Lawmakers were eager to wrap up business early this week before the long weekend. The House held their final floor vote session Wednesday afternoon while the Senate held their final voting session for the week Thursday morning. Neither the House nor the Senate will hold voting sessions again until Tuesday of next week.
As legislators await the unveiling of the Senate's state budget proposal, both House and Senate lawmakers have been working to move forward with bills that survived the recent crossover deadline, or, have shifted their focus to those that were not required to meet the self-imposed deadline earlier this month.
The team at MWC Raleigh would like to wish you a safe and happy Memorial Day. We are grateful for those who have served our nation.
Senate Budget Schedule
Senate lawmakers have been hard at work behind the scenes putting together their version of the state budget. Senate leaders are expected to be ready to share the proposal with the public as soon as Tuesday of next week. Following the initial unveiling of the budget, appropriations subcommittees will meet to discuss their areas of budget early next week. If all goes according to plan, the Senate’s budget proposal will be up for debate and floor vote sessions on Thursday and Friday.
Once the Senate passes their version of the state budget, both the House and the Senate will come together to, essentially, start the process over again through conference committees. Then, lawmakers will send a final version off to the Governor for his approval. The House passed their version of the budget earlier this month.
While the Senate has not officially released their proposal, lawmakers have passed legislation that aligns with several of the provisions laid out in the House budget. SB 622: Tax Reduction Act of 2019 has several parts, including provisions to reduce the franchise tax rate and provide tax and regulatory relief to nonresident businesses and employees that come to North Carolina to help with disaster-related work. The bill passed through the Senate Monday in a 28-13 vote. It now awaits a hearing in the House Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations.
Both the House and the Senate moved through a variety of bills this week to update the rules and regulations surrounding alcoholic beverages in North Carolina. HB 363: Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act made it past its final step in the House with a near unanimous floor vote on Monday. The bill is a compromise between local craft breweries and beer distributors, a back-and-forth that has been going on between the two for years. The bill allows craft breweries to self-distribute barrels of their brew.
The House Committee on Alcoholic Beverage Control moved forward with a bill to change how hard ciders are taxed. HB 995: Hard Cider/Revise Excise Tax Rate would change the tax on hard ciders to align with the tax that is currently levied on other craft beers. Currently, ciders are taxed at the same rate as wine, as they are both made of fruit, even though wine has a much higher alcohol content. Through this bill, ciders would be treated the same way as other beers for tax purposes.
Over in the Senate, the Judiciary committee moved forward with changes to the state’s Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) team. In 2014, the ALE was placed under the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). HB 99: Transfer ALE would undo this, moving the ALE from under the SBI over to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). ALE would have their own department within DPS. Proponents of the change hope that this will get more of the organization’s agents out from behind their desks and back into the field.
Voter ID Clarifications
A bill to resolve issues with university student IDs and government employee IDs made its way through the Senate this week. HB 646: ID Approval/Flex Muni. One-Stop already passed the House in a 100-9 vote. The bill allows for students who attend UNC system universities to use their student IDs as valid forms of voter IDs in an election. This bill comes following issues many universities faced last year when applying to have their IDs qualify as eligible forms of identification. The bill is an effort to resolve these issues by this fall.
The bill allows provides additional flexibility to municipalities on their early voting schedules. Currently, early voting takes place from 7:00AM to 7:00PM for 17 days. When discussed in committee, Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) brought up the possibility of allowing early voting to take place the last Saturday before the election. Bill sponsor Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) said he would support that sort of amendment if it were to be proposed. Opponents of the idea argue that early voting does not take place on the final Saturday prior to the election in order to give the Board of Elections time to get everything together for the following week. The bill passed through the Senate Thursday in a 45-0 vote without an amendment to extend the early voting period.
The General Assembly’s annual Regulatory Reform Act passed through the Senate committee on Agriculture/Environment/ Natural Resources on Thursday.
The debate around Senate Bill 553: Regulatory Reform Act of 2019 featured the proposed repeal of the North Carolina’s nine year old ban on electronic landfill disposal. Currently, in the state there is a ban against throwing away equipment such a scanners, computers, and televisions in landfills. Proponents cited that technology has changed and that electronics are now much smaller than they were when the ban was first implemented.
Opponents of this section of the bill highlighted that electronics such as computers have highly combustible parts that could leak if damaged in a landfill cause potential hazards. Others urged legislators to slow the bill down and study the issue more before passing the bill.
Other highlights of the bill include amendments to the NC Plumbing Code, no longer requiring water fountains in businesses under 3,000 square feet, requiring all state occupational licensing boards to study offering online continuing education, modifying real estate licensure requirements for time share sales, and modifying landfill regulation. The bill now heads to the Senate Committee on Rules.