In this week’s NCGA Week in Review, the team at McGuireWoods Consulting breaks down the top stories in NC politics:
- House legislators met to discuss proposed Gen-X legislation that may come up next week when the General Assembly convenes for the first time in 2018.
- 21 laws that were passed in 2017 went into effect on January 1.
- Four plans to overhaul the state’s judiciary were revealed in a Senate committee on Wednesday.
Next week, legislators will return to Raleigh for the first time of the new year. Both chambers will gavel in on Wednesday, January 10 and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) commented that the session will likely last two days and will include consideration of the aforementioned GenX legislative proposal.
House River Quality Committee Reviews Proposed Legislation
On Thursday, the House Select Committee on River Quality held their fourth meeting since forming in 2017 to discuss the presence of the chemical compound Gen-X in the Cape Fear River.
What was on the table?
At the meeting, legislators considered proposed legislation, which may come up next Wednesday when legislators return to Raleigh.
Tell Me More
Committee co-chairs Reps. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), Holly Grange (R-New Hanover), and Frank Iler (R-Brunswick) introduced the draft legislation to the committee and noted that though the legislation does not meet the requirements of the adjournment resolution to be eligible next week, Speaker Moore has agreed to allow the legislation to be heard.
Titled “ Short Term Response to Emerging Contaminants”, the draft legislation would:
- Require the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to study the state’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program in order to ensure that the requirements of the program sufficiently protect public health, safety and welfare.
- Direct the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to consult with the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board in the development of health goals for contaminants.
- Direct DEQ to coordinate with and share water quality data with the appropriate environmental regulatory agencies in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
- Require DEQ to study certain reporting and notice requirements for wastewater discharge.
- Require the School of Government at the University of NC at Chapel Hill to study the extent to which public and private water utilities may be held civilly liable for distribution of drinking water contaminated by a pollutant.
After a brief discussion, the committee voted unanimously to support the draft legislation and it will be formally introduced next week.
What to Expect Next
The draft legislation is expected to be introduced next week and committee chairs are hopeful that the bill will be received favorably by both chambers. Additionally, legislators plan to take further action in the 2018 short session, which Rep. Davis noted may include more “controversial” measures.
New Year, New Laws: 21 Laws Go into Effect in NC
The effective date of legislation varies from bill to bill. Some bills go effective immediately upon the Governor's signature into law, while other bills may not go into effect for another six months or a couple of years. The following legislation passed in the 2017 long session, went into effect on January 1, 2018.
Business & Regulatory
HB 252: Building Code Regulatory Reform (Sec. 4(a) & (b)) - Makes changes and clarifications to the statutes that govern the creation and enforcement of building codes.
SB 16: Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2017 (Secs. 1, 4, 14(c)) - Provides further regulatory relief in state laws. Specifically, Section 1 requires state agencies to provide additional notice of petitions for rule making, Section 4 allows for optional meals for bed and breakfast guests, and Section 14(c) disallows the operation of any device that a person knows will expose the public to an unsafe condition and sets out the penalties for violating this law.
SB 82: Achieving Business Efficiencies - Makes changes to the employment laws.
SB 131: Regulatory Reform Act of 2016-2017 (Sec. 2.7) - The bill makes various changes to state laws and largely went into effect upon signature into law, but Section 2.7, which renames and amends the Board of Refrigeration Examiners, went into effect on the first.
SB 578: Veteran-Owned Small Business/Annual Report - Requires the Secretary of State to compile information about the number of veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses on an annual basis.
SB 628: Various Changes to the Revenue Laws (Secs. 2.1-2.8) - Makes changes to the state's business tax and sales and use tax laws. Sections 2.1 through 2.8 make changes and clarifications to sales and use tax laws.
SB 656: Electoral Freedom Act of 2017 - Changes the definition of a "political party" by reducing the number of signatures required for the formation of a new political party and for unaffiliated candidates to obtain ballot access eligibility, authorizes the establishment of political parties recognized in a substantial number of states in the prior presidential election, changes the timing of filing petitions, reduces the threshold for a substantial plurality to 30%, and eliminates judicial primaries for the 2018 General Election.
HB 243: Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act (Sec. 6) All providers are now limited to prescribing no more than a 5 day supply of opioids upon the initial consultation and treatment for acute pain. This limitation is expanded to seven days for post-operative acute pain relief. Upon any subsequent consultation for the same pain, providers may prescribe any appropriate supply of opioids.
SB 104: Require Criminal BGC/Pharmacist Licensure - Requires criminal background checks for pharmacist licensure applicants.
SB 257: Appropriations Act of 2017 - Most of the budget bill went into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1, 2017, but effective January 1, Section 11H.20(a) requires the Department of Health and Human Services to review information concerning changes in circumstances that may affect a beneficiary's eligibility to receive medical assistance benefits. This review must happen on a quarterly basis and the information is to be shared with the county departments of social services.
