Pardon Our Dust
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The North Carolina General Assembly reconvened Tuesday, January 14th for a one-day session after a brief holiday break. Legislators reconvened with the hope of passing a state budget and, along with it, a teacher pay raise. Despite the divide on the two issues, legislators from both sides of the aisle could be seen congregating, laughing, and sharing a bar-b-que meal prepared by Sen. Toby Fitch (D- Wilson) together in a moment of bipartisanship. The Senate also swore in former Representative, now Senator, Mickey Michaux (D-Durham). He was appointed to fill the seat of Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) who resigned days earlier following his appointment to the Utilities Commission.Sen. Michaux retired from the House earlier this year, becoming the longest-serving member in North Carolina General Assembly history. Subsequently, Sen. Michaux has become one of the shortest-serving Senators as he was appointed for the one-day session and will not be running in the March primary. The General Assembly adjourned to return on April 28, 2020 at 12:00 noon. When legislators return for short session, bills eligible for consideration include bills affecting the budget, local bills,pensions and retirement, constitutional amendments, redistricting bills, bills responding to litigation, and bills vetoed by the Governor.
The Senate was the star of the show during the one-day session as all eyes were on the possible override of the Governor’s veto of House Bill 966: 2019 Appropriations Act. In years past, veto overrides were predictable due to the Republican super majority. With the super majority gone and a veto-proof majority in place, rumors circulated over which Democrat could be persuaded to vote for the override. Many members of the House were seen on the floor of the Senate to get a front row view of what the upper chamber might vote on. The Senate ultimately withdrew the budget from the calendar and voted on four pieces of legislation: the override of Senate Bill 354: Strengthening Educators’ Pay Act, the override of Senate Bill 553: Regulatory Reform Act of 2019, Senate Joint Resolution 703: Adjourn January Session, and Senate Bill 560: Scholarships for Children of Wartime Veterans.
Senate Bill 354: Strengthening Educators’ Pay Act intended as a compromise on the teacher pay raise issue, drew intense debate. Teacher pay has been a continuous issue in the General Assembly as the Republican led legislature and the Governor have differed on the appropriate amount that would result in a consensus bill. The bill, as presented on the floor, would have given a 3.9% raise to teachers across the state. Democrats wanted that number raised to 4.9% and an $1,000 bonus.The tax increase that would have provided the funding mechanism for such a raise was a major point of contention amongst members. Both sides failed to come to a compromise leading up to the session, saying that negotiations fell through. The motion to override failed 28-21 along party lines.
The override of the annual regulatory reform bill, Senate Bill 553: Regulatory Reform Act of 2019 also failed along party lines with a 28-21 vote.Gov. Cooper objected to three provisions in the bill that were not removed during the interim.
All was not lost, as the House and Senate did pass Senate Bill 560: Scholarships for Children of Wartime Veterans.SB 560 was heard earlier in the day during the House Committee on Appropriations. The bill passed unanimously through both chambers and was signed into law Thursday by the Governor. In total, it will appropriate $2.4 million on a reoccurring basis to cover room and board expenses for children of NC wartime veterans attending an in-state community or four year college.
House Finance Committee
The House Committee on Finance met Tuesday to take up Senate Bill 622: Reduce Threshold/Medical Expense Deduction. The bill would update medical and dental expense deduction only to January 1, 2020. The change would reduce the threshold amount for the North Carolina medical and dental expense deduction from 10% to 7.5% for the
2019 and 2020 taxable years.
The bill comes on the heels of Congress enacting HR 1865 which contained provisions of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Act of 2019. The North Carolina State Constitution does not allow the General Assembly to delegate its taxing power. Following the federal plan, the House decided to move the bill forward to conform with the federal threshold amount. During the committee, Rep. Julia Howard (R- Davie) stated “We the House Finance committee felt that it is important and the right thing to do to give taxpayers the knowledge, because most taxpayers start filing in February. There is a lot, 218,000, taxpayers that use this deduction, and most of them are already struggling with medical filings. This is just a simple addition. The Senate sent word that they do not intend to take it up and they will take it up in July or when they decide to take it up. We the House decided it is good to take it up and they will own it now.”
The bill passed favorably through the committee and made its way to the House floor where it passed 118-0. The Senate does not plan to take up the legislation until short session convenes this spring. It is unclear if the Senate will concur with the House on the changes.
Upcoming Legislative Meetings
Monday, January 27
Child Fatality Task Force – Unintentional Death Prevention Committee
Tuesday, January 31
North Carolina Courts Commission
NC State Bar, 217 E. Edenton St., Raleigh, 27601