The North Carolina General Assembly has finally ADJOURNED! And they did so just after 4:00 in the morning on Wednesday September 30th, 2015. The close of the nine-month long 2015 session was met with a round of applause from lawmakers, staff and the few of us brave lobbyists that remained in the galleries. Barring the Governor vetoing a bill or calling legislators to return for another matter, the North Carolina General Assembly will not reconvene until April 25th, 2016 for the legislature’s short session. Governor McCrory now has until October 30th to take action on any bills on his desk before they become law without his signature.
NC General Assembly wraps up eight months of lawmaking – at 4 a.m. – N&O
In the waning days leading up to adjournment, lawmakers addressed several issues, some that have been around for much of the session and some that were just seen for the first time this week. Among the provisions that moved in the last week, lawmakers addressed the bond package, legislative appointments, regulatory reform, Planned Parenthood, immigration, and elections just to name a few.
Legislature leaves hot topics on McCrory’s desk – N&O
Senate Bill 119, the Technical Corrections bill was the reason the legislature took so long to adjourn Wednesday morning. The perennial legislation is intended to make various clarifying and technical changes to statutes, but often contains revisions to policy as well. A Conference Committee began meeting just after midnight to resolve the differences in what Sen. Hartsell (R-Cabarrus) called a “Christmas tree” bill. Among other provisions, the Conference Report amended the Elections bill, which just passed the legislature last Thursday, to add the legislative caucuses and the Council of State to the list of “affiliated party committees”. It also modified legislation from earlier this year that redistricted the Greensboro City Council which is currently under litigation. The change would allow the Council to redistrict itself after the 2020 census. While they were waiting on the bill to be printed, lawmakers in the two chambers passed the time by throwing a football, shag dancing, singing and listening to music.
Senate Bill 513, The North Carolina Farm Act of 2015 makes several noncontroversial changes to benefit agriculture, North Carolina’s largest industry. However, one provision that was removed from the legislation last week, amid substantial controversy, was added back to the bill in a conference report. The provision transfers the oversight of deer farming from the Wildlife Resources Commission to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). Opponents are concerned about the spread of chronic wasting disease, but advocates of the transfer say that DACS is best equipped to handle the containment of any possible outbreak. Expressing his general opposition to raising deer in captivity for hunting, Rep. Brisson (D-Bladen) said, “I don’t see any more sportsmanship in it than walking out grandma’s back door and shooting the milk cow.”
Deer farming bill heads to governor – WRAL
House Bill 318 entitled Protect North Carolina Workers Act deals with food stamps and immigration. The bill prohibits the Department of Health & Human Services from seeking a waiver to the time limits established by federal law for able-bodied adults, without dependents, to receive food stamps. Another section of the bill places limitations on acceptable forms of identification that law enforcement and other government officials may use to officially determine an individual’s identity. It also requires law enforcement in localities to uphold federal immigration laws, eliminating “sanctuary cities” for people in the country illegally. The bill drew protest from the Hispanic community who delivered a petition to the Governor Wednesday asking him to veto the legislation. The Governor has not taken action on the bill, but did send a fundraising email earlier in the week calling for the end of sanctuary cities.
Opponents believe House bill targets undocumented immigrants, poor – WRAL
The Governor signed House Bill 373 into law Wednesday evening, which among several electoral changes moves the State’s primary elections up from May to March 15th. The intent of this change is to give North Carolina a more influential voice in the process of selecting presidential nominees. In all but a few cases, by the time North Carolina has held its primary election, a candidate from each party has all but secured the nomination. The provision also moves the filing period for candidates from February to the first week of December. This means that legislators seeking reelection will have to file less than a year into their two year term. Another provision that would have made the State an attractive, winner-take-all primary, was changed to allow proportional allocation of delegates. The most controversial section of the bill creates “affiliated party committees” which can operate in the same fashion as the statewide Republican and Democratic parties, but as their own entities. The bill only allows the State’s House and Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses to form these committees. This prompted the Governor to threaten to veto the bill. However, a change made in the Technical Corrections bill allows Council of State candidates to do the same, which appeased the Governor’s concerns.
North Carolina primaries now on March 15 with bill signing – Record & Landmark
House Bill 8, entitled Court of Appeals Election Modifications, restores partisan judicial labels next to the names of candidates for the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Currently a candidate’s party affiliation is absent on the ballot and all candidates for a seat on the Court run in a collective primary to determine two candidates. Opponents argue that partisan politics should remain absent from judicial elections. However, proponents argue that this change would make the process more transparent as political parties currently endorse judicial candidates and include their names on material they distribute at the polls. Under this bill, all candidates will still participate in a collective primary, meaning that two candidates of the same party could still face off in the general election. The bill awaits action from the Governor.
Bill requires Court of Appeals candidates to list parties – WRAL
In its final version, Senate Bill 279 rewrites qualifications for professional counselors and changes curriculum requirements for reproductive education in schools. A Conference Report to the bill had included new provisions that would have overturned local ordinances establishing higher minimum wages as well as nondiscrimination and safety ordinances. The Conference Report came directly to the floor for adoption which included the entirely new language, which Rep. Jackson (D-Wake) correctly pointed out is against House rules. The specific rule says that Conference Reports containing language that was not contained in either chamber’s version must be vetted in Committee. He then made a motion to send the bill to the Rules Committee which passed with the help of several Republicans. The House Rules Committee met shortly after to review the bill and members voted 14-7 not to send the legislation back to the floor. Sen. Barefoot (R-Wake), the bill sponsor, was able to revive the an earlier version of the bill in a series of procedural motions. This allowed the Senate to reconsider the vote to approve the House version, which did not include the language overturning local ordinances.
