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Gun Bills Flood In
In the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December and the killing of 20 first graders and six school personnel, it seems that legislative proposals have gone down two divergent paths. On the one hand, some states and the US Congress are attempting to address the ease with which troubled people are able to gain access to assault weapons and multiple rounds of ammunition. On the other hand, some states think that the solution is to put more guns out there, to have a more heavily armed society in hopes that the next would-be shooter will be stopped by another person with a gun. Sadly, North Carolina is in the second category. The following new bills all extend the availability and use of guns.
H 63, Support Right to Bear Arms, is a resolution that puts the state House of Representative firmly on record as supporting the right of North Carolinians to bear arms and as opposing proposals from the Obama Administration to limit assault weapons and enact other restrictions in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. Introduced by Rep. Speciale and referred to House Rules.
H 246, The Gun Rights Amendment, would amended the state constitution to remove the pesky words that say “Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice.” It would also write into the state Constitution the right of those with permits to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in the state except for specifically named places. It would also change several statutes to extend the places where concealed handguns may be carried, including state courts, parades, demonstrations, “any assembly” for which admission is charged, and “any establishment” where alcohol is sold and consumed. Introduced by Reps. Pittman, Ford, Hardister, and Speciale and referred to House Rules.
H 310, Handgun Permit Modernization Act. When you see a bill title like this, you just know to be on alert about its contents. Under current law, sheriffs (who issue concealed handgun permits) have discretion to deny a permit to someone with “a physical or mental infirmity that prevents safe handling of a handgun.” The “modernization” which would be implemented by this bill would be to take away that discretion and replace it entirely by whether the National Instant Criminal Background Check System turns up any evidence of a mental condition. This discretionary decision by sheriffs enables them to factor in considerations like the behavior of the applicant or information about the applicant that would be known to local law enforcement but might not rise to the level of being in the instant check database or might not yet be in the database. Introduced by Reps. Jordan, Hastings, Brody, and Szoka and referred to House Rules.
S 59, Armed Security Guards in K-12, would encourage (but not require) all local school boards to provide an armed guard at each school in the district. These could be school employees, volunteers, or others. Introduced by Sen. Rabin and referred to Senate Rules.
S 146, Private Schools/Firearms Amendments, would permit some employees and volunteers at private schools to have guns on campus if they have permission from school officials. The bill would also permit someone with a conceal handgun permit to bring that gun to church services that are held in a school building (and, in spite of the bill’s title, this part is not limited to private schools). A church renting space from a school would apparently not be able to prohibit concealed handguns during the time it has use of the building. Introduced by Sens. Bingham, Brock, Hise and referred to Senate Judiciary I.
S 190, Gun on Education Property/Stored in Locked Car, would permit any adult with a concealed handgun permit to bring that gun to any educational property so long as it is kept locked in a vehicle and brought out only to defend the educational property from “violent attack”. Introduced by Sens. Cook, Brock and referred to Senate Rules.
S 224, Sunday Hunting on Private Land, would end the current ban on hunting on Sunday and permit it on private land that is owned by the hunter or whose owner has given the hunter written permission. Introduced by Sen. Newton and referred to Senate Agriculture.
Other New Bills
H 144, Homeschool Education Income Tax Credit, would let the parents of children who are being home- schooled take a tax credit on their income tax of $1,250 per semester per child. Introduced by Reps. Pittman, Ford, Malone, and Schaffer and referred to House Education.
H 269, Scholarships to Nonpublic Schools, would set up a scholarship program for students with disabilities who require an individualized education plan and who are attending private schools or being homeschooled. Grants could be of up to $3,000 per semester. This program would replace the current tax credit, which is not refundable. Introduced by Reps. Jordan, Brandon, Jones, and Stam and referred to House Education.
S 138, Bible Study Elective, would allow local school boards to offer Bible Study as a high school elective. Introduced by Sen. Bingham, referred to Senate Rules.
S 236, Counties Responsible for School Construction, is a much broader bill than that title suggests. It would permit a county to take ownership of all public school property in that county and to make all decisions about building new schools and repairing or renovating old ones. Currently local school boards have this responsibility regarding school buildings. Introduced by Sen. Hunt, Apodaca, Brunstetter and referred to Senate Education.
H 102/S 298, Online Voter Registration, would require that voter registration forms be available online (to be printed out and mailed in) and that a system of online voter registration be developed. Introduced by Rep. Alexander and Sens. Bryant, Parmon, McKissick, and referred to House Elections and Senate Rules.
