Pardon Our Dust
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The legislature was very busy this week as leadership looks ahead to adjournment. The House voted to override the Governor’s budget veto, and gave its final approval to legislation that would change various alcohol regulations. Also, House and Senate leaders considered more state constitutional amendments, and both chambers gave their final approval to a bill that would make comprehensive changes to various judicial districts and divisions.
House Overrides Governor’s Budget Veto
The House vote to override the Governor’s veto of SB 99: Appropriations Act of 2018 on Tuesday, and the budget is now law. The vote was split along party lines, with one Democrat, Rep. Duane Hall (D-Wake) voting with the Republican majority. The Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto late last week. Republicans have super majorities in both chambers, which allows them to reach the three-fifths threshold to override a gubernatorial veto.
Omnibus Alcohol Law Changes
The House gave final approval to legislation that would make various changes to state alcohol laws. Sponsored by Reps. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), and Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), HB 500: ABC Omnibus Legislation would allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages at a raffle held by a non-profit, adjust the alcohol franchise laws, and defines “sports and entertainment venue” for purposes of alcoholic beverage sales. The bill now heads to the Governor for his approval.
Early Voting Changes
SB 325: The Uniform & Expanded Early Voting Act passed its third reading in the House on Friday. The legislation received a favorable report from the House Rules Committee earlier this week. If signed into law, the bill would establish uniform early voting hours and days for the entire state. Furthermore, county polls would be required to be open for twelve hours a day for seventeen days starting in mid-October. The polls would close Friday before Election Day, which will be held on Tuesday, November 6th. Also, the law would require a county to open all election poll locations if a single one-stop voting poll location is open.
Income Tax Constitutional Amendments
House Finance Committee gave a favorable report to legislation that would add another constitutional amendment to the ballot in November. SB 75: Const. Amd.-Max. Income Tax Rate of 5.5%, sponsored by Sens. Tommy Tucker (R-Union), Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), and former Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie), proposes to amend the North Carolina Constitution to state that the state income tax shall not exceed 5.5%. Currently, the state income tax rate is lower than 5.5%. The bill now heads to the House Rules Committee.
Senate Approves Farm Act of 2018
The Senate voted 33-13 late Monday night in favor of S711:Farm Act of 2018. Sponsored by Senator Brent Jackson (R- Duplin, Johnston, Sampson) the bill provides protections to N.C. farmers from nuisance lawsuits. The vote comes after days of debate on the Senate floor while farmers from across the state observed from the gallery. Under the bill, a nuisance lawsuit could not be filed unless it is done within a year of the establishment of the agriculture or forestry operation. The bill is described by the bill sponsor to protect small family farms. There was a provision added which prohibits soy, almond, coconut and other plant-based milk suppliers from labeling their products as “milk” in North Carolina.
An amendment added to H1029: DOT/DMV Legislative Requests from Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) would allow the Department of Transportation and Gov. Cooper to spend up to $620 million to modify or cancel the Interstate 77 toll lanes contract. The project was said to have the potential to hurt the economic development of the Charlotte-Meck area.
The Senate voted in favor 41-3 on Senate Bill 616:Heroin & Opioid Prevention & Enforcement Act also known as the HOPE Act. This legislation is an effort by the General Assembly to crack down on heroin and opioid addiction across the state. It would allow an investigator to get records from the state’s controlled substance abuse database with no court order or warrant. The bill also includes a measure that make it a felony for medical professionals to embezzle medicine from their patients for personal use or illicit sale.