This Week

Lawmakers have left Raleigh to enjoy a long weekend, planning to return Tuesday following Memorial Day. The House held a no vote session on Thursday, but the Senate continued to work, unveiling proposals for a farm bill and regulatory reform and holding several votes on the floor. Upon their return next week, the Senate is expected to begin moving their budget proposal and work through the week to send their 2016-17 fiscal priorities back to the House for concurrence.

Sen. Berger (R-Rockingham), held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the Senate budget proposal will raise the average teacher pay to over $54,000 by the 2017-18 school year. No other details of the budget were released. The two-year, $2,000 increase for the standard deduction is also expected to be included in the proposal among other provisions, as well as a proposed phase-out of the Certificate of Need (CON) law. The source of funding for the teacher raises and the tax reduction was not disclosed.

Senate GOP pitches teacher raise plan – WRAL

Senate Republicans propose big teacher pay hike – N&O

Tuesday, the Senate unanimously gave its approval to Senate Bill 818, sponsored by Sen. Rucho (R-Mecklenburg). The bill increases the standard deduction to $17,500 for married filing jointly, over a two-year period in $1,000 increments. The timetable for the bill is a faster proposal than that proposed in the House budget. The House proposed raising the zero bracket to $17,500, but over a four-year period in $500 increments.
Senate passes bill to cut taxes faster than House plan – News & Record

A proposal to lower the tuition to $500 per semester at 5 North Carolina universities stalled on Thursday. Senate Bill 873, sponsored by Sen. Apodaca (R-Henderson), would affect UNC Pembroke, Elizabeth City State University, Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, and Western Carolina University. The bill was scheduled for a floor vote Thursday, but was sent to the Senate Rules Committee after discussions with UNC System President, Margaret Spellings, who asked for time to develop a strategy for marketing the change.

Vote on low NC tuition bill delayed – N&O

Spellings discusses UNC tuition bill, HB2 with Board of Governors – WRAL

Legislation in the News:

House bill seeks new management for failing NC schools – WRAL

Lawmakers consider background checks for all school employees – N&O

Bill could put an end to safe havens for immigrants – News Herald

Legislators tweak special property tax districts to empower property owners – N&O

Coal Ash Commission

Tuesday afternoon, the House held a Rules Committee to unveil new language in Senate Bill 71, which is Rep. McGrady’s (R-Henderson) attempt to revive the now defunct Coal Ash Commission. The Governor’s General Counsel, Bob Stephens, and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary, Don Van der Vaart, were present at the meeting to oppose the bill. Stephens cited the recent NC Supreme Court decision in McCrory v. Berger regarding separation of powers, and challenged the proposal’s constitutionality. The proposal, which has been evolving for several weeks would:

  • Require Duke Energy to provide permanent alternative water supplies for residents in areas surrounding coal ash ponds
  • Extend the period for public comment and review of proposed risk classifications for coal ash ponds
  • Modify appointments to the Coal Ash Management Commission, the Mining Commission, and the Oil and Gas Commission, in accord with the legislature’s view of the holding of McCrory v. Berger.

On Wednesday, the bill was heard in the House Appropriations Committee and then on the floor. Governor McCrory has said that he will veto the proposal, however, the House passed the bill with a veto-proof majority, 86-25. The Senate disagreed with one provision that was added to the House proposal and voted not-to-concur, sending the bill to a Conference Committee to resolve the differences between the two chambers.
Last-minute change delays passage of coal ash bill – WRAL
Coal ash bill on collision course with governor – N&O

Farm Bill

The Senate Thursday, unveiled a new Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) for Senate Bill 770, the NC Farm Act of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Jackson (R-Sampson). Among other provisions, the bill would:

  • Grant the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) several new powers to enforce the DACS bedding sanitation program
  • Authorize DACS to appoint and deploy agricultural emergency response teams to respond to agricultural emergencies.
  • Authorize employees of the Wildlife Resources Commission and employees of federal agencies whose responsibilities include fisheries and wildlife management, to cull feral swine from an aircraft with the written permission of the landowner
  • Eliminate the rendering plant inspection committee
  • Allow local school boards to develop and implement policies to facilitate and maximize purchases of food grown or raised in North Carolina
  • Extend the sunset for the production credit for commercial facilities for processing renewable fuel from January 1, 2017 to January 1, 2020.
  • Provide that no permit is required for the construction, installation, repair, replacement, or alteration activities costing $15,000 or less in residential and farm structures for certain types of projects
  • Exempt any activity that constitutes a bona fide farm use, including the production of mulch, ornamental plants, sod, and other horticultural products from the Sedimentation Pollution Control Act
  • Waive or prorate deferred taxes when property under present use valuation (PUV) is transferred for less than its true value to a nonprofit entity for conservation or historical preservation

Would decrease the average gross income requirement exemption from sales and use tax for certain tangible personal property, digital property, and services purchased by a qualifying farmer for farming purposes from $10,000 to $5,000

Regulatory Reform

In the Senate Judiciary II Committee, Sen. Wade (R-Guilford) presented a PCS to House bill 169, which will be the vehicle for the Regulatory Reduction Act of 2016. Among other provisions, the bill would:

  • Place additional restrictions on the adoption of administrative rules by State agencies that have excessive financial cost
  • Exempt certain building code classifications from energy efficiency standards
  • Streamline mortgage notice requirements
  • Allow distilleries in the state to sell one bottle of each of their products, per person, per year, on site at the distillery and allow them to set their own retail prices for the sale of their products outside of the state
  • Repeal several rules regulating the licensing of hospitals pertaining to physical plant, general requirements, and construction requirements and direct the Medical Care Commission to adopt the recommendations of the American Society of Healthcare Engineers’ Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospitals and Outpatient Facilities
  • Repeal recycling requirements for discarded computer equipment and televisions
  • Eliminate, consolidate, and amend various reports to the Environmental Review Commission

In Other News

Early voting for North Carolina’s congressional primaries and the primary for the single seat on the NC Supreme Court up in the 2016 election, currently occupied by Justice Bob Edmunds, began yesterday. The June 7th primaries for the 13 congressional seats and the NC Supreme Court are the result of two separate pieces of litigation which nullified previous congressional district boundaries and retention elections for sitting Supreme Court Justices. The Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has yet to rule on the validity of the new Congressional districts.

Early voting sites limited ahead of June 7 primary – N&O

North Carolina may gain 16 new households by way of altering the state line with South Carolina, in response to a discussion that began in the mid-90’s regarding the 300 plus-mile border between the two states. Three North Carolinian home owners may also find themselves Palmetto State tax payers depending on the outcome of legislation and discussions with our southern brethren. Senate Bill 575, filed by Sen. Tucker (R-Union), would shift the state line, moving the aforementioned residents unmistakably into the opposite state. It would also split 54 properties, the owners of which could decide in which state they wish to reside. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday and now awaits action in the House.

North Carolina-South Carolina border could shift after years of debate – N&O

In the News

Report: NC economy surges 'very strong' 3.4% - WRAL TechWire

Black pastors rally support for HB2, saying LGBT rights are not civil rights – N&O

Compared to 2015, NC budget talks looking simpler – WRAL

NC falls behind – again – on poultry power goals – N&O

NC Supreme Court visit historic for Morganton – News Herald

First election with voter ID offers lessons, anxiety – WRAL

Trying to stand out: Candidates in new 13th District look for ways to distinguish themselves – Winston-Salem Journal

Records: Details scarce on governor's use of mountain house – WLOS

Futuristic transportation system on track to becoming reality at N.C. State University – TBJ

Other Useful Links:

Office of the Governor

North Carolina General Assembly