The North Carolina General Assembly is moving at a very swift pace this year. Although the House has adjourned for the weekend, the Senate is not yet done. They will be meeting tonight with the expectation to pass the budget out of their chamber.
Just ten legislative days into the short session several prominent pieces of legislation have already made it to the Governor’s desk, with the possibility of the budget making it out of the first chamber by the end of the weekend.
The question is, will this year’s short session be quicker than in 2012, the shortest in recent history? Without a constitutional limit on the number of days the legislature can meet each year, the total days they meet does vary. In 2012 the legislature adjourned after 29 days. In contrast, in 2006 the legislature adjourned after 49 days.
MCCRORY SIGNS TAX CHANGES INTO LAW
On Thursday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed three pieces of legislation into law. Most notably, the Governor signed House Bill 1050, Omnibus Tax Law Changes, into law just hours after the Senate gave final approval to the bill on Thursday. HB 1050 passed both chambers on a bipartisan basis: 84-29 in the House and 38-7 in the Senate.
The new law is a follow-up package of adjustments resulting from last year’s comprehensive tax reform measure, and contains provisions dealing a wide-range of issues, from mobile home sales to privilege license taxes.
The Senate successfully moved their version of the budget through three committees yesterday, less than 24 hours after being released to the public. The Senate will convene this evening at 4:00 p.m. to take up the Appropriations Act of 2014, Senate Bill 744, with the plan to approve the second reading of the bill. Since the final vote of a bill must be taken on a separate day, the Senate plans to stick around tonight and vote again on the budget at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
After the Senate approves the budget, it moves onto the House, where several high-profile or controversial measures are expected to be altered by House budget writers. Senior Appropriations Chair Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) said that budget subcommittees will meet all next week. If the process goes smoothly, he said that the House would hold full Appropriations committee hearings and floor debate during the week of June 8th.
Governor McCrory has said that he has some very serious concerns about the Senate budget. The Governor explained, “We have some very serious concerns about the budget that was submitted by the Senate regarding the impact on our operations and the Department of Transportation and environmental protection, Commerce Department, in Health & Human Services and in education.”
The 2014-2015 Fiscal Year begins on July 1st. After the House approves their final version of the budget, it is expected that House and Senate budget writers and the Governor will work to come to a consensus in the following weeks.
Yesterday both the House and Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 786, Energy Modernization Act, a measure to advance the beginning of natural gas drilling in North Carolina. The House passed the measure 64-50 and the Senate concurred with the House’s final version of the bill, 33-10.
The legislation, which passed on a bipartisan basis in both chambers, now sits on the desk of Governor McCrory. The Governor said that he does support the measure, saying that “we have sat on the sidelines as a state for far too long on gas exploration” and that it will “create jobs and also help with our country’s energy independence.”
The measure did not pass without contentious debate. Democrats in both chambers presented a majority of the 28 amendments offered on the floor, most of which were voted down or discarded by Republicans through parliamentary maneuvers.
Although it is yet to be approved by both chambers, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2014, Senate Bill 734, is another significant piece of legislation that is moving through the legislature during the short session.
SB 734, which primarily contains non-controversial provisions that seek to help provide regulatory relief, covers everything from rolling back environmental regulations to repealing a prohibition against cursing on the state’s highways.
The bill passed the Senate this week on a bipartisan basis, 35-10, and is now on its way to be debated and amended by the House.