The House and Senate Appropriations Committees met jointly on Tuesday to review the consensus revenue forecast from the NCGA Fiscal Research Division and the Office of State Budget Management (OSBM). Projections indicate the State currently will collect $22.6 Billion in revenues, a $552 Million, 2.5% surplus when the 2016-17 fiscal year ends on June 30th. The report also projects that revenue collections for the coming 2017-18 fiscal year will bring in an additional $500 Billion and that the 2018-19 fiscal year will generate an additional $1 Billion more than that. The consensus report, which is in PowerPoint form, can be found here, details expected employment growth, highlights revenues by source, and notes future budget pressures. Lawmakers start process to form two-year budget – NSJ NC has budget surplus, but much already committed – Citizen-Times
The House passed House Bill 13, entitled Class Size Requirement Changes, sponsored by Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), to allow the maximum class size for kindergarten through third grade to increase by three students. They also passed House Bill 7, entitled LRC/Strengthen Savings Reserve, sponsored by Senior Appropriations Chairman Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake). The bill mandates that the General Assembly continue to strengthen the State’s “rainy day fund”.
Another measure passing the House was House Bill 3, entitled Eminent Domain, a perennial Constitutional Amendment also sponsored by Rep. McGrady. It would limit the State’s ability to seize private property taken by eminent domain except for a public use and requires just compensation shall be paid and shall be determined by a jury at the request of any party. If the amendment is passed by both chambers, it would go to the voters for their approval in the 2018 general election. In recent years, the legislation has similarly passed the House with strong bipartisan support, but has died in the Senate. House Bill 3 passed Thursday overwhelmingly 104-9. Constitutional Amendments are not subject to a gubernatorial veto. Should NC’s constitution limit eminent domain? House votes to back amendment – N&O Eminent domain amendment breezes through House, heads to Senate – Carolina Journal
The Senate has yet to pass any substantive legislation over to the House. They did however pass House Bill 39, entitled Amend Appointments/UNC Bd of Governors, reducing the number of members on the UNC System Board of Governors, on its second reading. The Board which currently has 32 members, would be reduced to 24 members under the proposed law, with the 8 members rolling off and their specified seats dissolving after the expiration of their terms. The legislature appoints the membership of the UNC Board of Governors. Third reading was objected to despite a strong 41-4 bipartisan vote advancing the bill. It will receive a final hearing in the Senate next week before it is returned to the House for concurrence. Senate moves to downsize UNC Board of Governors – N&O
Companion bills were filed in both chambers, House Bill 88/Senate Bill 73, entitled Modernize Nursing Practice Act, sponsored by Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell) & Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell). The bill, would among other things, define in statute an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) to include: Nurse Practitioners (NP); Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM); Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS); and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA). It also defines licensure requirements and outlines the roles and responsibilities for each practice area and its scope of practice. For CRNA’s, it established that the responsibilities of a CRNA shall not constitute the practice of medicine, surgery, or dentistry. It also makes various changes to the authorities of the North Carolina Board of Nursing.
