Pardon Our Dust
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Business at the General Assembly has picked upsignificantly this week. Joint House and Senateappropriations subcommittees met to discuss budgetprovisions, procedures and funding. Additionally,legislative leaders are facing off with the Governorregarding the state’s voter ID law case andconfirmation hearings for cabinet appointments.
Bipartisan HB2 Proposal
A group of Republicans and Democrats have sponsored abill that would repeal the controversial House Bill 2,which was signed into law last year. Reps. ChuckMcGrady (R-Henderson), Ted Davis (R-New Hanover),Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland) and Ken Goodman(D-Richmond), filedHB 186: Repeal HB2/State Nondiscrimination Policieslate Wednesday afternoon. Fifteen members signed on asco-sponsors since the bill was filed, twelveRepublicans and three Democrats. The bill would repealHouse Bill 2, and restrict municipalities fromregulating private bathroom facilities. However, amunicipality would be able to regulate bathroom accessin public facilities. Any local non-discriminationordinance would take effect 90 days after localapproval or if voter referendum petitions are produced.Additionally, the bill contains a statewidenon-discrimination law.
Committee Work Ramps Up
House and Senate appropriations subcommittees heldintroductory meetings this week in order to prepare forwriting the 2017-18 state budget. Committee membersheard presentations from Legislative Analysis andFiscal Research on the budget process, andSuperintendent of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson,testified in front of the Joint AppropriationsSubcommittee on Education. Review the presentationsfrom this week’s joint appropriations subcommitteeshere:
Joint Appropriations on Agriculture, Natural &Economic Resources
Joint Appropriations on Education
Joint Appropriations on General Government
Joint Appropriations on Health & Human Services
Joint Appropriations on Justice & Public Safety
Joint Appropriations on Transportation
A number of House members filed bills this week thatpropose amendments to the North Carolina Constitution.If passed, the referendums would be on the ballot inNovember 2018.
HB 145: Repeal Const. Reg. of Concealed Weaponswould propose a referendum to remove the language thatallows the state to regulate the carrying of concealedweapons. The bill is sponsored by Reps. MichaelSpeciale (R-Craven), Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) and JayAdams (R-Catawba).
HB 146: Citizen’s Allegiance to U.S. Constitution, sponsored by Reps. Michael Speciale (R-Craven),George Cleveland (R-Onslow), Larry Pittman(R-Cabarrus), and Michelle Presnell (R-Yancey), wouldhold a referendum to change the North CarolinaConstitution to say “Every citizen of this State owesparamount allegiance to the constitution of the UnitedStates,” instead of “the government of the UnitedStates.”
HB 147: Amend NC Constitution-Remove Secessionwas filed on Tuesday. If passed, the language in theNorth Carolina Constitution that bans secession wouldbe removed. The bill is sponsored by Reps. MichaelSpeciale (R-Craven), George Cleveland (R-Onslow), andLarry Pittman (R-Cabarrus).
HB 148: Amend NC Constitution-Literacy Requirement, sponsored by Reps. Michael Speciale (R-Craven), LarryPittman (R-Cabarrus), Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan), andBilly Richardson (D-Cumberland), calls for a referendumto remove the literacy requirement to vote.
HB 193: Legislative Four-Year Termswould lengthen the legislative term from two to fouryears for both the House and Senate. However, it wouldalso limit legislators to three terms in each body. Thebill is sponsored by Reps. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), JonHardister (R-Guilford), and Larry Yarborough(R-Person).
A bipartisan group in the House has sponsoredlegislation that would divest state funds fromcompanies that boycott Israel.HB 161: Divestment From Companies That BoycottIsrael, sponsored by Reps. Stephen Ross (R-Alamance), JohnSzoka (R-Cumberland), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), BillyRichardson (D-Cumberland), would also prohibit stateagencies from contracting out services with companiesthat boycott Israel.
