The General Assembly was back in motion this week as lawmakers returned to Raleigh following a week-long spring break. House members were met with a Tuesday deadline to file public bills, which resulted in over 200 bills filed throughout the day Tuesday, contributing to the nearly 900 House bills filed this session.
Now that both chambers are beyond their filing deadlines, the next obstacle that lawmakers face is the April 30th crossover deadline. “Crossover”, is the deadline for a bill to pass out of the chamber in which the bill originated, in order for that bill to remain eligible during the 2015-16 session. There are a few types of bills that are not subject to the crossover deadline, the most notable of which are appropriations and finance bills. History is mixed on whether or not the two chambers will agree to extend the crossover deadline, although such agreements usually do not materialize until just before the deadline is set to expire. Regardless, the crossover deadline will catalyze a rapid pace of legislation moving in both chambers over the next two weeks.
Senate Bill 455, sponsored by Sen. Gunn (R-Alamance) received a hearing this week in the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill entitled “Iran Divestment Act”, instructs NC State Treasurer Janet Cowell (D), to divest any and all state investments in any companies that do business with Iran. Lieutenant Gov. Dan Forest (R) was present at the meeting to support the bill, a rare occurrence. The only formal power the Lt. Governor has to influence legislation lies in his role as President and presiding officer of the NC Senate, where he may vote only to break a tie. Legislative Liaisons for Treasurer Cowell indicated at the meeting that the state had already purged such investments from its books.
A Senate crowdfunding bill, Senate Bill 481 gained the approval of the Senate Judiciary I Committee on Tuesday. The bill sponsored by Sen. Barringer (R-Wake) would allow NC startup companies to raise capital from individuals in NC in increments up to $5,000 per individual. The idea of crowdfunding has been championed by Commerce Sec. Skvarla and Gov. McCrory (R) as a tool for expanding economic growth in the state. The bill still has to clear the Senate Finance Committee before going to the floor.
State Auditor Beth Wood (D), presented an audit of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on Monday to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Committee. The audit, requested by the Committee, found that DHHS was roughly $350 Million in the red, the primary cause of which is unchecked Medicaid spending.
Legislation in the news:
Senate gun bill allows unrestricted concealed carry – Citizen-Times
Beginning of the end for the Map Act? – Daily Journal
Bill would put all Uber, Lyft regulation with state – The Charlotte Observer
Proposed Elections Changes
Three bills moved through the House this week that could alter the way we elect our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and local School Boards. The first bill, House Bill 344 is a proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Rep. Jones (R-Rockingham), which would require 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. There have only been two instances in more than 100 years where a pair has been elected from opposing parties, when Gov. Hoslhouser (R) and Lt. Gov. Hunt (D) served together in the mid 70’s and then when Gov. Martin (R) and Lt. Gov. Jordan (D) served together in the late 80’s. Should H344 pass through both chambers, it would be put to the voters in 2018 for approval as a constitutional amendment.
House Bill 8, which was tentatively agreed to on Thursday with a 64-49 vote, is also sponsored by Rep. Jones 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 both political parties endorse judicial candidates anyways 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. A final House vote is expected next week. Similarly, House Bill 324, sponsored by Rep. Cleveland (R-Onslow), would require partisan elections for all local School Board races.
In Other News
- House Rules Chairman Rep. Lewis (R-Harnett), and chief sponsor of the 2013 Tax Reform, went “On the Record” with WRAL to rebut recent accusations from Democrats that the changes raised taxes on the middle class. You can watch the video here.
- The troubled NCTracks system, which handles Medicaid reimbursements to providers, gained federal certification on Monday. Receiving federal approval means an influx of roughly $19 Million in retroactive federal dollars to support the program. The program has been lagging in making reimbursement payments, with a large number of outstanding provider claims. Read more from WRAL here.
- A North Carolina conservative think tank, the John Locke Foundation has expressed support for the Governor’s proposed new NC Department of Information Technology. They argue in a paper here, that the new department would add increased accountability for the state’s IT resources while also reducing cost.
- "Nexsen Pruet attorney David Robinson was recently appointed to serve as Honorary Consul for Japan. He will serve a five year term and act as a liaison to facilitate business and community relationships between Japan and NC. Robinson also serves as the Chairman of the Wake County Board of Elections. Read more in the Triangle Business Journal here."