NC does not pass bill on city, county rules on housing, wages – Citizen-Times
Legislature’s move to restrict local government fails – N&O
Senate Bill 670 imposed term limits for the UNC Board of Governors, restricting service to no more than three, four-year terms beginning in 2017. Another provision that would have made the list of finalists in the search for the next president of the UNC system public was removed. The bill awaits action from the Governor.
UNC bill drops public disclosure of presidential finalists – N&O
House bill 297 entitled End Marketing/Sale of Unborn Children Body Parts, does just as the title suggests. The bill comes in response to several online videos of members from Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal tissue. It also eliminates any State funding for any organization, such as Planned Parenthood, that provides family planning services, pregnancy prevention activities, or adolescent parenting programs that also performs abortions. Governor McCrory signed the bill into law Thursday.
N.C. House passes bill banning sale of fetal body parts – Jones & Blount
North Carolina governor signs fetal tissue sale ban bill – WRAL
Senate Bill 676, Autism Health Insurance Coverage, requires insurance companies to cover certain treatments for children with autism. The bill awaits action from the Governor.
New bill mandates coverage of therapy for autistic children – WRAL
Senate Bill 698 exempts existing hospital facilities that have closed and are not currently operating from Certificate of Need laws and allows them to reopen if certain requirements and conditions are met. The bill is aimed at reopening hospitals in Belhaven and Yadkinville. The bill awaits action from the Governor.
Several pieces of notable legislation that were moving but did not pass before adjournment including Senate Bill 605, Various Changes to the Revenue Laws; House Bill 482, Employee Misclassification Reform; House Bill 436, Unauthorized Practice of Law Changes; Senate Bill 561, Funds for Special Education Scholarships; and House Bill 539, Charter School Funding. Any bills that crossed over from one chamber to the other remain eligible for the 2016 short session.
NC Senate votes to shift funds from traditional public schools to charters – Charlotte Observer
Voucher expansion narrowly rejected – WRAL
Legislation in the News:
A bipartisan majority in the House voted to pass House Bill 943, entitled the Connect NC Bond Act of 2015, early Wednesday morning, sending the bill to the Governor. Upon the Governor’s signature, which is expected since he advocated strongly for the issue, the question will go before the voters for their approval on the 2016 primary election ballot. Since the Governor signed the elections bill into law, which moved the State’s primaries from May to March, a vote on the bond would take place on March 15, 2016. Upon the approval of the voters, the bond will fund infrastructure projects for the UNC system, the Community College system, and several other new projects or renovations for existing facilities in State government. Governor McCrory had originally proposed a larger bond package that was closer to $3 Billion and included money for transportation projects. The legislature however cites their move in the budget to end the transfer of funds from the Highway Trust Fund to the general fund, allocating an additional $216 Million each year towards road construction.
Governor McCrory signed House Bill 117, the NC Competes Act on Wednesday. The law makes several changes designed to help business in the State.
Job Development & Investment Grant (JDIG) modifications that would:
- Increase the available funds in JDIG to $20 Million per calendar year with no high yield project
- Provide additional $15 Million in flexibility to attract high yield projects ($500+ Million in investment/1,750 jobs) bringing maximum JDIG availability per calendar year to $35 Million
- Extend program three years to January 1, 2019
- Require tier three counties to have local government participation in recruitment of the project and to have offered additional incentives to be eligible for JDIG funds
- Require local match for One NC fund on a tiered requirement: 3 State dollars for 1 local dollar for Tier 1 Counties; 2 State dollars for 1 local dollar for Tier 2; and an even local match for Tier 3
- Make various tax changes for data centers and aviation
McCrory signs job plan into law – Jones & Blount
The legislature approved House Bill 765, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015. Among the proposed provisions that streamline or eliminate antiquated rules and regulations hindering business, the bill:
- Makes clarifications for legislative appointments by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro-Tem of the Senate
- Amends the definition of employee under the Workers’ Compensation Act to exclude volunteers and officers of certain nonprofit corporations and associations
- Makes various changes to laws regarding wastewater, storm water and air quality
- Codifies practices for environmental self-audit privileges and limited immunity for businesses and other entities
- Studies the recycling of computer equipment, televisions, other electronics and solar panels
- Establishes “life of site” permits for sanitary landfills and makes fee adjustments
- Permits pigeon hunting
- Creates animal cruelty hotline
In Other News
- Just before the legislature adjourned Wednesday morning, Speaker Pro-Tem Paul “Skip” Stam (R-Wake) announced that he would not seek reelection to the North Carolina House of Representatives. Stam, 65, is currently serving his 8th term in the House and will serve the remainder of his term. During his tenure in the General Assembly, he has been a vocal opponent of abortion and gay marriage as well as a staunch advocate for school choice, charter schools and redistricting reform, even after Republicans took control of the process. Stam has made no public indication of desires to run for higher office, but that can always change. Read more from WRAL here.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office has opened an investigation into the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services. Read more from the N&O here.
- The Executive Committee for the North Carolina Republican party selected Dallas Woodhouse to serve as the next executive director of the NCGOP. Read more from WRAL here.