This Week 

The North Carolina political community was saddened to learn Wednesday, that former Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg), who chose not to seek reelection in 2014, has been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Rep. Samuelson is said to be in good spirits, vowing to fight the disease. We ask that you keep her in your prayers and hope that she gets well soon. For updates, you can visit her Caring Bridge webpage here. 
Former Rep. Ruth Samuelson diagnosed with stage 4 cancer: ‘God’s got me in his hands’ – Charlotte Observer 

The House Finance Committee reviewed the finance portion of Senate budget on Tuesday and followed it with a unanimous rejection from the full House on the floor Wednesday. Members of the Committee pointed to some inconsistencies and problems with interpreting the Senate proposals, particularly regarding the “clarifications” to the new sales tax on services. Conferees are expected to begin work immediately, possibly working through the weekend in an attempt to resolve the differences between the two budgets to keep pace with the goal of adjourning prior to the 4th of July. 

Teacher raises and more under negotiation – N&O 

State association lobbies legislators for retiree raises – Sun-Journal 

In a Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday, Sen. Apodaca announced that House Bill 161 would soon be heard in the Senate Health Committee. In its current form, the bill sponsored by Rep. B. Richardson (D-Nash), designates the bobcat as the State cat. However, the Senate intends to use a Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) to eliminate the current language and replace it with language to repeal the Certificate of Need (CON) law by 2021. No other details have been offered as to when the bill will be heard or what other provisions will be contained. 

Cat bill strays into health policy reform – WRAL 

House Bill 1069, sponsored by Rep. Cleveland (R-Onslow), passed the House Regulatory Reform Committee on Wednesday. The bill, among other provisions, reduces from 25 to 5, the number of employees an employer must have before the employer is required to use E-Verify to verify the status of the employer's newly hired employees. It also establishes an exemption for farm workers, independent contractors, and individuals who provide domestic services in a private home that is sporadic, irregular, or intermittent. It does however repeal an exemption for law enforcement, which currently allows officers to accept non-state or community based forms of identification. The removal of this provision is opposed by the NC Sheriff’s Association and the bill has a serial referral to the House Appropriations Committee before it can be heard by the full House. 

Undocumented ID crackdown moves forward – WRAL 

Legislation in the News: 

New welfare reform bill targets lottery winners – WRAL 

High schoolers would choose between two types of math classes under NC Senate bill – N&O 

NC bill would shield police body-camera video from public disclosure – WRAL 

Newly legal industrial hemp could face extra regulations in NC – N&O 

Apodaca may push district elections change for Asheville – Citizen-Times 

Lawmakers discuss zip line regulation after fatal 2015 accident – WECT

NC lawmakers debate charter schools’ share of local school dollars – WRAL 

More NC eugenics victims could become eligible for compensation – N&O

Senate Regulatory Reduction

On Tuesday, the Senate Rules Committee again addressed a House Bill 169, the Regulatory Reduction Act of 2016 in another PCS. After passing the Senate Commerce Committee two weeks ago, the bill was calendared and then returned to the Rules Committee. Another PCS was adopted on Wednesday and calendared for Thursday, but withdrawn from the floor that morning. All of the changes have been minor, and the most recent version of the bill: 

  • Places additional restrictions on the adoption of administrative rules by State agencies that have excessive financial cost
  • Exempts certain building code classifications from energy efficiency standards
  • Streamlines mortgage notice requirements
  • Allows distilleries to set retail prices for the sale of their products outside of the state excluding ABC markups
  • Exempts yard waste from requiring a solid waste permit for the transfer, treatment, processing, storage, or disposal in a permitted solid waste management facility
  • Repeals several rules regulating the licensing of hospitals pertaining to physical plant, general requirements, and construction requirements and directs 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
  • Repeals recycling requirements for discarded computer equipment and televisions
  • Eliminates, consolidates, and amends various reports to the Environmental Review Commission

A previous version also had included a provision, now removed, allowing distilleries in the state to sell one bottle of each of their products, per person, per year, on site at the distillery. The bill is now scheduled to be heard on the Senate floor Monday evening.

House Regulatory Reform

A PCS for Senate Bill 303 was unveiled in the House Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday. It received an additional approval from the House finance committee on Thursday. Among other provisions, the bill: 

  • Clarifies that a franchisor is not the employer of a franchisee or employees of a franchisee for employment law claims under state law
  • Requires counties and cities to treat an affirmative vote to amend a zoning ordinance as a simultaneous amendment to the comprehensive plan and the unified development ordinance, if any
  • Provides a 3 year statute of limitations for a unit of local government to institute an action for a violation of a land use statute, ordinance, permit, or other official action concerning land use carrying the effect of law
  • Authorizes the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee to study State law and internal agency policies and procedures for delivery of public services through State grants and contracts to non-profit organizations
  • Makes technical, clarifying, and conforming changes to provisions enacted in 2015 to establish life-of-site permits for sanitary landfills and transfer stations
  • Allows the Secretary of the newly created Department of Military & Veterans Affairs to disapprove wind energy projects if he or she finds construction or operation of the proposed facility encroaches upon or results in a significant adverse impact on any military installation in the State
  • Eliminates, consolidates, and amends various reports to the Environmental Review Commission

Coal Ash

On Monday, Governor McCrory vetoed Senate Bill 71 which revives the now defunct Coal Ash Commission. The administration has cited the recent NC Supreme Court decision in McCrory v. Berger regarding separation of powers, and challenges the proposal’s constitutionality. Neither chamber has attempted a veto override, even though both chambers passed the bill initially with veto-proof majorities. Rep. McGrady (R-Henderson), the bill sponsor said late Thursday night on social media that he was working on new legislation that would include the piping of clean water to those near coal ash basins and more use of coal ash in cement. The vetoed legislation: 

  • Requires Duke Energy to provide permanent alternative water supplies for residents in areas surrounding coal ash ponds
  • Extends the period for public comment and review of proposed risk classifications for coal ash ponds 
  • Modifies 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.

