The update is compiled on a volunteer basis by George Reed, the Council’s retired executive director.
May 17, 2016
The deadline for introduction of most new bills into the 2016 short session has now passed. Below are summaries of several of the bills which have come in. (Note that a legislator’s party affiliation and hometown are listed only the first time s/he is named in this issue.)
Responses to HB 2
HB 1078, The Equality for All Act, would reverse the discriminatory provisions of HB 2 and extend the state’s anti-discrimination protections (in a variety of places, including housing, public accommodations, employment, lending, and education) to discrimination based on marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military or veteran status, or genetic information. The Human Relations Commission would have responsibility to administer these anti-discrimination laws, but with people claiming discrimination not losing their right to sue in court. The bill contains an allocation of almost $800,000 for the HRC. Primary sponsors: Reps. Sgro (D-Greensboro), Harrison (D-Greensboro), Fisher (D-Asheville) and Alexander (D-Charlotte). Referred to House Judiciary I.
HB 1096, Recurring Funding for Human Relations Commission. HB 2 limited access to state courts for those wanting to pursue claims of discrimination and instead gave responsibility to the Human Relations Commission, which, sadly, had seen its recurring funding eliminated under the state’s current leadership (though nonrecurring money kept the HRC alive for one year). HB 1096 would allocate a little more than $800,000 in recurring funds to the HRC “to enable the Commission to adequately fulfill its statutory duties and functions.” Primary sponsors: Reps. L. Hall (D-Durham), Luebke (D-Durham), Pierce (D-Wagram), and Fisher. Referred to House Appropriations.
HB 1118, Provide Protections against Discrimination, begins by repealing HB 2. It also adds sexual orientation, gender identity, and military/veteran status as protected classes in employment and public accommodations (joining race, religion, color, national origin, and sex as protected classes). In addition, HB 1118 would permit those claiming discrimination (for any of these categories) to sue the employer or public accommodation in state court and collect treble damages if the court finds intentional discrimination. Finally, it would allocate almost $550,000 for the Human Relations Commission. Primary sponsors: Reps. W. Richardson (D-Fayetteville), Cotham (D-Matthews), Hamilton (D-Wilmington), and D. Hall (D-Raleigh). Referred to House Judiciary I.
Other forms of discrimination
HB 1059, Prohibit Discriminatory Profiling, has several parts. It would:
- Define discriminatory profiling as “subjecting a person to investigation, detention, or arrest based on the person’s real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, rather than on the person’s behavior or on information identifying the person as having engaged in criminal activity.” All law enforcement officers would be prohibited from engaging in this profiling.
- Require gathering traffic-stop information about whether the officers making a stop attempted to determine the immigration status of those in the vehicle.
- Require collection of information on homicides, including the number committed; where committed; characteristics of offenders and victims, including race/ethnicity, age, gender identity and sex; the number of homicide cases solved and that remain unsolved; and the time required to solve cases.
- Call for the dissemination of information regarding deaths resulting from deadly force by law enforcement officers, including the total number; where they occurred; and characteristics of the officer and the victim, including race/ethnicity, age, gender identity and sex.
Primary sponsor: Rep. R. Moore (D-Charlotte). Referred to House Judiciary I.
HB 1069, 2016 NC Employee Protection Act, is actually a bill to tighten up those NC workers who are undocumented immigrants. A law passed last year requires employers to use the federal E-Verify program to determine the immigration status of job applicants. The law does not currently apply to workers whose employment is for less than nine months per year or to employers with fewer than 25 employees. HB 1069 removes the nine-month standard, replacing it with an exception for farm workers, independent contractors and those providing domestic services in homes if the work is “sporadic, irregular, or intermittent.” In addition, the law would now apply to employers with as few as five employees. Finally, a provision permitting the use of certain documents for identification by immigrants would be repealed. (See SB 868, below.) Primary sponsors: Reps. Cleveland (R-Jacksonville), Conrad (R-Winston-Salem), Millis (R-Hampstead), and Whitmire (R-Rosman). Referred to House Regulatory Reform Committee.
HB 1086, Refugee Resettlement Act of 2016, would make it more difficult to resettle refugees in North Carolina. It would permit a local government to request a moratorium on new refugees based on its finding that it lacks “capacity to settle additional refugees” in the areas of social service, healthcare, housing, schools, and/or employment opportunities. Its request would go to the NC Refugee Assistance Program, a state agency, which would forward it to the US State Department, which, the bill says, “may thereafter suspend the resettlement of additional refugees” in that community. (Fortunately the bill does not try to tell the State Department what it must do.) In addition, local governments would be prohibited from requesting the settlement of refugees unless they had “documented” their capacity in the categories listed above and held a public hearing. Primary sponsors: Reps. Whitmire, Hager (R-Greenhill), Cleveland and Torbett (R-Stanley). Referred to House Judiciary II.
HB 1081, Tuition Fairness Act, would grant in-state tuition status in the UNC System to any student who has 1) attended school in North Carolina for the three years prior to graduation, 2) has received a high school diploma or equivalency diploma in NC, and 3) has at least a 2.7 grade point average at graduation. This would enable undocumented immigrant youth who have been successful students in NC schools to attend college at in-state tuition rates. Primary sponsors: Reps. Jeter (R-Huntersville) and Meyer (D-Hillsborough). Referred to House Appropriations.
