Pardon Our Dust
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Legislative leaders have been hard at work this week as the House reviewsthe Senate’s proposed budget, and begins preparing to unveil its plan inthe coming weeks. Major policy changes have moved through both chambers aswell, including legislation that would raise the juvenile age for 16 and 17year olds. Governor Cooper asked the federal government for more funds forHurricane Matthew relief, and the United States Supreme Court struck downthe state’s appeal of a voter identification law.
Following the Senate’s passage of its budget last Friday, the House hasbeen busy reviewing theproposedfunding allocations. House leaders plan to reveal their proposed budgetafter Memorial Day, and hope to pass it through the chamber around June 1st. Leadership in both chambers believe they will be able topass a budget before the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30th.
Cooper & Federal Funds
Governor Cooper is calling on federal lawmakers and President Trump foradditional funding for Hurricane Matthew relief. Cooper and members ofNorth Carolina’s congressional delegation requested over $900 million fromthe Department of Housing and Urban Development, but received only $6.1million. The funds have been requested to aid housing repairs, health carefacilities, government buildings, infrastructure, and to cover losses inagriculture. Governor Cooper’s letter to President Trump and congressionalleadership is availablehere.
On Thursday, Governor Cooperannouncedthat NC had secured a $31 million federal grant to help treat opioidaddiction. The Governor and Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the Department ofHealth and Human Services, made the announcement at a treatment facility inRaleigh where they stated that the funds would primarily go towardstreatment. The Governor also called on the legislature to expand statefunding towards the epidemic.
Fantasy Sports Regulations Fail
Legislation that would have regulated the online daily fantasy sportsindustry received an unfavorable report in the House Regulatory ReformCommittee on Wednesday. Sponsored by Reps. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford),Duane Hall (D-Wake), Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth), and Jason Saine (R-Lincoln),HB 279: Fantasy Sports Regulationwould have required fantasy sports operators to register with the Secretaryof State every five years. The bill would have also charged renewal andregistration fees. The bill’s sponsors stated that the legislation was aneffort to protect consumers. However, proponents argued that the billfurther legalized gambling in North Carolina. The bill is no longereligible this session.
Grill Bill Heads to Governor
A bill that would allow restaurants to use outdoor grills to prepare foodhas been sent to the Governor after the Senate approved some changes madeto the bill in the House. Bill sponsors Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), JeffTarte (R-Mecklenburg), and Jim Davis (R-Macon) say thatSB 24: Allow Restaurants to Use Outdoor Grillswill aid small restaurants who are not able to purchase the fire safetyequipment necessary to operate an indoor grill. The bill passed bothchambers without opposition and is poised to be signed into law by theGovernor.
Proposed Public School Bond
Reps. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg), Kevin Corbin (R-Macon), Craig Horn(R-Union), and Linda Johnson (R-Cabarrus) sponsored a bill that would placea $1.9 billion school bond on the ballot in November 2018. The funds wouldsupport capital projects for public schools across the state. The proposedbond would be the first for public schools since 1996. A previous bond waspassed in March 2016, which supported maintenance and capital projects atthe universities, community colleges, state parks, and wastewaterfacilities. A committee substitute toHB 866: Public School Building Bond Actpassed House K-12 Education on Wednesday and now heads to the Committee onFinance.
Raise the Age Passes the House
HB 280: Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Actpassed the House 104-8 on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Reps. DuaneHall (D-Wake), Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), David Lewis (R-Harnett), andSusan Martin (R-Wilson), would allow 16 and 17 year olds to be tried asjuveniles for all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Under current law,North Carolina is the last state to try 16 and 17 year olds as adults forthese crimes. Juveniles would continue to be tried as adults if chargedwith Class A through E felonies. The legislation has the support of lawenforcement advocacy groups, the state’s judiciary, and the Chief JusticeMark Martin of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Bill sponsors andproponents believe “raising the age” will reduce recidivism in youth, whichoften leads to a lifetime of crime and poverty. Opponents maintain concernsabout the cost to the state’s judicial system. The bill is currently in theSenate Rules Committee.
Senate Leaders Propose Revenue Laws Changes
Sens. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), and Tommy Tucker(R-Union) have sponsored a bill that would amend state revenue laws.SB 628: Various Changes to the Revenue Lawswas discussed in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The billcontains numerous codifying and conforming changes in state law as well assubstantive changes, and adjustments requested by the Department ofRevenue. Committee members raised questions about provisions related to thefranchise tax and taxes related to petroleum based liquid and gaspipelines. The bill also attempts to clarify a capital improvement as itregards to a repair, maintenance or installation on real property, whichwas passed last year. A new proposed committee substitute will be unveilednext week, and voted on by the committee.
US Supreme Court Rejects Voter ID Appeal
The United States Supreme Court rejected North Carolina’s appeal toreinstate a voter ID law passed in 2013. The law was struck down by the 4 th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016. However, Speaker Tim Moore,Pres. Pro Tem Phil Berger, and former Governor McCrory filed for an appealto the Supreme Court. Newly elected Governor Cooper and Attorney GeneralJosh Stein withdrew the appeal in February, but state law allowslegislative leadership to defend lawsuits on behalf of the state. Althoughthe appeal has failed, leaders in both chambers have not given up onlegislation to address voter identification. A joint statement from Sen.Berger and Speaker Moore is availablehere.
Wireless Infrastructure Expansion
A bi-partisan group in the House has proposed legislation to expandwireless infrastructure in cities across the state. Sponsored by Reps.Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), John Torbett (R-Gaston), and Michael Wray(D-Northampton),HB 310: Wireless Communications Infrastructure Siting would modify existing state law governing small wireless communicationsfacilities. The bill would allow wireless communications facilities to usepublic rights-of-way for wireless infrastructure. The bill prohibits citiesfrom instituting a moratorium on issuing permits for small wirelessfacilities as well. Proponents of the legislation say this is the firststep in an effort to broaden 5G internet access across the state. Opponentshave issues with the provisions related to the bill’s environmental reviewprocess, and say the law is in conflict with Federal CommunicationsCommission policy. The bill received a favorable report from the HouseEnergy and Public Utilities Committee on Wednesday, and was sent to theHouse Finance Committee. Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) sponsored itscompanion bill ,SB 377: Wireless Communications Infrastructure Siting, in the Senate.