The General Assembly re-convened on Tuesday, November 27 and the session is expected to last two weeks as lawmakers take up hurricane relief, voter ID, economic incentives and other legislation deemed necessary. This session is considered a “lame-duck” session as outgoing members will be taking their last votes before the new legislature takes place in January.
Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 823: Hurricane Florence/Supplemental Act this week. The bill contains $299.8 million in extra relief for funding priorities identified by the General Assembly and the Governor. The bill passed the Senate 44-0 and the House 103-0.
$240 million of that money has been allocated to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). The agriculture industry took huge hits during the storms, resulting in crop loss, livestock loss, and in turn lost profit. The appropriation is for DACS to assist farmers with debts associated with Hurricane Florence or other natural disasters. This money can only be used in the 53 counties declared disaster counties and the process will be done by applications received by DACS.
The bill includes additional funding for the following:
- $1.5 million to the Department of Public Instruction for damages to equipment and food in school nutrition programs
- $25 million to the Department of Public Instruction to cover repairs to schools damaged by the hurricane
- $18.5 million to the Coastal Storm Mitigation Fund to repair beaches
- $10 million to provide assistance to commercial fishing
- $5 million to The Golden L.E.A.F. to provide loans to affected small businesses
- $50,000 to the Wildlife Resources Commission for research into restoring dunes and beaches
- $1 million to the Administrative Office of the Courts for damaged equipment and make-up court sessions
- $250,000 to match federal funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program
Lawmakers will have $94.7 million leftover for future relief efforts.
On Election Day, voters in North Carolina faced a series of constitutional amendments to vote on. Voters across the state chose to approve the Voter ID amendment on the ballot, sending it to the General Assembly for implementation.
Senate Bill 824: Implementation of Voter ID Const. Amendment passed the Senate 32-11 on Wednesday. The bill has now been referred to the House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law. The bill did not pass without lengthy debate between legislators on the floor of the Senate. The bill was touted as bipartisan with a Democratic sponsor in the Senate and Democratic sponsor in the House. Despite that, many Democrats contended that the five month rollout period provision was still too short for voters to be educated or obtain proper documents. Still, many were pleased with what they felt was progress in the language of the bill.
The bill allows three exceptions to the Voter ID requirement: a natural disaster occurs within 100 days on an election, a religious objection to having a photo taken, and a reasonable impediment to obtaining an ID.
The reasonable impediment language was worked on through an amendment. The reasons can be a stolen ID, disability, work/family responsibilities that hindered you from getting an ID. In 2019 elections, not knowing that there was a change in the law can be recognized as a reasonable impediment.
Under Senate Bill 824, the following IDs would be acceptable at the polls:
- A North Carolina driver's license
- Identification cards for non-drivers issued by the state Division of Motor Vehicles
- U.S. passports
- A county-issued voter ID card
- A tribal enrollment card issued by a federally or state-recognized tribe.
- A student ID card from a University of North Carolina school, a community college or a private university
- An employee identification card issued by a state or local government entity, including a charter school
- A driver's license or ID card issued by another state if the voter's registration came within 90 days of the election
- All of those types of ID must be valid and either unexpired or expired for less than a year. Officials at university, colleges and local government entities would be required to certify every four years that their processes for printing IDs are secured and that they have verified the age and citizenship status of recipients.
The bill also allows the following forms of ID regardless of whether they carry expiration or issuance dates:
- A military ID issued by the U.S. government
- A veteran's identification card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- Any of the allowed IDs, even if they're expired, if the voter is at least 65 years old, as long as the ID was unexpired on his or her 65th birthday.
Over the past year, officials in North Carolina have been figuring out how to better attract high paying corporations to the state. Senate Bill 820: High-Pay JDIG Job Cap Modification focuses on recruitment of corporate headquarters to North Carolina. Senate Bill 820 increases the Job Development Investment Grant Cap from $6,500 per job to $16,000 per job. The 2018-19 state budget included lowering the qualifying criteria for such a project from $4 billion in capital investment and 5,000 new jobs to $1 billion and 3,000 new jobs
The Senate passed the bill 43-0 on Wednesday, and the House passed the measure 78-23 on Thursday. Proponents of the bill stressed the need for North Carolina to stay competitive with neighboring states that have been cutting taxes for corporations and luring big companies into their state. After the bill passed, it was announced that Honeywell, a Fortune 100 company was relocating from New Jersey to Charlotte.