By George Reed, Retired Executive Director
Newly Introduced Bills
CRIMINAL AND JUVENILE JUSTICE
H 233, Ban the Box, would govern how state and local governments could use criminal histories in making hiring decision. (“Ban the box” refers to the question on an application form about whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime, and the applicant has to check the “yes” box if so. Asking this question at the beginning of a hiring process is a significant factor in making it difficult for formerly incarcerated people to find employment.) Specifically, H 233 would prevent state and local governments from inquiring about criminal history, including listing such a question on an application form, until a conditional offer of employment had been made. Then a prior conviction could not be used to disqualify the applicant unless it was “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the position.” Factors to be considered in making that determination include: level and seriousness of the crime, date of the crime, age of the person at the time of the conviction, circumstances surrounding the crime, the connection between the crime and the duties of the position, the person’s record since the crime, and whether or not a subsequent crime had been committed. A record of arrest not resulting in a conviction could not be the basis for disqualification. H 233 would not apply if there were a law requiring the consideration of criminal records for a specific position.
Introduced by Reps. Pierce (D-Wagram), R. Moore (D-Charlotte), Brockman (D-High Point), and C. Graham (D-Lumberton). Referred to House Rules.
S 173, Housing Juveniles under 18 in County Facility, would forbid housing youth under the age of 18 in the same facility (local jail, etc.) as those 18 or older unless it is determined that the juvenile is a threat in a facility with other juveniles. If the juvenile is to be housed in an adult facility, there must be a complete sight and sound barrier between the juvenile and those over 18.
Introduced by Sens. Robinson (D-Greensboro), McKissick (D-Durham), and Lowe (D-Winston-Salem). Referred to House Rules.
H 280, Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act. See S 146 in Raleigh Report, March 6.
Introduced by Reps. McGrady (R-Hendersonville), Lewis (R-Dunn), Duane Hall (D-Raleigh), and S. Martin (R-Wilson). Referred to House Judiciary I and, if favorable, to Appropriations.
S 166, Expand Local Option Sales Tax for Education. Under current law, local governments can, subject to a referendum vote, add 1/4% or 1/2% to their local sales tax and use the revenue for public transportation needs. S 166 would create a similar option for school construction, also subject to a referendum vote, but a local government would not be able to adopt both additional taxes – for transportation and for schools. It would have to be one or the other.
Introduced by Sen. Randleman (R-Wilkesboro). Referred to Senate Rules.
H 285, Suicide Prevention/Awareness School Personnel, would require schools, including charter schools, to develop youth suicide awareness and prevention training programs for school personnel who work directly with students in grades K-12. The goal would be to help these teachers and other employees to recognize at-risk students and know what to do, including making referrals, to help.
Introduced by Reps. Murphy (R-Greenville), Hardister (R-Greensboro), Dollar (R-Cary), and Dobson (R-Nebo). Referred to House Health and, if favorable, to Education – K-12.
S 209, Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission, is identical to H 200. See RR, March 6.
Introduced by Sens. J. Jackson (D-Charlotte), Woodard (D-Durham), and Chaudhuri (D-Raleigh). Referred to Senate Rules.
H 267, Utilities/Amend REPS Requirements. Under current law, public utilities are required to produce certain amounts of electricity from renewable sources. (“REPS” = Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.) These standards are currently in the middle of a phase-in period, which started with a requirement of 3% in 2012 and is scheduled to rise to 12.5% by 2021. In significant part because of the REPS, North Carolina has become a leading producer of solar energy, with a thriving solar industry, and wind power is also being increased. H 267 would lower the REPS’ ultimate requirements to 8%. (Slightly different requirements for electric co-ops would also be lowered and capped.)
Introduced by Rep. Dixon (R-Warsaw) and J. Bell (R-Goldsboro). Referred to House Energy and Public Utilities and, if favorable, to Finance.
H 271, Repeal Plastic Bag Ban. Current law prohibits the use of most plastic bags by stores on the Outer Banks, where “[e]nvironmental degradation is especially burdensome” and where “[p]lastic bag debris can be harmful to sea turtles.” H 271, claiming that somehow the plastic bag ban on the Outer Banks “impacts North Carolina businesses large and small . . . throughout North Carolina, and hinders their ability to create jobs,” would repeal the ban.
Introduced by Reps. Boswell (R-Kill Devil Hills), J. Bell (R-Goldsboro), and Bradford (R-Cornelius). Referred to House Environment Comm.
S 204, Allow Concealed Carry on UNC and Community College Campuses, is identical to H 251. (See RR, March 6.)
S 204 was Introduced by Sens. Cook (R-Chocowinity), Britt (R-Lumberton), and Brock (R-Mocksville), and referred to Senate Rules. H 251 has been referred to House Judiciary IV.
HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE
H 276, Strengthen Youth Tobacco Use Prevention/Funds, would create a special fund and appropriate $17 million per year for this biennium to “prevent the use of new and emerging tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, especially among youth and people of childbearing age.” Funds can be passed on to local health departments or other organizations working to prevent tobacco use and not receiving funds from the tobacco industry.
Introduced by Reps. Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem), Adcock (D-Cary), Dobson (R-Nebo), and Watford (R-Thomasville). Referred to House Health and, if favorable, to Appropriations.
