Lawmakers plan to take a one-week reprieve from legislating next week for the Easter Holiday. Members of the House and Senate will be in Raleigh for the first part of the week, but will recess after Tuesday until the following Wednesday.
The House began the week revisiting the consolidation into a single board, the powers and duties of the State Board of Elections, the State Ethics Commission, and the Secretary of State’s oversight of lobbyists. After a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the Governor regarding a lawsuit over the matter, House Republicans passed another measure this week that was similar, yet different from the overturned law that was passed last December. This legislation would retain the Governor’s authority to appoint the members, and the Chair, of the board, but would still require a bipartisan 4-4 split, and would require the Governor to select members from a list provided by each of the State's two largest political parties. A spokesman for Gov. Cooper (D), has indicated that the Governor intends to veto the bill.
The House concurred with Senate modifications to House Bill 7, entitled LRC/Strengthen Savings Reserve, sponsored by Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake). The bill mandates that the General Assembly continue to strengthen the State’s “rainy day fund” by transferring 15% of each fiscal year's estimated revenue growth to the savings reserve. The bill awaits action from the Governor.
The House also passed Senate Bill 131, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba), in a bipartisan vote of 84-27. The bill amends several State laws related to State and local government regulation and agricultural, energy, business regulation, environmental, and natural resources regulation. The House made a number of technical changes to which the Senate must concur before the bill goes to the Governor. The bill title notes 2016 because the legislation contains the provisions that passed both chambers from last year’s Regulatory Reform Act, which ultimately failed to pass.
An attempt by Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender), to shepherd House Bill 470, entitled Responsible Wind Energy Implementation, through the House Committee on Homeland Security, Military & Veterans Affairs, was defeated by a vote of 12-6. The bill, which is yet another attempt to restrict wind farms, would have required, among other provisions, that wind farms cannot be with 30 miles of a military installation. Millis noted that this setback will not deter him from continuing to push the issue.
The Senate Rules Committee gave a favorable report to House Bill 229, entitled Reduce Court of Appeals to 12 Judges, sponsored by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly).
The bill would lessen the number of judges by three, from 15 to 12, as vacancies arise due to a mandatory judicial retirement age or other resignation. Under current law, Gov. Cooper would appoint successors to any vacant seat.
The Senate continued the process of confirming more of Gov. Cooper’s Cabinet nominees. The Senate unanimously confirmed Secretary Mandy Cohen of the Department of Health & Human services (DHHS) and Secretary Machelle Sanders of the Department of Administration. Both Secretary Tony Copeland of the Department of Commerce and Secretary Michael Regan of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) received unanimous Committee recommendations in the first step toward their confirmation. Gov. Cooper announced his final two Cabinet appointments today. He appointed Ron Penny for Secretary of the Department of Revenue (DOR) and Eric Boyette for Secretary of the Department of Information Technology (DIT).
Ahead of the Senate’s Tuesday bill filing deadline, Senators scrambled to ensure their legislative proposals were introduced. The Senate last week, extended its bill filing deadline for public bills until Tuesday, and does not have deadlines for Appropriations/Finance bills. In the House, non-Appropriation/Finance public bills and resolutions must be filed by next Wednesday, April 12th. Public bills that do have an impact on Appropriations or Finance must be filed by April 25th. Crossover currently remains scheduled for April 27th, although that date may change.
In total 212 bills were filed this week, with 116 in the House and 96 bills filed in the Senate, bringing the total number of bills filed so far this session to 1,338. After 11 weeks of session, only 4 bills total have become law, with one bill pending on the Governor’s desk. 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.
Notable bill filings from this week include:
House Bill 546 – Revise IVC Laws to Improve Behavioral Health
House Bill 571 – Automatic Expunction/Wrongful Conviction
House Bill 578 – Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws
Senate Bill 615 – North Carolina Farm Act of 2017
Senate Bill 621 – Business Contracts/Choice of Law and Forum
Senate Bill 622 – Business Corporation Act Revisions
Senate Bill 628 – Various Changes to the Revenue Laws
Senate Bill 629 – Health Care Services Billing Transparency
Legislation in the News:
Legislators And Physicians Target Opioids – NC Health News
NC bill would raise legal vaping and smoking age to 21, some exceptions included – Winston-Salem Journal
Bills would keep legal ads in print – Havelock News
Boswell, Cook sponsor bills aimed at shrimping rule petition – Outer Banks Voice
Senate Tax Relief
The Senate passed Senate Bill 325, the Senate tax relief plan sponsored by Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), and Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union), the Co-Chairs of the Senate Finance Committee. Senate leadership has touted the bill as $1 Billion in tax relief for the middle class. The proposal passed 34-13 on party lines. Highlights include:
- Reducing the State personal income tax rate from 5.499% to 5.35%;
- Raising the standard deduction to remove approximately 94,000 people from income tax liability in the State, increasing the share of the income tax burden towards wealthier individuals, without increasing their taxes. The amount of income in the zero-tax-bracket would increase: from $17,500 to $20,000 by 2018 for married filing jointly; from $14,000 to $15,000 for head of household; and from $8,750 to $10,000 for single filings or married filing separately;
- Modifies the mortgage interest deduction which is currently capped at $20,000 to: $22,000 for married filing jointly; $16,500 for head of household; and $11,000 for single filings or married filing separately;
- Modifies the child deduction amount to coincide with adjusted growth income and filing status, scaling from $2,500 deduction for each dependent in the lowest income bracket, to zero deduction for the highest income bracket;
- Reduces the State’s corporate income tax rate, which is currently 3%, would drop to 2.75% in 2018 and 2.5% in 2019;
- Provides a reduction to the franchise tax for S-Corporations;
- Shifts the method of tax collection on some businesses to market-based sourcing. The move benefits North Carolina based businesses by shifting to taxation on a company’s revenues from sales from the State, rather than taxing investments and employment.