After taking a short spring break, the General Assembly returned to Raleigh in high gear. Both chambers saw longer-than-usual committee and floor calendars, as they tried to advance legislation to the other chamber before next Tuesday’s crossover deadline, which has been moved up from May 9th. Some of the issues lawmakers took up this week include strengthening penalties for drug dealers, banning certain dangerous pets, telemedicine, limiting wind energy construction, fire fighter workers compensation, state employee retirement benefits, and energy rate setting rules.
The House made their budget (money report) public this week and proceeded to advance it though the legislative process. The budget was debated at length with many proposed amendments in both committee and on the floor. House leadership cites increases in areas like education and healthcare, and state employee and teacher raises as reasons to support the bill. However, Democrats objected to Medicaid expansion not being included, and attest that North Carolina will still lag behind most states for teacher pay. Democrats also objected to further tax cuts in the bill, claiming that lower rates come at the expense of vital state government functions. State employees are unhappy with the budget’s pay increase, which usually is effective on the first day of the fiscal year, but has been delayed six months until the start of the calendar year to save money. The House approved the budget on 2nd reading by a 61-55 vote on mostly party lines, with only one Republican voting against and one Democrat voting for the approval
Senate Veto Override Vote
The Senate voted to override Governor Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 359: Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This was Governor Cooper’s first veto of the session, and the bill originally passed on largely party lines. Senator Don Davis was the only Democrat to vote against the Governor on the veto override, which gave the vote the required three fifths majority. Davis has faced criticism from numerous left wing groups and Democrats over his vote.
Senate Bill 466, which makes various changes to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), was approved by the Senate this week and sent to the House. The EDPNC is a nonprofit that the Department of Commerce currently contracts with to work on retaining jobs, business development and recruitment, and marketing the State’s travel and tourism industry. The bill modifies the rules governing the contract between the two entities. Some of the changes include permitting the Department to allow the EDPNC to distribute certain federal grants, placing the site certification process with the Department, adding the Secretary of Commerce to the EDPNC board as a non-voting member, modifying the notice time when the contract is not renewed by the Department, and removing the fundraising requirement for the EDPNC. Bill sponsor Senator Brent Jackson thanked numerous stakeholders on the Senate floor, citing the bill as a compromise between the Governor’s office, Commerce Department, and the EDPNC.
Triangle Business Journal: https://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/news/2019/01/30/state-evaluators-want-north-carolinas-economic.html
3rd Congressional District Primary
The primary election for the 3rd Congressional District special election took place this week. State Representative Greg Murphy was the top Republican vote-getter, but failed to reach the required 30% to avoid a runoff election. Joan Perry was the second highest Republican vote recipient, and will face Murphy in a July runoff election. Allen Thomas received the most votes in the Democratic primary with 50%. In a rare Libertarian Party primary, Tim Harris overcame Shannon Bray to win the nomination. A total of 25 people ran in the election, with 17 Republicans, 6 Democrats, and 2 Libertarians running.
NC State Board of Elections: https://er.ncsbe.gov/?election_dt=04/30/2019&county_id=0&office=FED&contest=0
Thousands of teachers gathered in Raleigh for the North Carolina Association of Educators’s (NCAE) second annual rally. Teachers advocated for increased school funding, including supplies, support staff, school construction, and salaries. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance estimated that 19,000 people attended the event last year, and while no number was given this year, it is estimated that turnout was slightly lower. NCAE President Mark Jewell drew criticism for posting an edited photo of the rally that tried to greatly embellish the attendance. The event forced 33 school systems to shut down, which caused 850,000 students to miss school. The school closures led House budget writers to include a provision in their budget proposal to restrict when school districts can cancel school days without substitute teachers.
News & Observer: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article229849024.html#
Senator McKissick Appointment
Senator Floyd McKissick was one of three people that Governor Cooper named to be on the NC Utilities Commission, which sets energy rates and governs electricity providers. The appointments still have to be confirmed by the legislature. If confirmed, Senator McKissick would have to resign his Senate seat, which would be filed by the local county Democratic Party. When asked who he thought they might appoint, Senator McKissick indicted that his son, Floyd McKissick III, might be interested in filling his seat. Senator McKissick is in his sixth term and represents Durham County.
Motorcycle Helmet Bill Fails
House Bill 267, which would allow individuals to ride motorcycles without a helmet, was voted down in the House Health Committee this week. The bill had struggled to get approval from the House Transportation Committee after numerous physicians spoke against it. Representative John Torbett, who has sponsored the bill for the fifth session in a row, claimed that it should be up to the individual whether or not they choose to wear a helmet. Under the bill, a person could ride a motorcycle without a helmet if they are 21 or older and have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for 12 months or longer, or had completed a special training class. Over 30 states allow individuals to ride without a helmet.
Greensboro News & Record: https://www.greensboro.com/news/state/optional-helmet-bill-fails-in-nc-house-committee/article_55154336-c256-5a5a-9220-bd65eb3e1a41.html
2019 Session Laws
The following 12 bills have become law this session: