Final arguments were heard Tuesday for litigation brought by Gov. Cooper (D) over the legality of legislation passed late last year creating the Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement (BSBEEE). The legislation consolidated the powers and duties of the State Board of Elections and the State Board of Ethics, as well as the oversight of lobbyists, which has been housed under the authority of the Secretary of State. Attorneys for Cooper argue that the timing of the change is suspect due to the administration’s political difference. Other items being challenged include the change in the number of career status employees serving at-will to the Governor, and the Senate’s authority to confirm the Governor’s Cabinet Secretaries. No ruling has been issued. Cooper v. Berger judicial panel hears final arguments – NSJ Lawsuit challenging NCGA’s powers focuses on timing of special session – Carolina Journal Power struggle between Cooper, lawmakers in hands of judges – WRAL
Various Senate Committees proceeded to subpoena Gov. Cooper’s Cabinet Secretaries to confirmation hearings. This developed after the Governor requested that all Cabinet nominees be subpoenaed until the litigation between the Governor and the NCGA over whether the Senate has the authority to confirm nominees is resolved. The Senate unanimously confirmed Secretary Larry Hall of the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs on Monday evening. Senate subpoenas second cabinet secretary – WRAL More Cooper Cabinet secretaries getting asked to appear – N&O NC Senate approves Larry Hall as military and veterans affairs secretary – WNCN
The House passed three bills filed by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), largely along party lines, dealing with the judicial branch and the Governor’s appointments. House OKs bills taking judicial appointments from governor – N&O House votes to shrink court, strip Cooper powers – WRAL
The three Senate Appropriations Chairs, Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), and Sen. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston) filed Senate Bill 235, the Appropriations Act of 2017. The Senate will begin the budget process this year. The bill, which is currently only two pages long, may serve as the vehicle for the 200+ page budget.
The Senate Rules Committee also gave a favorable report to Senate Bill 131, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba). The bill title notes 2016 because the legislation contains the provisions that passed both chambers from last year’s Regulatory Reform Act. The bill as a whole ultimately failed due to more controversial provisions. The bill amends several State laws related to State and local government regulation and agricultural, energy, environmental, and natural resources regulation. It is calendared for a hearing in the full Senate next Tuesday.
Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake) and Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union), Education and Education Appropriations Chairmen in either chamber, announced a revised version or the former Teaching Fellow Scholarship program. The proposal, which will likely be a budget item, provides forgivable loans to college students who pursue a degree in education, with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) or special education. Students that chose to teach in low-performing schools would have an accelerated path to forgiving the loan. Bill would create new Teaching Fellows program with STEM focus – N&O N.C. lawmakers want to revive Teaching Fellows program – News & Record
Several Study bills that could have various impacts on the solid waste industry were filed by Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin): House Bill 319 would study decommissioning of solar facilities; House Bill 320 would study recycling of electronics; and House Bill 321 would study the solid waste disposal tax.
Deadlines are beginning to pass regarding the filing of legislation. Senators can no longer submit local bills and resolutions requests to bill drafting since that deadline has passed and those bills that have been requested must be introduced by next Wednesday. Public bills and resolutions for the Senate must be submitted to bill drafting by next Friday. In the House, which has a slightly delayed deadline calendar, local bills must be sent to bill drafting by next Wednesday and filed by March 29th. Public bills and resolutions must be submitted to bill drafting by March 30th and filed by April 12th. Crossover is still scheduled for April 27th.
Other legislation filed this week worth noting includes:
House Bill 266 – Terminate Agreement for Tolling of I-77, sponsored by Rep. Chaz Beasley (D-Mecklenburg). The bill, which has Rep. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) as its other sponsor, would terminate the toll road agreement for the I-77 HOT lanes project in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties. It would also direct DOT to pay any damages associated with breaking the contract.
House Bill 267 – Utilities/Amend REPS Requirements, filed by Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin), would freeze the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS) at 8% in 2018. REPS dictates how much energy produced by a utility must be utilized from renewable sources. Under current law, the REPS would move from 6% currently, to 10% in 2018, and then 12.5% in 2021.