H 171/S 109, Citizens United Response. Citizens United was a case decided by the US Supreme Court in 2010 which overturned limits on corporate spending in election campaigns. These two identical bills are a joint resolution calling on Congress to proposed a constitutional amendment clarifying that corporations are not natural persons entitled to all of the rights of natural persons and stating that money is not speech. Introduced by Reps. Insko, Harrison, and Luebke and Sen. Kinnaird and referred to House and Senate Rules.
H 185, Ballot Reform Act of 2013, would eliminate straight-ticket voting and would places candidates’ names on ballots by party, starting with the party of the current governor and then in alphabetical order after that. Currently candidates are listed in alphabetical order by their party. Introduced by Reps. Jones, Martin, Conrad, and Steinburg and referred to House Elections.
H 188, Early Voting on Weekends, would require a minimum of 20 hours of early one-stop voting be held on weekends. Introduced by Reps. Farmer-Butterfield and Pierce and referred to House Rules.
H 253/S 235, Voter Protection and Integrity Act, would require voters to present a photo ID or voter registration card or to have their photo taken at the polls and then sign an affidavit that they are indeed the registered voter they claim to be. Introduced by Reps. Goodman, Lucas, Floyd, and C. Graham and Sens. Clark and Ford, and referred to House Elections and Senate Rules.
H 298, Affordable and Reliable Energy Act. Current law requires the state’s power companies to produce a small, but increasing, part of their electricity from renewable sources and from energy efficiency. H 298 would eliminate that requirement. Introduced by Reps. Hager, Collins, Avila, and Cleveland and referred in sequence to four House committees: Commerce and Job Development, Regulatory Reform, Environment, and Public Utilities and Energy.
S 171, Limit Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, would prohibit state agencies or any local government from adopting restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions or on human activities related to greenhouse gas emissions that are any more stringent that federal regulations. Introduced by Sens. Jackson, Brock, and J. Davis and referred to Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources.
H 141, DACA Beneficiaries/Drivers License Moratorium. The federal government, through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has given immigrant children brought here by the parents without legal documentation the possibility of a two-year period in which they can remain in the United States legally, without fear of deportation. The state’s Attorney General (a Democrat) has issued his opinion that these young people should be issued NC drivers
licenses, which would enable them to get to school or work. The Secretary of the Department of Transportation (a member of the administration of Republican Governor McCrory) has said that the Department of Motor Vehicles should issue the licenses, but they will have a pink stripe and the words “No Legal Status” on them. H 141 would prohibit issuing those licenses until after June 15. Introduced by Reps. Brody, J. Bell, Lambeth, and Millis and referred to House Rules. [See also H 184, below.]
H 160, Public Contracts/Illegal Immigrants, would prohibit state and local governments from entering into contracts with contractors employing “illegal immigrants” and would require contractors to certify that their employees have all been cleared through the federal E-Verify program. Introduced by Reps. Conrad, Cleveland, Millis, and Szoka and referred to House Government.
H 184, Allow Drivers Licenses for DACA Beneficiaries, would specify that licenses shall be issued to those granted temporary permission to remain in the US through the DACA program and also would require that those licenses be identical in appearance to other licenses. Introduced by Reps. Luebke, Gill, Glazier, and McManus and referred to House Rules.
H 218, No Postsecondary Education/Illegal Aliens (sic), would prohibit undocumented immigrants from attending the state’s community colleges and universities. Introduced by Reps. Cleveland and Whitmire and referred to House Education.
H 101/S 114, Repeal Estate Tax, would, as the title suggests, repeal the state’s estate tax. Introduced by Reps. Martin, Howard, Moffitt, and Setzer and Sens. Barringer, Rucho, Rabon and referred to House and Senate Finance. The Budget and Tax Center reports that in 2010 only 123 North Carolina estates were impacted, all multi-million-dollar estates. Under changes in federal tax law, even fewer estates will be affected. Estimates are that only 40 businesses and farms would be large enough to be hit with an estate tax, and there are a variety of provisions to ease their burden, including a 14-year payment option. Introduced by Reps. Martin, Howard, Moffitt, and Setzer and Sens. Barringer, Rucho, Rabon and referred to House and Senate Finance.
H 152/S 185, Extend Sunset for Earned Income Tax Credit. Introduced by Reps. Richardson, Luebke, Holley, and Queen and Sens. McLaurin, Stein. The House version was referred, in sequence, to Finance Appropriations, Commerce and Job Development, Government, and Rules, an indication of how closely the House plans to examine this bill. The Senate bill was referred to Senate Rules.