SB 868, Local Government Immigration Compliance. A 2015 law, adopted by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor, prohibits “government officials,” including courts, law enforcement, and local governments, from accepting as valid identification 1) the matricula consular or other similar document issued by foreign countries to their citizens or 2) any local or community ID, such as the FaithAction ID in use in Greensboro and elsewhere. An exception was allowed for law enforcement to accept the latter if that was absolutely the only ID law enforcement had available. The 2015 law also said that cities and counties could not adopt “sanctuary ordinances” and prohibit their law enforcement officers from gathering information about people’s immigration status. SB 868 would repeal the local/community ID (e.g. FaithAction) exception. In addition, SB 868 would let the General Assembly punish local governments by cutting off important funding if they were found not to be in compliance with either the consular/community ID prohibition or the sanctuary prohibition. In so doing, the General Assembly cites its “supreme power and complete discretion” over the spending of state funds and that it can use that power “to create additional incentives” for local governments to “comply with duly enacted laws.” The process established by SB 868 would permit an individual to file, even anonymously, a statement with the Attorney General alleging noncompliance. If the AG finds noncompliance, the state would cut off certain funding, including for school construction and roads, to that local government. A determination of noncompliance by the AG would be final and could not be appealed. (One of the bill’s primary sponsors is a candidate for Attorney General.) In addition, a local government not requiring e-Verify use by its contractors could also lose this important funding. Primary sponsors: Sens. Sanderson (R-Arapahoe) and Newton (R-Wilson). Referred to Senate Judiciary II.
HB 1054, 10% Teacher Salary Increase. Primary sponsors are Reps. L. Hall and Harrison. Referred to House Appropriations.
SB 816, Raise Teacher Pay, is similar to HB 1054, but with salary increases that are about $300 less per month. Primary sponsors: Sens. Waddell (D-Newell), Blue (D-Raleigh), and Lowe (D-Winston-Salem). Referred to Senate Appropriations.
HB 1079, Up Pay/State Employees/Teachers/Retirees, would give a 4% raise to state employees (from the governor on down) and to public school personnel and a 2½% cost-of-living increase for state retirees. Primary sponsors: Reps. Pendleton (R-Raleigh), Jordan (R-Jefferson), Malone (R-Wake Forest), and Blackwell (R-Valdese). Referred to House Appropriations.
HB 1073, Expand Medicaid Eligibility, would take advantage of the federal Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid coverage to all people under the age of 65 who have incomes of 133% of the federal poverty level or less. This would begin next January. For the second half of the 2016-17 fiscal year (i.e., January – June 2017) the cost to the state would be about $47 million, which would draw down about $1.2 billion in federal funds. In addition, HB 1073 anticipates state savings of more than $20 million in costs currently being paid by the state but which would be covered under Medicaid. The bill notes the benefits to the state: creation of thousands of new jobs to serve an estimated 500,000 individuals, the reinvestment in North Carolina of federal tax money already being paid by North Carolinians, and support for the financial viability of hospitals, especially in rural areas. Primary sponsors: Reps. Ager (D-Fairview), Insko (D-Chapel Hill), Harrison, and Fisher. Referred to House Appropriations.
HB 1087/SB 841, Medicaid Eligibility Timeliness/Funds, would require county departments of social services to make determinations of Medicaid eligibility in a timely manner. While there is some flexibility, the basic standards of timeliness would be within 45 days of application, or, if a disability determination is involved, within 90 days. Primary sponsors: Rep. Horn (R-Weddington) and Sens. Hise (R-Spruce Pine), Krawiec (R-Kernersville), and Foushee (D-Hillsborough). Referred to House Appropriations and Senate Health Care Committees.
Working North Carolinians
HB 1046, Constitutional Amendment/Up Minimum Wage, would put to the voters a constitutional amendment declaring that all working North Carolinians shall be paid a minimum wage “sufficient to provide a decent and healthy life for them and their families, that protects their employers from unfair low-wage competition, and that does not force them to rely on taxpayer-funded public services in order to avoid economic hardship.” The amendment would further set that minimum wage at $9.00/hour beginning in 2017 and provide for an annual cost-of-living adjustment thereafter. Primary sponsors: Reps. Cunningham (D-Charlotte), Meyer, B. Richardson (D-Louisburg), and Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson). Referred to the House Rules Committee.
HB 1076, Restore Earned Income Tax Credit, is similar to SB 757 (see RR Weekly Update, May 2, 2016), but with the state EITC being set at 10% of the federal credit, rather than 5%. Primary sponsors: Reps. Luebke, Gill (D-Raleigh), B. Richardson, and Fisher. Referred to House Finance.
SB 817, Constitutional Amendment/Maximum Income Tax Rate of 5.5%. The state constitution already sets a maximum income tax rate of 10%. This bill would lower that constitutional limit to 5.5%, subject to approval by voters. Currently the actual rate is a flat 5.75% for all taxpayers, lowered in 2014 from rates that ranged from 6% to 7.75% based on income. Primary sponsors: Sens. Rucho (R-Matthews), Rabon (R-Southport), and Tillman (R-Archdale). Referred to Senate Finance.
HB 1032, Online Voter Registration, would direct the State Board of Elections to create an online mechanism for people to register to vote or to change their registration information (name, address, or party affiliation). The online process would be limited to those with a NC Driver’s License or the special non-driver ID card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Primary sponsors: Reps. Insko, Michaux (D-Durham), W. Richardson, and Meyer. Referred to House Elections Comm.
The Weekly Update is intended to give you a picture of a range of issues of interest to members of the Raleigh Report network. For the issue(s) of most concern to each of you, it is also intended to give you the information for you to take action.
Your legislators need to hear from you. If you don’t know where they stand on an issue of importance to you, ask them. If their position is in agreement with yours, thank them. If their position is contrary to yours, tell them, respectfully, of your disagreement. If one of your legislators is a primary sponsor of a bill you support, be sure to let them know of your appreciation.
If you aren’t sure who your legislators are, click here. If you need contact information for them, click here for your senator or here for your representative, and then click on their names. For other legislative information, including the text of bills, go to the General Assembly website.