Lots of theater; no white smoke.
We are nearly two weeks into the new fiscal year with no budget agreement and no go-home date circled on the legislative calendar. Senator Apodaca promises his Senate Rules Committee will meet at 9:00 each day next week which gives us the same hope as a crocus pushing up through the snow - we know the end is coming but we're still walking in the snow. (The Senate Rules Committee has historically been the #1 place in state government for making policy, making strategy and making mischief.)
The House took this week off except for budget conferees who stuck around to meet with Senate budget conferees in Room 605 of the Legislative Office Building when they weren't in newly minted public conference committee meetings. Each day conferees made a little progress in some areas while losing ground in others. Huge outstanding issues gumming up the works were teacher pay, teacher tenure, lottery proceeds, Medicaid spending. Finally the Senate agreed to decoupled teacher pay raises and tenure - a huge concession on their part - with promises to go after the tenure policy in the future.
Governor McCrory exercised the legislative authority provided to him by our state constitution and declared he would veto any budget that provided 11% raises for teachers while cutting 7,000 teacher assistants saying the move was unsustainable for education and other core services government provides. He has been closely aligned with the House throughout these budget negotiations.
The House and Senate will be back at work Monday.
Education: Common Core
The House and Senate Conferees on SB 812 - Replace Common Core with Higher NC Standardsagreed to a compromise bill that would allow pieces of the Common Core curriculum to be kept in place if study shows those to be best. This closely follows the Senate version of the bill; the House version required all aspects of Common Core to be replaced. On Thursday the Senate adopted the conference report; we expect the House to take it up Monday. It is unusual for there to be disagreement once a conference report is signed by conferees. SB 812 Conference Report:http://www.ncleg.net/Applications/BillLookUp/LoadBillDocument.aspx?SessionCode=2013&DocNum=9413&SeqNum=0
The Senate has placed the House version of SB 729 - Coal Ash on it's calendar for Monday night. We expect them to vote "not to concur" and for the bill to go to conference. SB 729 House version: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S729v5.pdf
Status of Bills we're watching for you:
HB 663 - Define the Practice of Law which is in reaction to a court decision affecting Legal Zoom in NC. This bill was a Senate Committee Substitute to a House Bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was place on the Senate Calendar and then removed and sent to the Senate Rules Committee to rest, morph, die or gather strength. It requires House concurrence; so far we hear of no plans for that. http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H663v4.pdf
SB 853 - Business Court Modernization has been placed on the Senate calendar for concurrence Monday night. If the Senate concurs the bill will be ratified and sent to the Governor for his signature. http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S853v5.pdf
HB 1101 and HB 1102 - dealing with Mechanics Liens are both in Senate Rules Committee awaiting their fate. http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H1101v3.pdf;http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H1102v1.pdf
SB 648 - Patent Trolls has been in conference since July 1st.
HB 1031- NC Economic Develop Reorganization which created a public-private partnership arm to assist the Department of Commerce with business and economic development was enacted and the new organization is beginning to hire staff from the Commerce. Interestingly, the funding is tied up in current budget negotiations. Until the new budget is adopted we're not sure how the money flows to pay staff. http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H1031v6.pdf
SB 493 - Health and Safety Regulatory Reform is still a plethora of issues in a single bill. It was returned to the Senate for a concurrence vote and was referred to Senate Ways & Means. (We've already said we're not sure what to make of this - maybe it's a mini Senate Rules Committee). http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S493v6.pdf
SB 734 - Regulatory Reform is a 32-page bill or reforms for business and government. It is suffering the same fate as its sister bill, Health and Safety Regulatory Reform, we just told you about.
A few more Environmental Bills we took a look at:
SB 38 – Amend Environmental Laws started as Emergency Management Amendments. The House added environmental amendments. The House sent the bill back to the Senate for concurrence. The Senate Clerk’s Office is holding the bill (which is a new wrinkle to how the Senate holds a bill without actually having to deal with the bill yet. It's another of those signs the session is winding down). The bill has various sections dealing with:
- Transplanting oyster and clam beds
- Exempt C&D landfills from some minimal financial responsibility requirements
- On-site wastewater approval clarification
- Expand daily flow design exemption for low-flow fixtures
- Reform agency review of engineering work (with pilot program on permitting of PERCS)
- Study temporary groundwater withdrawal permits within Central Coastal Plan Capacity Use Area
- Amend Isolated Wetlands Regulations
- Speed limit waiver in state parks and forests to allow driving over the 25 mph limit with permission for special events
- Increase penalties for taking certain protected plants
- Study use of contaminated property
- Authority of local ordinances (regulation of fertilizer)
- Greater freedom for Open Burning
- Make it harder to establish Inlet Hazard Areas
- Clarify who needs an NC Hunting License at hunting trials
- Expedited Inter Basin Transfer permitting for Army Corps impoundments
- Eliminate obsolete air permit reporting requirements
- Clarify statutes pertaining to the management of venomous snakes and reptiles
- Define “ground absorption” as new permitted onsite wastewater system
- Repeals Waste Management Board Rules
- Energy audit requirement of state agency buildings every other year rather than every year
- Well Contractor Certification changes
- Standardize local well programs
- Establish Jean Preston Marine Shellfish Sanctuary
- Study gravel as impervious surface for storm water regulations
- Modification of approved wastewater systems
- Capstone Permitting trigger for contested case
- Changes to property disclosure act to conform with hydraulic fracturing
SB 786 - Modern Energy Act allows for fracking in North Carolina. Establishes the timeframe for developing a regulatory program for hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling; allows for the issuance of permits; establishes the NC Oil and Gas Commission; and establishes a severance tax. The law presumes liability for drinking water contamination is from fracking within a half mile. The law allows for proprietary lists of chemicals used in the fracking to be kept confidential as trade secrets with the ability of the Department of Public Safety and emergency responders to get relevant information in an emergency. The new Fracking Law:http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S786v8.pdf
SB 294 - DOT BMPs for Linear Storm Water Projects allows entities with NPDES permits to use DOT best management practices as an option for storm water projects. This was the first bill signed into law in 2014. The new law:http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S294v5.pdf