The Senate will likely be more deliberate on the whole this year, as Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), the Senate Rules Chairman, indicated that some substantive legislation will have an additional referral to Rules. Committee Chairs have also been instructed to allow additional transparency in allowing for more public comment. An emphasis has also been placed on members explaining their own bills rather than relying on staff to explain the legislation in Committees. Most bills to face additional checkpoint in Senate – WRAL
In total 90 bills were filed this week, with 49 in the house and 41 in the Senate, bringing the total number of bills filed so far this session to 246. A link to next week’s Committee calendar, which is going to be very busy, 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: Bill would allow military, spouses to work in NC with out-of-state licenses – N&O Lawmakers advance PT compact bill – WRAL Senate bill would make all elections partisan battles – Carolina Journal NC lawmakers seek immigration crackdown – WRAL NC senator wants to make it a crime to violate public meetings, records laws – N&O Bill proposes major changes to State Board of Education, including electing members – WRAL NC’s juvenile crime chief touts merits of raising the juvenile age – N&O Lawmakers file bill to pay themselves more – NSJ Should income tax cap in NC’s constitution be lowered? Senators propose amendment – N&O Legislators want to require themselves to put money in savings – N&O Lawmakers push ratification of 1972 Equal Rights Amendment – WRAL Smaller classes could cost students art, gym? Not so fast, says committee – Winston-Salem Journal
A three-judge panel has rejected Gov. Cooper’s request to block the Senate’s confirmation of the Governor’s Cabinet Secretaries, allowing the confirmation process to proceed. Following the news, the Senate Select Committee on Nominations revised its previously announced schedule for each nominee. However, the Governor is not required to officially submit his nominees to the Senate until May 15th. With the case expected to be held early next month, Cooper is unlikely to officially nominate his Cabinet between now and then. The order also noted that if a nominee is rejected, the Governor can seek an injunction. Judges won't extend confirmation ban in N. Carolina Senate – AP Ruling doesn’t resolve Cabinet showdown between Cooper, Senate – N&O
On Monday, the North Carolina Supreme Court granted Gov. Cooper’s request to issue an order again halting a law passed in one of last year’s December special sessions 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 under the authority of the Secretary of State. Last week, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a stay, reversing a lower court’s injunction on the law, allowing it to move forward. The Supreme Court has temporarily upheld the lower court’s injunction. Supreme Court reinstates NC elections board – WRAL N.C. Supreme Court blocks law stripping governor of election oversight powers – Winston-Salem Journal
House Bill 2
Gov. Cooper held a press conference earlier in the week to announce “compromise” legislation to repeal the controversial “bathroom bill”, more commonly referred to as House Bill 2. The proposed legislation repeals House Bill 2, enacts tougher penalties for crimes taking place in bathrooms, and requires local governments to notify the General Assembly of new nondiscrimination ordinances 30 days prior to their approval. The proposal seems to have fallen flat with House and Senate Republican leaders, but Speaker Moore did note that repealing the law in some fashion, is not an entirely dead issue in the House. No NC House support for Cooper’s HB2 compromise, Speaker Tim Moore says – N&O Democrats have proposed four HB2 repeal bills – here’s how they differ – N&O
In Other News
Gov. Cooper endorsed former two-term Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin (D) prior to the weekend, to succeed Patsy Keever as Chair the NC Democratic Party. Goodwin, who lost a tight race in November, was successful Saturday in his election to the post by the NC Democratic Party Executive Committee. NC Democratic Party elects Wayne Goodwin as chair – WRAL
Rep. MaryAnn Black (D-Durham), was sworn in this week to fill the unexpired term left by former Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham), who vacated the seat to serve as Gov. Cooper’s Secretary of the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA). Durham’s next state lawmaker has background in social work, local government – N&O
In light of Rep. Pat Hurley’s (R-Randolph) bill to increase legislative per diem, the News & Observer took a closer look at the pros and cons of increasing legislative pay. State legislators in North Carolina currently make an annual salary of just under $14,000 per year, plus per diem, with an additional $559 per month expense allowance. Per diem and mileage compensate lawmakers only during session and for official business during the interim, such as Committee meetings. Previous attempts over the last two decades to raise legislative compensation have fallen flat. Would raising lawmakers’ pay help change who runs for office? – N&O
In the News
Ethics panel cautions Cabinet picks to avoid conflicts – N&O Fiscal uncertainty hurts state economy – Lexington Dispatch Duke Energy customers could see higher bills to pay for $5 billion coal ash cleanup – Charlotte Observer CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield N.C. to retire – TBJ Former Rep. Paul Tine looks back on his two Assembly terms – Outer Banks Voice Racial bias alleged in N. Carolina county's election method – AP Southeastern N.C. legislators continue to raise cash – Star News Gardner resigns from ABC post – N&O Berger: Wind farm to continue to operate – Daily Advance N.C. rises to No. 2 in latest solar installation ranking – TBJ Report: North Carolina Ranks No. 1 for IT Jobs – Government Technology Here’s how much NC House Speaker Tim Moore is paying his staff – N&O Hayes to run for re-election as NCGOP chair, sets a new agenda for the party's future – NSJ NC shrimpers say net of new rules for trawlers will destroy industry – WRAL