Governor Announces Teacher Pay Proposal
Gov. Cooper announced his plan to raise teacher pay ata Charlotte elementary school on Monday. Cooper statedthat his recommended budget will call for an average10% raise in teacher pay over the next two years. Theproposed pay increase is expected to cost $813 millionover the biennium, which Cooper says can be donewithout a tax increase. Instead, he has called for ahalt in corporate tax cuts. Cooper has also proposed astipend of $150 to every teacher in order to cover thecost of school supplies. Teachers received an averageraise of 4.7% in the previous year, which brought theiraverage salary to around $50,000. Sen. Phil Berger(R-Rockingham) and Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) havestated that they would like to increase the average to$55,000 over the biennium. Review the press releasesregarding teacher pay from Gov. Cooper, Sen. Berger andSpeaker Moore here:
Governor vs. Legislature
Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein have rescindedNorth Carolina’s appeal to the United States SupremeCourt regarding a lawsuit over the voter ID law passedin 2013. The 4th U.S. Court of Appealsstruck down the voter ID law in July 2016, which wasappealed to the Supreme Court by former Gov. PatMcCrory. Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and PresidentPro-Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham)condemned the actions of Cooper and Stein.
Senate leaders have continued to hold confirmationhearings despite resistance from the Cooperadministration. Former Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham)failed to appear before the Senate Commerce andInsurance Committee on Thursday for the second timethis week and the third time this session. At the endof the hearing on Thursday, the committee voted toissue a subpoena for Hall to appear on March 2 nd. Hall was appointed by Gov. Cooper toserve as the Secretary of the Department of Militaryand Veterans Affairs, and was sworn-in January. Theconfirmation hearings are a result of a law passed latelast year. A three-judge panel has denied Gov. Cooper’srequest to block the law, and will go to trial on March7th.
Immigration & Sanctuary Cities
The House Judiciary II Committee held a discussion-onlyhearing forHB 63: Citizens Protection Act of 2017on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Harry Warren(R-Rowan), Jeff Collins (R-Nash), Jonathan Jordan(R-Ashe), and Jay Adams (R-Catawba), would increasepenalties for the manufacture, sale and possession offalse identification. The legislation creates arebuttable presumption for the pre-trial release ofillegal immigrants who are charged with a class Athrough E felony, as well as other violent crimes. Thebill also implements a process to withhold state fundsfrom sanctuary cities. If passed, the Secretary ofRevenue would be directed to withhold state funds fromthe beer and wine excise tax, the telecommunicationstax, the video programming services andtelecommunications services tax, and the tax on pipednatural gas.
Local Option Sales Tax Changes
SB 126: Change the LOST Adjustment Factorwould replace individual adjust factors for countieswith economic development tier based adjustmentfactors: Tier One-1.10%, Tier Two-1.00% and TierThree-0.90%.The bill is sponsored by Sen. Harry Brown(R-Onslow).
Partisan Judicial Elections
HB 100: Restore Partisan Elections/Sup. &Distr. Courtreceived approval from the House on Wednesday by a voteof 65-51. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Justin Burr(R-Stanly), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Dana Bumgardner(R-Gaston), Cody Henson (R-Transylvania), would returnSuperior and District Court races to partisanelections. Superior Court elections were changed tononpartisan in 1996, and District Court was changed in2001. Supporters of the bill say partisan affiliationprovides voters with more information on a candidate’sbasic judicial philosophy. Opponents say thelegislation would harm the independence and fairness ofthe judicial system.
The first regulatory reform bill of this session wasfiled on Thursday.SB 131: Regulatory Reform Act of 2017,sponsored by Sens. Andy Wells (R-Catawba), Bill Cook(R-Dare) and Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) would reduceenvironmental and natural resources regulations, aswell as state and local government regulation. Many ofthe provisions are identical to those in the regulatoryreform bills from last year, due to the GeneralAssembly failing to pass a regulatory reform bill inthe 2016 short session.