NC Legislative Update: June 2017 #2

by Nexsen Pruet, PLLC
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This Week

On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court opinion that 28 NCGA legislative House and Senate districts relied too heavily on race, and remanded the matter to the lower court.  Although the order does not specifically require lawmakers to redraw districts immediately, on Wednesday, Governor Cooper (D) called for a special redistricting session of the NCGA to begin Thursday.  The proposed session would have occurred concurrently with the ongoing regular session.  However, legislative leaders questioned the constitutionality of the session, noting in a press release, “The courts have yet to give the legislature direction on this matter, and we will be prepared to undertake a thorough redistricting process with ample notice and opportunities for public input when they do."  Both chambers had calendars posted and printed for the special session on Thursday morning, but both chambers rescinded the calendars that morning and ignored the Governor’s proclamation. 

NC House, Senate cancel Cooper’s call for redistricting special session, calling it ‘unconstitutional’ – N&O

House and Senate budget writers met behind closed doors throughout the week and will continue through the weekend, to resolve the differences between the two proposals.  Some areas of the budget negotiations are unofficially complete, however, it is still uncertain how much pressure tax reform will place on negotiations.  It is possible that a Conference Report could be released as early as the end of next week, depending on the unresolved issues left for Sen. Berger (R-Rockingham) and Speaker Moore (R-Cleveland) to finalize.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 628, entitled Various Changes to Revenue Laws.  The bill, which is largely technical, makes a number of changes regarding business tax, sales and use tax, tax collection and enforcement, administrative changes, and property tax.  A link to the summary of the PCS can be found here.

The Senate began moving forward with the confirmation process of Gov. Cooper’s two remaining unconfirmed Cabinet appointments.  Both Eric Boyette, Chief Information Officer for the Department of Information Technology (DIT), and Ronald Perry, Secretary of the Department of Revenue (DOR), who are currently serving in their respective roles, could be confirmed by the full Senate as early as next week.

IT chief heads toward confirmation – N&O

Senators also passed Senate Bill 410, entitled Marine Aquaculture Development Act.  The bill seeks to create a fish farming industry off the coast of North Carolina by leasing anywhere from 100 to 1,500 acres of the State’s sounds as well as the Atlantic Ocean.  The bill now awaits action in the House.

On Thursday, the House passed House Bill 746, entitled Omnibus Gun Changes, sponsored by Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender). The bill contains “constitutional carry” provisions endorsed by 2nd Amendment activists. It would allow individuals who are 18 or older, US citizens, and not otherwise prohibited by law, to carry a handgun, open or concealed, without a concealed handgun permit. Current law allows individuals to open carry without a permit, but prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons, including handguns, without obtaining a concealed handgun permit, subject to certain restrictions.  The proposal would also allow an individual to carry concealed where open carry is currently allowed.  Individuals would still be able to attain a permit for out-of-state reciprocity.  The bill would also allow District Attorneys and Assistant District Attorneys to carry a concealed handgun into a courtroom.  The bill passed the House with less than a veto-proof majority, 64-51.  On third reading, 6 Republicans voted with all of the Democrats against the measure.  The bill now awaits action in the Senate.

House votes to ease concealed handgun law, but not with veto-proof majority – N&O

The House passed House Bill 589, entitled Competitive Energy Solutions for NC, sponsored by Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland).  The proposal would amend various laws related to energy policy, including reform of the State implementation of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA).  It would create a competitive bidding process for new renewable energy resources, and enact the Distributed Resources Access Act to authorize leasing of third-party owned solar development.  In Committee, several stakeholders from renewable energy groups, utilities, and consumer advocacy groups spoke in favor of the legislation.  After passing the House 108-11, the bill now awaits action in the Senate.

Unusual alliance pushing energy bill through House – Carolina Journal

The House passed Senate Bill 655, entitled Change Date When Primary Elections Held, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie).  The bill changes even-year primary elections from May to March in addition to holding the filing period for candidates in December. However, pursuant to an amendment passed by Rep. Jackson, these proposed changes would not occur until March of 2020, allowing more time for the potential redistricting process to take place. Opponents state that the change would create a much longer general election campaign, and that closing the filing period in December will make new candidates less likely to run for office.  The bill was scheduled on the Senate calendar for Thursday, but was sent to the Senate Rules Committee that morning.

Should all even-year primaries be held in March? NC House votes yes – N&O

The House Wildlife Resources Committee heard House Bill 867, entitled Coastal Fisheries Conservation/Econ. Dev, sponsored by Rep. Yarborough (R-Person), for discussion only.  The bill addresses a recurring unresolved quarrel between the commercial and recreational fishermen, and seeks to protect the North Carolina coast through both restoration and conservation of the fisheries present in the state by increasing regulations for commercial fishing. Under the bill, conservation and management will become a main duty of the state Marine Fisheries Commission, and fishing stock would be managed scientifically to avoid overfishing. Some opponents of the bill claim that there is no scientific proof of declining fish populations, but rather the bill just serves to detrimentally impact both commercial fishing and coastal communities in the state.

NC fishing fight moves inland – WRAL

Sen. Brock also filed Senate Bill 667, a constitutional amendment that would ask the voters in the 2018 general election to add a provision to the NC Constitution to protect the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.  The bill sponsors filed the legislation, to prevent future legislatures from infringing on the State’s outdoor heritage.  Currently 21 other states have similar constitutional protections for hunting and fishing.

Constitutional Amendment to ensure the right to hunt and fish – NSJ

A link to next week’s announced Committee calendar can be found here.  A cumulative list of House and Senate bills filed this year, with links, and their current status can be found here.

In the News

Will Pat McCrory make fourth bid for governor in 2020? Looks like he's thinking about it – Citizen-Times
Lawsuit seeks board seats for unaffiliated voters – WRAL
State treasurer to appeal pension-spiking decision – Daily Reflector
State retirees push for pension increase in budget – WRAL
'Millennial caucus' looks to engage NC's next generation – WRAL
Lawmakers Moving on Overhaul of Troubled Child Welfare System – NC Health News
Advocates call for fairness in chemo coverage – WRAL
Local legislation still on the table as N.C. General Assembly session nears end – State Port Pilot
Bill upholding 'casino nights' clears NC House – WLOS
NC joins movement to support Paris climate deal –WRAL

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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