Legislators this week continued budget negotiations and acted on various bills.
Now that both chambers have passed a version of the budget bill (H 259), negotiators are working on a budget conference committee report for consideration in each house. Legislative leaders have announced a goal of completing this work by mid-June.
The Senate on Thursday by a 37 to 11 vote approved a bill (H 347) that would authorize, regulate and tax sports wagering in North Carolina. It would also legalize pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. The House had earlier passed the bill by 64-45. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) indicated on Thursday that the House will concur in the Senate changes to the bill and send it to Governor Roy Cooper next week for his expected signature.
Under the bill, the North Carolina Lottery Commission would be responsible for regulating sports wagering. Wagering could either be interactive (for example, on electronic devices such as “smart” phones) or at certain sports facilities or a place of “public accommodation” associated with such facilities. Wagers would be allowed on professional sports, college sports, electronic sports, amateur sports or other events approved by the Lottery Commission.
A privilege tax of 18% would be levied on each interactive sports wagering operator. Proceeds from this tax would go for a variety of purposes including grants for youth sports and to certain UNC school athletic departments. Of the remaining funds, 30% would go to a new Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund to attract events to North Carolina and 50% would go to the state’s General Fund, which funds most state entities other than transportation.
Blue Cross Blue Shield
The Senate on Tuesday by a 41 to 5 vote passed a bill (H 346) that would allow the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina health insurance company to restructure its corporate model. Under the bill, Blue Cross could create a nonprofit holding company that would become what state law calls its “ultimate controlling person.” The House earlier passed the bill by a 86 to 26 margin. The bill next goes to the Governor for his consideration.
Proponents of the bill argue that the holding company will allow Blue Cross to compete more effectively. During consideration of the bill, State Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey raised concerns about the new holding company, including its accountability and it possibly leading to higher insurance rates.
The House Health Committee this week discussed S 3, a bill to legalize cannabis (marijuana) for certain medical purposes. No vote was taken on the bill at the meeting. The Senate earlier passed the bill by a 36 to 10 margin.
The bill authorizes a doctor trained in prescribing medical cannabis to prescribe it for certain “debilitating medical conditions” such as cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, sickle cell anemia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A Compassionate Use Advisory Board created in the bill could add to this list. A new Medical Cannabis Production Commission would award supplier licenses to 10 entities (each could open up to eight medical cannabis centers across North Carolina) that could grow, process and sell cannabis. Patients or caregivers would register with the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).
Information about bills and work of the General Assembly can be found at its website: www.ncleg.gov.