HB 383: NAIC Models/ORSA & Credit for Reinsurance (Sec. 1) - Makes changes to insurance laws on own risk and solvency assessments and credit for reinsurance and implements the revised model regulations of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners governing recommendations made to consumers regarding the purchase or exchange of annuities.
Justice & Public Safety
SB 384: Criminal Law Changes (Sec. 6) - The bill makes various changes to the state's criminal laws, and Section 6 amends the Sheriffs' Supplemental Pension Fund.
SB 567: Reform/Correct/Wills and Trusts (Secs. 1, 3, 5) - Provides for the judicial reformation of wills to correct mistakes and the judicial modification of wills to achieve the testator's tax objectives.
SB 569: Uniform Power of Attorney Act - Establishes the "Uniform Power of Attorney Act" for North Carolina.
HB 183: Retirement Administration Changes of 2017 (Secs. 3, 9) - Makes clarifying and administrative changes to the state's retirement system laws.
SB 582: Budget & Agency Technical Corrections (Secs. 1.3, 4.6, 8.7) - Makes changes to the 2017 budget and makes agency technical corrections.
HB 21: Driver Instruction/Law Enforcement Stops - Requires the driver education curriculum to include instruction on law enforcement procedures during traffic stops.
HB 84: DL/Deaf or Hard of Hearing Designation - Directs the DMV to develop a designation for driver licenses that may be granted upon request to a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.
HB 275: No Stormwater Fees on Taxiways or Runways - Exempts airports from paying a stormwater utility fee levied on runways and taxiways.
SB 257: Appropriations Act of 2017 (Secs. 31.3, 34.21, 34.32) - Other parts of the budget bill that went into effect on January 1 includes Section 31.3(d), which requires the Department of Administration to take into account additional costs of the maintenance and operation of the agencies' motor fleets, Section 34.21, which changes the allowable use of proceeds of aviation gasoline and jet fuel taxes by limiting it to general aviation airports for time-sensitive aviation capital improvement projects for economic development purposes, and Section 34.32, which authorizes the DMV to charge fees to any person that requests an administrative hearing.
SB 413: Clarify Motor Vehicle Dealer Laws (Sec. 5) - Clarifies motor vehicle dealers and manufacturers licensing laws. Specifically, Section 5 prohibits dealers from charging shop and other service-related fees unless a notice of fees is posted in a conspicuous place of the service area of the dealership. The total amount of fees must also be detailed on the repair order or invoice.
Senate Committee Takes on Judicial Reform
In an effort led by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), the House began to look at reform to the state judiciary during the 2017 long session and sent HB 717: Judicial Redistricting & Investment Act to the Senate in October. Since then, the Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting has held four meetings, including one this Wednesday.
Four reform plans that would give lawmakers a role in judicial appointment were presented to the committee, all of which would require a constitutional amendment to be approved by voters to become law. Additionally, the committee voted to ask House Speaker Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) to create a joint committee to find consensus on judicial redistricting and selection.
What do the Plans Look Like
While no draft legislation was introduced, the committee considered four plans for judicial reform: the blue federal appointment style plan, the orange Missouri style plan, the red South Carolina and Virginia model plan, and the purple balanced judicial selection plan. Because each of these plans would shift the state’s judiciary from an elected model to an appointment model, a change to the state’s constitution would be required. Constitutional referendums require approval from 3/5 of both the House and Senate and a majority vote from NC voters.
Yes, on Thursday, Speaker Moore and Sen. Berger appointed members to a new Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting, which will be chaired by Reps. Burr and David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sens. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) and Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick).
The committee members from the House side are: Reps. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), John Blust (R-Guilford), Ted Davis, Holly Grange, Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), Duane Hall (D-Wake), Darren Jackson (D-Wake), Joe John (D-Wake), Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe), Robert Reives (D-Lee), Billy Richardson (D-Franklin), David Rogers (R-Rutherford) and Sarah Stevens (R-Surry).
And on the Senate side: Sens. Dan Blue (D-Wake), Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake), Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), Joel Ford (D-Mecklenburg), Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), Floyd McKissick (D-Durham), Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes), Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) and Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe).
Yesterday, Speaker Moore responded to the Senate’s proposals, saying that it is too early to know whether the House will back the Senate’s move to an appointment style process, but that judicial reforms need to be wrapped up before judicial filing begins on June 18.
What to Expect
In short, with different approaches proposed by the House and Senate, and the potential for a constitutional amendment, judicial reform is poised to be a major topic of debate in the 2018 legislative year.
A Look Ahead to Next Week
Here’s a look at the week ahead:
Monday, January 8, 2018
1:00 PM House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions
3:00 PM Legislative Research Committee on Access to Health Care in Rural North Carolina
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
10:00 AM Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee
1:00 PM Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy
1:00 PM Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
12:00 PM House and Senate Sessions Convene
Thursday, January 11, 2018
9:00 AM Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee
1:00 PM Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee