NCGA Week in Review – August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014

Pardon Our Dust

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Although lawmakers have not convened for any further business since passing the budget last week, House and Senate leaders have still not agreed upon a final adjournment resolution. Last week after the Senate approved the budget, they also passed SJR 881, Adjournment. The House, which did not complete their final approval of the budget until last Saturday morning, passed a different version of SJR 881, and passed another adjournment resolution, HJR 1276, Adjournment.
The Senate version of the adjournment resolution called for a two-day session on August 14, where they could consider any General Assembly appointments or reconsideration of any legislation the Governor vetoed. The House version of that same adjournment resolution called for an August 14 session as well, but with a much more substantial list of matters that could be considered, including: coal ash legislation, any bills relating to environmental and natural resources laws, regulatory and administrative reforms, autism spectrum disorder insurance coverage, technical and other changes to revenue laws, or to the confidentiality of unemployment compensation information.
Until legislative leaders of both chambers come to an agreement on an adjournment resolution, including the August 14 session, both chambers will reconvene every four days for non-voting “skeleton” sessions, as required by the state constitution until they officially adjourn. The Senate has publicly said that since the budget has become law, they do not plan to reconvene again until November for the previously agreed-upon Medicaid reform session, while House leaders have publicly stated that they still plan to reconvene for the August 14 session to take up substantive measures.
Both the House and Senate versions of the adjournment resolution also called for the legislature to reconvene on Monday, November 17, 2014, to work on Medicaid reform. The Senate version also called for the coal ash legislation to be taken up again at the November 17 session, while the House version wants to get the coal ash legislation figured out during the August 14 session.
A “side effect” of the chambers not coming to an agreement on an adjournment resolution is that House and Senate members are prohibited by law from accepting any campaign contributions while they are in session. Until an adjournment resolution is agreed upon, legislators cannot accept any contributions or hold any fundraisers, which could be an issue for legislators with tough general election races coming up on November 4.
Right now there continues to be much confusion and uncertainty among when the legislature will reconvene, what kind of measures will be considered, and when they will officially sine die for the biennium.
On Thursday morning Governor Pat McCrory signed the $21.1 billion budget, SB 744, Appropriations Act of 2014, into law. The 260-page bill includes the average seven percent raise for public school teachers and the $1,000 raise for most state employees.
Governor McCrory released a statement saying that the budget “reflects a pragmatic and thoughtful approach to managing taxpayer dollars. It provides raises for our teachers, highway patrol officers, court employees and a cost of living increase for retirees and preserves Medicaid eligibility standards. This budget will continue to fuel North Carolina’s economic comeback.”
After Governor McCrory signed the budget into law, he took immediate action to appoint a new acting director of the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). The Appropriations Act of 2014 included language to transfer the SBI to the Department of Public Safety, from the Department of Justice, and to appoint a director of the SBI who will serve an eight-year term.
B.W. Collier II is the new acting director of the SBI. He headed the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement for the past year, and before that spent 26 years with the SBI- working as a canine handler, technical agent, bomb squad commander, drug investigator, arson and crime scene agent, and director of the unit that handles criminal information and intelligence gathering. Collier will be sworn in on Monday, August 11.
Greg McLeod, who headed the SBI for the past four years under Attorney General Roy Cooper, will not move to a new position at the SBI.
This week the Governor signed 15 bills into law, including the Appropriations Act of 2014. As of today, one bill remains on Governor McCrory’s desk for final approval – HB 133, Technical and Other Changes. Governor McCrory has 10 days to sign or veto a bill after it is presented to him.
Bills signed into law include:
SB 648, NC Commerce Protection Act of 2014: Creates transparency in contracts between the NC Attorney General and private attorneys, prevents the abuse of patents, allows for shareholder assent to exclusive forum, and limits asbestos-related liabilities for certain successor corporations.
SB 853, Business Court Modernization: Modernizes the business court process by making various changes to the procedures of complex business court cases and streamlines the process of corporate reorganization utilizing holding companies.
HB 1145, Registration for Mopeds: Requires all mopeds to be registered with the NC Division of Motor Vehicles and calls for a legislative interim committee to study whether additional statutory changes are needed, including whether insurance should be required in order to drive a moped.
On Monday, Senator Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, resigned from his seat in the state Senate, effective immediately. Goolsby, an attorney, announced in January that he would not be running for re-election so that he could spend more time with his family.
The New Hanover County Republican Party executive committee is now responsible to fill his vacancy. Goolsby stated that he hopes the committee chooses Michael Lee, the Republican who is on the November ballot for the 9th District Senate seat that Goolsby was planning to vacate at the end of this term.
Effective on September 5, the director of the NC Office State Budget and Management, Art Pope, is leaving his post. Governor McCrory announced Pope’s resignation from the administration on Wednesday. His resignation came as no surprise, Pope said that when he accepted the post in 2013, he took it with the understanding that he would only serve for one year and that his salary was to be $1. Pope will return to his job at Variety Wholesalers, the retail chain stores he owns, as well as to his leadership position at Americans for Prosperity.
On Wednesday Governor McCrory announced that Lee Roberts would be replacing Pope when his resignation becomes effective. Roberts is a Raleigh banking executive, most recently serving as the managing director of Piedmont Community Bank Holdings, and is a current member of the NC Banking Commission. Roberts is also the son of Cokie Roberts, a radio and television political commentator.
Please contact the Raleigh McGuireWoods Consulting team if you have any questions or comments:
Harry Kaplan, Senior Vice President
Jeff Barnhart, Senior Vice President
Franklin Freeman, Senior Vice President
John Merritt, Senior Vice President
Johnny Tillett, Senior Vice President
Kerri Burke, Vice President
Bo Heath, Vice President
Sarah Wolfe, Assistant Vice President
Katy Feinberg, Strategic Communications