H 274, Taxpayer Bill of Rights, is the same as a version introduced in 2011. For an analysis of that bill from the Budget and Tax Center, click here. TABOR would impose an arbitrary cap on state spending, dictating that it could grow no more than the rate of population growth plus inflation. It would artificially limit vital investments in our schools, colleges, health care, and roads, no matter what resources we may actually need in order to compete in a global economy. Similar legislation has been considered and rejected in 30 states. Only one state – Colorado – has adopted TABOR, and its voters put in place a moratorium on TABOR in 2005, as it became increasingly difficult to adequately fund its public schools, infrastructure, health care, and other state services. For an opinion piece from today’s News & Observer, click here. Introduced by Reps. Blust, Jones, Holloway, and Starnes and referred to House Government.
H 99, Caregivers Relief Act. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires certain employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee caring for a seriously ill member of the immediate family (spouse, parent, child). H 99 would extend that provision to employees caring for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, stepchildren, stepparents, and parents-in-law. Introduced by Reps. Adams and L. Hall and referred to House Health and Human Services.
H 100, Healthy Families and Workplaces/Paid Sick Leave, would require employers to provide paid sick leave to its employees. For businesses with 10 or fewer employees, they must be given a minimum of four days per year; for larger businesses, the minimum is seven days. The bill cites data showing that 45% of private-sector workers in NC do not get any paid sick days, and 70% of workers earning less than $25,000 per year do not get paid sick days. Introduced by Reps. Adams and L. Hall and referred to House Commerce.
H 115/S 220, State Minimum Wage/Inflation Increases, would provide automatic annual increases in the state’s minimum wage (the amount paid to workers not covered by federal minimum wage laws) equal to the previous year’s inflation. Introduced by Rep. Adams and Sens. Parmon and Davis and referred to House Commerce and Senate Rules
H 208, Ban the Box, would prevent employers from asking job applicants about their criminal records or seeking that information elsewhere until the employer is ready to make a conditional offer to the applicant. One of the biggest barriers facing people coming out of prison and trying to re-enter society is the difficulty in finding employment. The practical impact of this bill would be to prevent employers from eliminating applicants from consideration solely because of their criminal records, but an employer could still decide not to hire what had been a leading candidate when the employer learns of the candidate’s record. And employers could still ask about criminal records for applicants for positions involving “an unreasonable risk to the safety of specific individuals or to the general public.” Introduced by Reps. Brandon, Pierce, and R. Moore and referred to House Commerce.
H 70, North Carolina Health Plan, would set in motion the process of creating a single-payer system that would provide comprehensive health care for all North Carolina residents. Introduced by Rep. Brandon and referred to House Insurance.
H 151, Root Out Poverty/Task Force Funds, would create a statewide poverty task force and establish two new positions in the Department of Health and Human Services dedicated to poverty reduction and economic recovery. Introduced by Rep. Pierce and referred to House Appropriations.
H 156, Honest Lottery Act, would provide some modest improvements in the state’s lottery. Among this bill’s provisions:
- The word “gambling” would be used in place of or in addition to “gaming” in the lottery law.
- Advertising which shows the odds of winning has to show the odds of winning the largest prize being offered.
- Games would be limited to draw-style and instant scratch-offs.
- Information on probabilities and other mathematical features of lotteries will be available for inclusion in high school civics and math courses.
- UNC will do research on patterns of lottery participation and ticket sales.
- Lottery advertising would not be able to include reference to drawings being witnessed by a CPA.
The bill as introduced would have stricken the word “Education” from “North Carolina Education Lottery,” but that provision has been removed in committee. H 156 was introduced by Reps. Stam, L. Hall, Glazier, and Hardister and is now in House Appropriations.
S 306, Capital Punishment/Amendments, would repeal the Racial Justice Act completely. The RJA, which permitted the uses of statistical evidence to show that race had influenced the imposition of the death penalty, had been gutted by the last General Assembly, but H 306 would strike it from the books entirely. Introduced by Sen. Goolsby and referred to Senate Judiciary I.
Each Raleigh Report brings news of more troubling bills introduced in the General Assembly. We’ve already seen the legislature and Governor rush to make drastic cuts in unemployment benefits and to decline to extend Medicaid benefits to 600,000 North Carolinians. The bill to hurry the state into fracking was itself hurried through the Senate. (It has slowed down a bit in the House, at least in part because of the revelation that wastewater from the fracking process might be trucked to the coastal plain and injected into wells.)
There’s never been a more important time for progressive people of faith struggling for prophetic social justice in our state to come together. So I hope you will register, if you haven’t already, for the 2013 Legislative Seminar on Thursday, April 11, in Raleigh. Worship, workshops, legislative briefings, and a time to be together with like-minded souls. For details of time and place and a complete program, or to register, go to http://www.ncchurches.org/2013/02/program-and-registration-for-2013-legislative-seminar/ or call 919-828-6501. And please feel free to share this information with others who might be interested.