North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

September 2, 2021

Pardon Our Dust

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Legislative leaders continue to push the deadline for the budget back. Just a few weeks ago, the goal to pass a budget out of the General Assembly was September 9th. But Wednesday evening, Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) told reporters he does not expect a compromise budget to be completed before the end of September. Earlier this week, Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) told committee members that “we are probably shutting down many of these committees in the next two weeks.”

The COVID-19 case count has leveled off over the last week in the state of North Carolina, but hospitalizations and deaths unfortuantely continue to rise. As of this morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 7,248 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 3,757 individuals hospitalized, and sadly, 14,529 confirmed deaths. There have been 10,542,142 doses of the vaccine distributed in NC, which is about 66% of the total adult population.

As we all continue to feel the effects of the global pandemic and adjust to a new normal, we want to highlight a few ways our clients across North Carolina have worked to support residents and make this time a little easier for those throughout the state. Read more about what our clients are doing to help by clicking here.

For more information on COVID-19 in North Carolina, click here to visit the Department of Health and Human Services website, and be sure to stay up to date on the latest federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by clicking here.

Governor’s Vetoes

House Bill 729 – Vetoed August 23: This bill would allow the North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board to add the State Superintendent of Public Instruction or her designee as a voting member of the Board – thereby eliminating one of the State Board of Education’s appointees to the Board. Governor Cooper vetoed the bill because of his disagreement with the elimination of the Board’s seat, saying the State Board of Education is “statutorily charged with administering children’s education in state public schools including charter schools.”

House Bill 352 – Vetoed August 30: This bill would allow hotels, motels, and other lodging facilities to remove short-term residents for misconduct by clarifying that they lack the rights of long-term tenants. Governor Cooper vetoed the bill, asserting that the bill would remove legal protections for families who have “turned to hotels and motels for housing in a time of need.”

House Bill 398 – Vetoed August 30: This bill would repeal the requirement to obtain a pistol purchase permit from the county Sheriff prior to the purchase of a pistol. Governor Cooper vetoed the bill, saying gun permit laws “reduce homicides and suicides and reduce the availability of guns for criminal activity.”

ABC Omnibus

The House and Senate have gone back and forth throughout the session with various bills that would affect the regulation of alcohol in the state of North Carolina. With new products being introduced more frequently, legislators and industry members worked together this year to bring clarity to the laws governing alcohol and ABC guidelines. All the various alcohol bills were combined this week by Senators into House Bill 890 filed by Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Henderson) earlier this year. Moffitt’s original bill, filed in May, had 14 sections; the Senate committee substitute reintroduced this week by Moffitt and Sen. Todd Johnson (R-Union) has 33 sections.

While some of the sections are technical or small-scale regulatory changes to benefit one ABC permitted facility, the bill also contains provisions that could change the way consumers across the state purchase alcohol. Here are some of the highlights of the bill:

Part 1: ABC stores would be allowed to accept online orders, including payment

Part 6: Mixed beverages could be sold at permitted tasting events

Part 7: The allowable size of growlers would be raised from two to four liters

Part 8: Distillery operators, who currently must provide a tour to consumers before selling their product, would be able to determine the time of the tour

Part 10: Distilleries could possess and sell liquor not made at their facility

Part 11: Public colleges and universities could sell two, instead of one, alcoholic beverage to patrons at one time

Part 15: ABC stores would be permitted to sell refrigerated and frozen alcoholic beverages

Part 20: Local governments could designate “social districts” for outdoor alcoholic beverage consumption

Part 24: The ABC Commission would be required to make a “good-faith effort” to supply all local ABC boards with the same access to spirituous liquors

During the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) voiced concerns about Part 11 allowing patrons to buy multiple alcoholic drinks at one time at a public sporting event. The bill passed the committee and awaits a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.

Landlord Assistance

A few days before the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Biden administration’s latest moratorium on evictions, N.C. Senate Republicans were thinking of solutions to the inevitable problems that will result from tenants owing thousands of dollars in back-rent and utilities. Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) introduced last week House Bill 110 which would allow landlords to apply on behalf of their tenants for rental aid through the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency’s  (NCORR) HOPE program, which uses federal CARES Act funding to provide rent and utility assistance to low-income renters. Laura Hogshead, who heads up the NCORR, spoke at the Senate Commerce Committee this week, and praised the office’s fast disbursement of the federal funds. She said the bill could slow down their ability to disburse money to tenants due to changing the system they use. Senators, on the other hand, say the office is not distributing money quickly enough, leaving many landlords who use collected rent as a main source of income struggling.

The bill passed committee and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee.

High School Athletics

What started as complaints from upset parents to a Senator’s office has now become a bill that passed the Senate floor this week. Three Senate Republicans led two oversight committees earlier this year to investigate the finances and operations of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, which is the organization governing high school sports in the state. Out of the committees came House Bill 91. The bill originally would have disbanded the relationship between public and charter schools and the NCHSAA completely, but after school athletic directors and officials voiced opposition, Senators revised the bill. The version that passed the Senate floor Wednesday would require the NCHSAA and the State Board of Education to come up with a written memorandum of understanding on how the organization will carry out board policy on interscholastic sports. The memorandum would enforce the notion that the NCHSAA is a public body which is bound to public records and open meeting laws. The ability for the association to assess fees on member schools would be controlled, and any fees would be subject to appeal by an independent panel. Lastly, in response to a complaint by Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) who said the oversight committees heard from schools and parents who were fined for livestreaming games during the pandemic, the memorandum would prohibit the restriction on athletes’ parents being able to record games.

The NCHSAA leaders do not support the bill and said they have already complied with reforms requested by the Senators. Five Democrats joined all Republicans Wednesday to vote for the bill. There was an objection to third reading, meaning the Senate must wait to consider the bill for a final voice vote when it next convenes.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Wednesday, September 8

12:00PM House: Judiciary 1

7:00PM Redistricting Public Hearing at Caldwell Community College