Coal ash veto override dammed up – WRAL 

New coal ash legislation in the works – Carolina Public Press

Tuesday's Primary

Just 7.68% of the State’s 6.6 Million registered voters came out to vote in Tuesday’s special primary elections for the State’s highest court and all 13 congressional districts. Incumbent North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds handily won the four-way, nonpartisan primary with 48% of the vote. He will face the second highest vote getter, Judge Mike Morgan, in November. Justice Edmunds was forced to run for reelection after the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in a 3-3 split decision, invalidating recently passed retention elections for Supreme Court Justices. Justice Edmunds recused himself from participating in the Supreme Court ruling. 

The case was the result of a 2015 law that allowed sitting Justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court to run for reelection in retention elections instead of a traditional competitive election against an opponent. Plaintiffs argued that a Constitutional Amendment is required for such a change. The only the Supreme Court seat on the ballot in the 2016 election is currently held by Edmunds. 

After a federal court required the General Assembly to redraw the State’s congressional districts, the primaries for those offices were held Tuesday. In February, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts refused to issue a stay on a lower court opinion, which ruled the 1st and 12th Congressional districts unconstitutional for being racial gerrymanders. The NCGA was then directed to redraw the district maps. 

As a result, legislative leaders determined that new maps would exclude race as a factor and redraw all 13 districts to be more compact geographically. They also openly stated that the new maps would indeed be a partisan gerrymander, to maintain the current 10-3 GOP majority in the Congressional delegation. Incumbency was also a factor taken into consideration for redrawing the maps, and most incumbents were not included in the same district, although several found themselves in districts that were quite different from their prior district. 

Under general law, a candidate in a primary must win at least 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff. However, a one-time exception, allowing a simple plurality to win the primary, was included for the June 7th primary. Another one-time exception allowed candidates already running for another office, to run in the June congressional primaries. The modification allows the winner of the June Congressional primary to choose which office they will seek in the general election. That change led a number of current members of the NCGA to run for Congress without relinquishing their seats in the General Assembly. Interestingly, none were successful in their bids for higher office. 

All of this, combined with no requirement to reside in a specific Congressional district, created a few notable races. In the 2nd District, Rep. George Holding (R-13) was victorious over fellow incumbent, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-2), in a district more geographically similar to the district she won in 2010, prior to the 2011 redistricting. However, Holding currently represents roughly 60% of the new 2nd District and decided to run there, after his residence was drawn into the new, overwhelmingly Democratic 4th. Failed Republican contender for U.S. Senate in 2014 and 2016, Dr. Greg Brannon also sought the seat. The districts electoral makeup strongly favors a Republican in November. 

The 9th District is currently represented by Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-9) but changed dramatically following redistricting. Formerly located around the Charlotte area, the new district runs eastward along the South Carolina border from Charlotte, and to Fayetteville. Rep. Pittenger, who has represented the 9th since 2012, has recently been in the news regarding FBI investigations into some of his personal business dealings. Pittenger faced a primary from Rev. Mark Harris who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2014, losing in the primary to now Sen. Thom Tillis (R). Following Tuesday’s primary, Rep. Pittenger declared victory, but led Rev. Harris by less than 150 votes, 34% to 33.6%, within the 1% margin for Rev. Harris to call a recount. The district strongly favors a Republican in November. 

The 12th district, a majority/minority district currently represented by Rep. Alma Adams (D-12), who lived in Greensboro, stretched from Greensboro to Charlotte. The redrawn 12th is contained exclusively in Mecklenburg County. Adams handily won the primary, amid accusations that she had not moved to the district after claiming she had. She was challenged by former State Sen. Malcolm Graham, who ran for the seat in 2014, as well as current State Representatives Rodney Moore, Tricia Cotham and Carla Cunningham. The district strongly favors a Democrat in November. 

The 13th District was an open-seat within an entirely new geographical location. The 13th is perhaps the most competitive district in the State, although its electoral makeup still slightly favors a Republican. Several Republicans from the General Assembly sought the seat in a 17-person race, including State Representatives Julia Howard (R-Davie), John Blust (R-Guilford), Harry Warren (R-Rowan) and State Senator Andrew Brock (R-Davie). Ultimately, the race was won by Ted Budd, a political newcomer and gun store owner who won with roughly 20% of the vote, after being endorsed and funded by several national conservative groups.

Many incumbents advance, Ellmers loses, Pittenger fighting – Charlotte Observer 

Ellmers Loses 2nd District Primary; Edmunds Advances – Carolina Journal