Sine Die Die Die!

by Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP
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Sine Die, folks! The North Carolina General Assembly has adjourned until a new legislature convenes January 14, 2015 with the members elected this November.

Here's what happened this week:

The House passed Senate Bill 3, Version 2:
  • The Senate filed a bill that provided funding for the Western Crime Lab and amended related evidence laws.
  • In the Senate Appropriations Committee, a PCS for SB 3 was adopted that stripped out the contents of the original bill and substituted language that amended the JMAC program so that a grant may be awarded to Evergreen in western NC to help it convert from a coal-run manufacturing facility to natural gas.
  • The Senate passed that bill to the House.
  • The House substituted language that was a mini budget bill and sent it back to the Senate for concurrence. That was Version 3.
  • To say the Senate did not concur would not be accurate; the Senate would not even take receipt of the bill and directed its clerk to reject delivery so the bill stayed in the House.
  • Meanwhile, the JMAC provision was added to HB 1224 which was the big economic development bill in the House that also included the controversial local option sales tax changes and extended the historic tax credits. More on that.....
  • With no other clear path for helping Evergreen with the JMAC program, the House reverted to the language in Version 2 of the bill -- which was what the Senate sent over.
  • The House moves to reconsider the vote by which Version 3 was passed and then the bill is referred to the Rules Committee where the contents are replaced with the Version 2 contents.
  • The House passes the Version 2 language.
  • Because the House passed the exact version the Senate passed, the bill was ratified and now awaits the signature of the Governor.
  • The ratified version of Senate Bill 3 dealing with JMAC funding is here: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S3v4.pdf
What about HB 1224 - the big economic development plus local sales tax changes bill?
  • After the Conference Report for HB 1224 failed on the House floor earlier this week (even thought the Senate had passed it and claims House Leadership said they would pass it) there was further discussion and caucusing (arm twisting?)about how to pass that bill. Ultimately the provisions were offense enough to the political left and right that it was abandoned. This was the predicted Lazarus bill, but that turned out to be something else. The Department of Commerce did not get it's needed economic development funds, nor did they pass the crowd funding provision, nor the extension of the historic tax credits.
  • So the Governor and Secretary of Commerce have a new economic development structure but lacks the funding tools they need.
Unemployment Insurance Confidentiality:
Coal Ash:
  • The House and Senate ultimately came together on how to prioritize and rank the coal ash ponds for clean up, and then assign timelines to the categories.
  • It also establishes the Coal Ash Management Commission which will be appointed by the House, Senate and Governor, and will be charged with overseeing the cleanups.
  • The Governor has expressed a possible Constitutional concern with the majority of the members being legislative appointments, and he has not stated whether he will sign the bill.
  • The bill includes a hefty regulatory fee for electric generators and does not permit a rate case to recover for this fee.
  • The does not place meaningful restrictions on how the closure of the coal ash ponds is ultimately funded.
  • The ratified bill is here: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S729v6.pdf

Is this really Sine Die or will they be back before January? We think the legislators have turned their attention to campaigning and fundraising for the Nov 4th elections. And if you had access to our inboxes you would share our conclusion! Legislators may not raise money from entities associated with lobbying while they are in session.

But, the Governor has 30 days from yesterday to act on the bills we just talked about. If he vetoes a bill, he must call the Legislature back to receive and consider his veto message.

Or, the Governor can call the Legislature back into session for a purpose, but history shows that if called back, the Legislature can also turn its attention to other things.

Strange political bedfellows

This long and acrimonious session has probably been a gift to Kay Hagan as she runs against NC House Speaker Thom Tillis to retain her seat in the U.S. Senate. We've heard gossip in the halls that some Republicans in the NC Senate were working against Tillis. Does that mean the NC Senate is working for Hagan? And the inability of the NC House to cobble together enough votes for a plan (or a new plan that could garner the votes) to allow the Governor and his Department of Commerce to effectively lure jobs to NC is certainly a blow for 1st-termer Governor McCrory, who we expect will be challenged by current Attorney General Roy Cooper. Does that mean the NC House is working for Cooper?

Of course we don't really believe that, but sometimes you have to get off the dance floor and take in the view from the balcony. During the 2014 Legislative Session we don't believe they ever checked the view from the balcony.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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