The 2010 Short Session reached sine die adjournment early on Saturday morning, bringing the 2009-2010 North Carolina General Assembly biennium to a close. Legislators worked through the night to wrap up debate on several notable issues before the final gavels were sounded at 5:32 a.m. The nineteen hour session marked the final stretch of an eventful week.
ETHICS & GOVERNMENT REFORM – In one of their final acts, the General Assembly approved legislation that toughens penalties for illegal campaign donations above $10,000, requires board and commission members to account for campaign fundraising activities for elected officials who appointed them, and expands state personnel information that must be released to the public about state employees. Legislators crafted the legislation with help from Governor Perdue in the wake of a series of corruption and campaign finance investigations over the past decade. While the bill passed both chambers with bipartisan support, critics said that the legislation did not do enough to address “pay-to-play” politics.
INCENTIVES – Three incentives-related bills were approved, marking the end of weeks of debate between both chambers over how to grow North Carolina’s economy. A tax break plan won the day, as internet data centers, film production companies, pulp mills and energy turbine manufacturers are all set to receive tax credits. Debate over these measures was heated, with supporters saying that tax incentives are need to create jobs and opponents arguing that government should not pick winners and losers in a free market. In sum, the bills are projected to cost the state close to $300 million in tax revenue, but possibly bring several thousand jobs and heavy investments from companies that benefit from the legislation.
ABC REFORM – On Thursday, the House gave final approval Thursday to legislation that would give the state ABC Commission more authority to establish performance and employee training standards for local ABC operations. The legislation also establishes nepotism standards for local ABC employees, limits board and manager pay, and subjects local ABC boards to a state gift ban. The bill’s final version would also allow local boards to increase from three to five members.
OIL SPILL – While the Gulf Coast continues to struggle with the BP oil leak, North Carolina may have safeguards in place if comparable events ever happen off its shores. Legislators passed a bill that would remove the current liability limit on damages that the State could receive from a spill.
DNA – The House’s last major debate concerned legislation that would allow investigators to collect DNA samples from people arrested for certain misdemeanor and felony charges. Current law requires only convicted felons to give samples. The bill authorizes law enforcement to hold people who refuse to give a sample. If charges are dropped or the suspect is acquitted, the individual’s DNA sample must be removed from the database. The measure was approved before adjournment.