The legislature continued a slow pace this week, with Senate leadership spending most of its time behind closed doors making the final decisions on its proposed budget. The Senate is expected to release their budget early next week and vote on the bill by the end of the week. Once approved, the House and Senate will start the conference process, where the two chambers will work to resolve differences between their two budgets.
North Carolina recently renewed its partnership with Moldova. Moldova is a small European country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union and is also one of the poorest counties in Europe. The partnership began in 1999, and states that the two will cooperate in the areas of civil emergency operations, expansion of markets, cultural, scientific and academic exchanges, and the coordination of humanitarian efforts.
NC Sec. of State: https://www.sosnc.gov/divisions/moldova_partnership
News & Observer: https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article230434764.html
Paid Parental Leave Executive Order
Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 95 this week, which will give state employees a new paid parental leave benefit. Under current law, employees are given 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Executive Order 95 grants state employees eight weeks of paid leave for mothers and four weeks of paid leave for fathers. The order will affect 56,000 state employees, but only applies to cabinet agency employees and will not extend to other employees who are under different Council of State members, like the Department of Justice and Department of Public Instruction. Governor Cooper said that his order will cost around $3.5 million, but that agencies could cover the costs with their existing budgets. Cooper cited health benefits associated with allowing parents to be with new born children, and also stated that the new benefit will help with employee turnover. While the order does not affect employees in the private sector, Cooper mentioned that he would push for legislation to make it a requirement.
Wastewater Infrastructure Funding
Lawmakers are trying to solve the growing problem of wastewater infrastructure funding in North Carolina. Many local governments do not have the funds to maintain their current wastewater systems. Some of the systems were built to service large manufacturing industries which are no longer in operation. Other systems, which were already strained, suffered damage during recent hurricanes. Senate Bill 536 establishes a “viable utility reserve” to help fund wastewater needs across the State. The bill funds the reserve with a $1 monthly fee on water bills and another $1 fee on sewage bills. However, Senator Harry Brown, the bill sponsor, has indicated that the fees will be removed and he will seek state funding in the budget instead. The bill also lifts regulatory burdens that prevent smaller wastewater systems from merging.
Sports Gambling Bill
The House Commerce Committee approved a contentious bill this week to allow sports betting. House Bill 929 establishes the Gaming Commission within the Department of Commerce, and would be in charge of regulating fantasy sports, the NC Education Lottery, and boxing matches. Bill sponsors claim that fantasy sports betting, where chance outweighs skill, has been going on for some time, and that the bill seeks to regulate the industry and will provide the State with new revenue. Opponents cite concerns that the bill is condoning gambling and will increase the number of people betting their money away.
2019 Session Laws
The following 15 bills have become law this session:
- SB 7: Bipartisan Ethics Appointments
- SB 75: Restore Ct. of Appeals Membership
- SB 77: Ag Disaster Fund/Certain Counties
- SB 214: Ensure Orderly 2019 Elections
- SB 12: Fill Certain Vacancies/Alexander & Burke Co.
- SB 56: Revenue Laws Technical Changes
- SB 4: Extend Terms of 2 Members/Coastal Carolina CC
- SB 272: Zoning for University Facilities-Durham
- SB 6: Dare County/CC Construction Funds
- SB 162: Loan Origination/Late Payment Charge Changes
- HB 263: Fill Vacancies/Modify 2018 Appointments
- SB 63: City of Kannapolis/Annexation
- HB: 130: Allow Game Nights
- SB 505: Rural Job Retention Act
- SB 605: Highway Storm Recovery Act