Pardon Our Dust
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It was quiet around the legislative building this week as a number of lawmakers spent time in their districts and attended legislative conferences. Members of both the House and the Senate were around early in the week to hold floor voting sessions before heading home Wednesday afternoon. The House held one committee meeting Tuesday morning, but none of the Senate committees met.
As yet another week of this year’s long session has now come and gone without much action and no vote to override the Governor’s budget veto, it seems as though this could mark the beginning of the end. But with several other big bills still floating around committee waiting for their day on the floor, only time will tell if legislative leadership is ready to wrap things up for the summer – with or without a budget included among the session’s list of accomplishments.
Full committee meetings at the General Assembly have not been as common in the recent weeks of session as they were at the start. But that does not mean lawmakers are not still working to get a number of bills over to the Governor’s desk for final approval. Much of the action lately has been through conference committees. Conference committees are made up of members specifically appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem and the House Speaker. These conferees are tasked with hashing out the differences between the House and the Senate versions of a given bill. Currently, there are eight bills being worked on in conference committee, including:
- HB 99: Transfer ALE moves the Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) Branch out from within the State Bureau of Investigation and makes a new ALE Division within the Department of Public Safety.
- HB 211: Various DMV Changes clarifies the definition of fuel cell and plug-in electric vehicles, eliminates the signature space requirement on registration cards, allows for the remote conversion of a full provisional license to a regular driver’s license, and requires the DMV to come up with reflectivity standards for registration plates.
- HB 449: Special Registration Plates allows the DMV to make a “Keeping The Lights On” and “POW/MIA Bring Them Home” special registration plate.
- SB 212: NC FAST/Early Child/Transformation/ACH Assess requires the Division of Social Services (DSS), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to postpone the roll out of the case-management systems for NC FAST programs and potentially delays Medicaid and NC Health Choice transformation until March 1, 2020. The bill would also require the Division of Child Development and Early Education to establish competency standards and amends the requirements of the initial resident assessment conducted by adult care homes.
- SB 217: Change Superior Ct & District Ct Numbers would realign superior court and district court districts with prosecutorial districts.
- SB 356: Surp. Proceeds; Cert. Seized Veh. Sales clarifies that the State Surplus Property Agency must enter into two regional contracts for towing, storing, and seized vehicles and distributes a portion of the proceeds from the sale of State-owned property to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
- SB 553: Regulatory Reform Act of 2019 amends a number of the state’s regulatory laws, including an increase to the threshold for contracts exempted from the conflict-of-interest prohibition, make changes to the North Carolina plumbing and fire codes, requires a time share salesperson to have a real estate broker license, directs a study and report on the online continuing education requirements of occupational licensing boards, clarifies landfill life-of-site franchise requirements, allows counties to establish a process to permit temporary event venues (TEV), directs a study interior designer certification, and defines electric stand up scooters.
SB 621: Testing Reduction Act of 2019 eliminates the North Carolina Final Exams, replaces end-of-grade testing with a through-grade assessment model, replaces end-of-course testing with a nationally recognized assessment like the ACT, requires reporting on local-level testing reductions, prohibits graduation projects as being a high school graduation requirement, and directs a review of the third grade reading test.
In the only committee meeting held this week, Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt) stuck with this session’s theme: combine and replace. Oftentimes, lawmakers will take multiple bills that have been stuck in committee for months, put them together, and replace an existing, non-controversial bill with the new language. The original version of the bill heard on Tuesday in the House Committee on Health classified mini-trucks. Now, SB 432: Birth Center & Pharm Benefits Mgr. Licensure combines two bills that already passed through the House earlier in the session.
Part one of the new version of SB 432, originally HB 575: Establish Birth Center Licensure Act, provides licensing requirements for birthing centers and establishes the North Carolina Birth Center Commission. Part two of the bill, which was introduced as HB 534: NC Pharmacy Benefits Manager Licensure Act, imposes a new set of restrictions on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), preventing them from doing many of the tasks they are created to do, like negotiating with pharmacies on the dispersal of certain drugs, and requires PBMs to disclose certain privileged operating procedures to the state Insurance Commissioner. After almost no discussion, the committee voted in favor of the bill which is now on its way over to the House Committee on Finance.
In an effort to get stalled legislation moving, Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) proposed an amendment to an agency-requested bill, HB 226: 2019 AOC Legislative Changes, during the Senate’s floor debate Tuesday afternoon. The amendment would add language from a Senate bill that has been stuck in the House Rules Committee’s docket for several months now. The amendment language comes from SB 560: Disciplining Judges-State Bar, which would prevent the Judicial Standards Commission from investigating a complaint against a judge based on their ruling until after the ruling goes through the proper appeals process.
When SB 560 originally made its way through committee, those who opposed the bill voiced concerns that it would impede upon pending investigations. The amendment received a nod of support as former judge Sen. Toby Fitch (D-Nash) spoke in favor of the addition to HB 226. Senate lawmakers passed both the amendment and the bill itself with a unanimous vote. The bill as amended will now head back over to the House for concurrence.
Upcoming Legislative Meetings
Monday, August 19
7:00PM House: Session Convenes
Tuesday, August 20
9:00AM House: Appropriations
9:30AM Senate: Session Convenes
10:00AM Senate: Redistricting and Elections