. The eminent domain amendment provides that private property cannot be taken for eminent domain except for a public use and that just compensation shall be paid and determined by a jury at the request of any party. A second proposed amendment, originally included in Senate Bill 889, reaffirms North Carolinian’s right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.
The third proposed Constitutional Amendment, originally contained in Senate Bill 817, is the most controversial. This proposed amendment would lower the maximum state income tax rate from 10% to 5.5%. Proponents argue that amending the Constitution would prohibit future legislatures from raising income taxes above 5.5%, limiting the pace at which state government can grow. Skeptics, including the Treasurer’s office, fear that the State’s long-held AAA bond rating could be downgraded, due to the inability of future legislatures to adapt in tough economic times. Proponents argue that past legislatures have raised sales taxes rather than income taxes in such times, primarily due to the fact that an increase in the income tax would take at least a year to collect. They also note the reserves the General Assembly has set aside in the State’s “rainy day fund” to address the next downturn. The income tax rate in North Carolina is already scheduled to drop from 5.75% to 5.5% on January 1, 2017. Should this measure pass the legislature and be approved by the voters in November, that rate would become the new ceiling and have the same effective date.
All three measures, should the bill pass, would be put before the voters on this November’s ballot. Constitutional Amendments require a three-fifths majority of the members in each chamber before it can be placed on the ballot for voter approval. Constitutional Amendments do not require the Governor’s signature.
Amend Environmental Laws
House Bill 593, entitled Amend Environmental & Other Laws, passed the full Senate Thursday after a PCS to the bill was unveiled that same morning in the Rules Committee. A notable provision that was removed from a previous version of the bill would have delayed the requirement to obtain insurance for mopeds one year. With that provision removed, moped owners must obtain insurance by July 1, 2016. Among other provisions, the bill:
- Prohibits the Division of Water Resources from requiring the use of on-site storm water control measures to protect downstream water quality standards unless required to do so by State or Federal law.
- Removes the requirement that a public hearing be held for a sanitary landfill franchise that is modified to extend the duration of the franchise to life-of-site
- Provides that no franchise agreement for a sanitary landfill, modified or newly executed, shall exceed a duration of 60 years
- Prohibits cities from imposing a fee on gas, telecommunications, electricity, or video programming utilities for activities conducted in a right-of-way, unless the costs for those activities exceeds the amount the city has collected for sales and use tax
- Prevents NC from limiting the federal government’s ability to pump standing storm water from federal land into the ocean
In Other News
Just a few weeks after a panel of three judges approved North Carolina’s new congressional maps, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will review the new maps. An appeal of the new maps, which were allowed to move forward for this year’s election, will be addressed by the nation’s highest court on its fall docket.
Supreme Court to consider North Carolina redistricting – Politico
Governor McCrory’s lead legislative liaison, former Rep. Fred Steen, has been confirmed by the General Assembly to serve a four-year term on the North Carolina Board of Review. The three-member board serves as the final decision maker in appeals regarding unemployment benefit claims. His term officially begins on July 1st of this year.
In the News
Updated FAA policy leaves city in control of Charlotte airport – Charlotte Observer
Online system for getting some traffic tickets dismissed goes statewide – Winston-Salem Journal
Four take-aways from a judicial forum in Charlotte – Charlotte Observer
Debate Continues Over How to Use Money from Dix Sale – NC Health News
Apodaca Awarded Order of the Long Leaf Pine – Hendersonville Lightning
No fishing license needed on July 4 – NC Sportsman
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