House Bill 279 – Fantasy Sports Regulation, filed by Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), would allow fantasy sports operators to register with the NC Secretary of State and operate legally in NC. Fantasy sports could be regulated under new NC House bill – N&O
House Bill 280 – Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, sponsored by Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), is also known as the “Raise the Age” bill. Currently NC is one of two states that prosecutes 16 and 17 year-olds as adults. The bill would raise the age of a juvenile to include 16 and 17 year-olds except in the case of certain felonies. N.C. looks again at raising the juvenile justice age – News & Record
House Bill 283 – Telehealth Fairness Act, sponsored by Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), would require health insurance coverage for telemedicine services.
House Bill 305 – School Boards Can’t Sue Counties, filed by Rep. Deborah Conrad (R-Forsyth), would eliminate the statutory authority for local Boards of Education to sue their county over lack of education funding. NC schools might lose ability to sue for more money – N&O
House Bill 310 – Wireless Communications Infrastructure Siting, filed by Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), would reform wireless infrastructure licensing and permitting. The bill, which divides the telecommunications industry, is intended to assist in the deployment of new technologies, such as small cell deployment. The cities will likely oppose this legislation as well, due to the limiting of zoning changes, reducing city control of public right-of-way, and other restrictions.
Senate Bill 229 – Protection for Former Government Official, filed by Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), was introduced after Bishop criticized hecklers who cornered then outgoing Gov. McCrory (R) in Washington D.C. The altercation was recorded on video and spurred this legislation which would provide funding to provide protection for former executive, legislative, and court officers for one-year after they leave office.
In total 130 bills were filed this week, with 69 in the House and 61 in the Senate, bringing the total number of bills filed so far this session to 561. A link to next week’s announced Committee calendar can be found here. A cumulative list of House and Senate bills filed so far this year, links to each bill, and its current status can be found here.
Legislation in the News: NC prepping to collect sales tax from online retailers – WRAL Cooper criticizes switch to partisan judicial elections – could bill be his first veto? – N&O Bill lowering state income tax cap ready for floor debate – WRAL Bill would let craft distilleries sell more on premises, offer free tastings – Carolina Journal KENT: A handful of brewers seek special legislative treatment – NSJ Legality of NC immigration proposal questioned – WRAL Opioid Epidemic the Target of Newly Introduced Bill – NC Health News Disruptive protesters targeted in NC bill – WRAL Lawmaker makes bid to take a bite out of puppy mills – Gaston Gazette Lawmakers want to reignite tobacco prevention programs – WRAL NC Search & Rescue Teams Ask for Funding – TWC Bill proposes plastic bag ban repeal for North Carolina coastal areas – WAVY Superintendents would decide principal raises, poorer counties would get construction money under NC Senate bill – N&O
In Other News
Gov. Cooper appears to be in favor of continuing the State’s relationship with the Economic Development Partnership of NC (EDPNC). The public-private partnership created under the McCrory administration, is tasked with recruiting business to the State and managing economic incentives. Cooper had signaled several weeks ago the potential to sever the contract with the EDPNC and return those responsibilities to the NC Department of Commerce. N.C. governor signals eco-devo partnership relationship to continue – CBJ
Following a nationwide search, Dr. Jeff Warren, Sen. Berger’s environmental policy advisor, will be the new research director at the recently formed NC Policy Collaboratory at UNC-Chapel Hill. Dr. Warren has worked for Sen. Berger since 2011 when he was first elected President Pro-Tem of the Senate and has played a key role in crafting the direction of the State’s environmental policy. Berger’s science adviser gets environmental job at UNC – N&O
In the News
DEQ appointee plans for agency to be more transparent, work with legislators – Star News ACC’s Swofford on HB2: Time running out on 2019, 2020 tournaments – N&O N.C. drops out of states’ suit against federal clean air standards – N&O Tiers system impacts children – Blue Ridge Now Taxing labor – The Mountaineer Justice Department backs off request to halt 'bathroom bill' – N&O NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes will seek re-election – N&O NC congressman faces heated town hall in Brunswick County – N&O