NCGA Week in Review: June 4-8

June 8, 2012

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Senate Prepares for Budget Votes
The Senate is anticipated to unveil its version of the state budget Sunday evening (6/10). Leaders on the Senate Appropriations Committee indicated that the chamber’s budget proposal would be heard by the full committee on Tuesday (6/12) followed with the two necessary floor votes later in the week. Once the Senate passes its version, the budget will go back to the House with negotiations between the two chambers to begin officially.

Senate leaders have suggested that the Senate’s budget plan will differ significantly from the House version, not making as many adjustments to the existing two-year budget. Sticking to a proposed timetable to adjourn by the end of June, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca “suspended” committee meetings this week for the chamber to focus on passing its budget bill.

Update: Shale Gas Development

With a vote of 29-19 the Senate has given final approval to legislation creating a regulatory framework that allows hydraulic fracturing. The bill only allows permits after additional action from the General Assembly, establishing the Mining and Energy Commission to oversee the creation of the regulatory framework. The bill in the Senate Commerce Committee amended several provisions, including:

•    Landowner Protections
Provides protections for landowners, regarding pollution caused by a gas well and royalty rights for landowners on whose land natural gas is found.

•    Local Zoning Ordinances
Directs a uniform system of regulation that allows for local setbacks, noise restrictions and other local restrictions as long as they do not have the effect of prohibiting the drilling.

Senate Bill 820, the Clean Energy & Economic Security Act now goes to the House for consideration where committee hearings are expected early next week.

Changes to Corporate Tax Reporting Requirements

The Senate has passed legislation preventing the Department of Revenue (DOR) from interpreting the law on forced combinations by issuing directives. Under the proposed law revising the corporate combined reporting requirements, the DOR would be required to develop formal rules that could then be challenged and taken to an administrative law judge to determine. At the committee hearing, Senator Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) testified that the bill will serve as a pilot project for other Department of Revenue issues.

The bill (S824/H1027) now goes to the House for consideration.

Legislators Take Aim at Regulatory Reform
In efforts to make the state’s regulatory framework more efficient and cost-effective, lawmakers are considering several regulatory reform bills this session:

•    State Air Toxics Program Reforms
House Bill 952 would exempt some emission control sources from regulation under the state Air Toxics Program if those sources are subject to regulation under the federal Clean Air Act. (Passed House 70-46; Passed Senate Environment Committee)

•    Regulatory Reform
Senate Bill 810 includes several regulatory efficiency goals, including: changes to the Administrative Procedures Act; requires agencies to provide private businesses advanced notice on audits; clarifies that state air quality regulations cannot be superimposed with state water quality regulations; lengthens the term for a sold waste permit from five years to 10 years. (Passed Senate 41-1; Referred to House Commerce Committee)

•    Boards & Commissions Efficiency
Senate Bill 851 identifies numerous boards and commissions that are being considered for elimination and others that should be downsized. (Passed Senate Program Evaluation Committee; Re-Referred to Senate Finance Committee)

•    Sea-Level Regulations
House Bill 819 would give the state Coastal Resources Commission sole responsibility for making any prediction for the rate of sea-level rise to be used as the basis for state or local regulations. Projections for future rates must be based on “statistically significant, peer-reviewed historical data.” (Passed Senate Environment Committee)

Live Gambling
North Carolina’s Cherokee casino now expects to offer live games starting July 4th, after the approval of legislation that legalizes Las Vegas-style games on tribal lands. This legislation enables a new 30-year gaming compact between the state and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, which permits two new casinos and live dealers on tribal lands, adding millions of dollars in revenue. In exchange, the state will receive a small percentage of the revenue from the new games, estimated at $2 million to $3 million a year; Gov. Bev Perdue signed the bill minutes after the Senate gave its final approval. The landmark legislation aims to boost the tribe’s Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, after years of state lawmakers moving to limit gambling in the state. The initial money from the pact is directed toward education.