H 221, Repeal H.B. 2, is a pure repeal bill, with no other provisions.
Introduced by Rep. Jackson (D-Raleigh). Referred to House Rules.
S 188, No Powell Bill Funds/Sanctuary Cities, is another effort to punish communities which are trying to be neighborly to undocumented immigrants. Specifically it would prohibit giving state funds to municipalities for maintenance of local streets (so-called Powell Bill Funds) if the municipality is in violation of state immigration laws prohibiting sanctuary ordinances, policies or procedures. It would be up to the Department of Transportation to determine if a municipality is in violation of the anti-sanctuary law.
Introduced by Sen. Rabon (R-Southport). Referred to Senate Rules.
LIMITING THE GOVERNOR’S POWERS
Three bills have been introduced which would limit the Governor’s powers related to the state’s judiciary system. All three have been passed by the House and sent to the Senate. Specifically, they are:
H 239, Reduce Court of Appeals to 12 Judges. The Court currently has 15 judges. Three of them will face mandatory retirement because of their age in coming years, one of them this year. Under current law, the Governor would appoint their successors, who would serve until the next state elections. H 239 would instead eliminate seats when they became vacant until the number of judges dropped to 12. You may not be surprised to learn that the three facing retirement are all Republicans, and their retirement dates will come while Governor Cooper is in office.
Introduced by Reps. Burr (R-Albemarle), Lewis (R-Dunn), and Stevens (R-Mt. Airy).
H 240, General Assembly Appoint for District Court Vacancies. Under current law, if there is a vacancy in the office of district court judge, it is filled by the Governor from a list of nominees selected by the judicial district’s bar. H 240 would transfer that power to the General Assembly.
Introduced by Reps. Burr (R-Albemarle), K. Hall (R-King), Saine (R-Lincolnton), and Bumgardner (R-Gastonia).
H 241, Special Superior Court Judgeship Appointed by General Assembly. Current law gives the Governor the power to appoint certain special superior court judges. Under H 241, for any new vacancies that occur, that power would be given to the General Assembly.
Introduced by Reps. Burr (R-Albemarle), K. Hall (R-King), Saine (R-Lincolnton), and Bumgardner (R-Gastonia).
H 238/S 174, Economic Security Act of 2017, includes a long list of provisions that would benefit the lives and families of workers. These include:
- Raise the state minimum wage in specified steps to $15 in 2021.
- Prohibit employers from paying an employee at a wage rate less than that paid to employees of the opposite sex for the same work. It would apply to government entities and to all other employers with more than five employees.
- Provide mandatory paid sick leave for most employees. Leave time would accrue at the rate of one hour of leave time for every 30 hours of work, up to 32 hours of accrued leave time for businesses with 10 or fewer employees or 56 hours for other employers. Leave time could be used for the physical or mental illness of the employee and his/her immediate family. It could also be used to allow the employee to deal with “the psychological, physical, or legal effects on himself or herself or an immediate family member, of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.”
- Phase out the practice of counting tips as wages in calculating minimum wage.
- Make it more difficult for employers to engage in wage theft (violating minimum wage, overtime or wage payments).
- Ban the box, making it harder for public employers to exclude job applicants from consideration solely based on their criminal record. See H 233, above.
- Eliminate the prohibition on public employee union collective bargaining agreements.
- Reenact the state earned income tax credit, equal to 5% of the federal credit.
- Reenact the tax credit for child care.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), Fisher (D-Asheville), B. Richardson (D-Louisburg), and Holley (D-Raleigh), and Sens. Bryant (D-Rocky Mount), Foushee (D-Hillsborough), and Van Duyn (D-Asheville). Referred to House and Senate Rules.
H 289/S 210, Living Wage by 2022. Current law sets the state’s minimum wage at $6.15 or the federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. (The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.) H 289/S 210 would raise the state minimum wage in annual increments up to $15.00/hour in 2022. Federal levels, should they be higher, would continue to trump state levels. After that, the state minimum wage would be tied to the federal Consumer Price Index and adjusted annually.
Introduced by Reps. Fisher (D-Asheville), Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson), Harrison (D-Greensboro), and Jackson (D-Raleigh), and Sens. Bryant (D-Rocky Mount), Waddell (D-Newell), and McKissick (D-Durham). Referred to House and Senate Rules.
Status of Introduced Bills
H 100, Restore Partisan Elections for Superior and District Courts, has been passed by the Senate and returned to the House, which concurred in minor Senate changes. It has now gone to the Governor, who is considering whether or not to sign it.
S 75, Constitutional Amendment – Maximum Income Tax Rate of 5.5%, is on the Senate calendar for March 14.
Official State Whatevers
For those of you who feel that North Carolina is short on designated “official State” things, there are three new bills you may want to check out. S 141 names the Gold Festival in Old Fort as the state’s “official gold festival.” S 142 proclaims “The Linville Caverns spider (Nesticus carolinensis) is adopted as the official State spider of North Carolina.” And S 197/H 74 would name the bobcat as the “official cat.”
How to Get Involved
Be sure to check out our Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit. It will give you specific suggestions and important links so you can translate the legislative information in Raleigh Report into legislative advocacy. Let us know if you have questions.