By George Reed, Retired Executive Director
Newly Introduced Bills
BUDGET AND TAXATION
HB 329, Home School Education Tax Credit, would give a $1,250-per-student-per-semester income tax credit to the parents of children being home schooled.
Introduced by Reps. Pitman (R-Concord), Boswell (R-Kill Devil Hills), and Brody (R-Monroe). Referred to House Education—K-12 and, if favorable, to House Finance.
HB 333, Local Option Sales Tax Flexibility, would, like S 166 (see Education section in Raleigh Report, for March 13), permit an increase in local sales taxes of ¼% or ½%, after a referendum, for the benefit of public education. But there are differences: 1) Subject to existing caps on the local sales tax (2¾% in Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Orange, and Wake counties; 2½% elsewhere), local governments would not have to choose between local transportation needs and school needs. 2) School funds could be used not only for construction needs, as in S 166, but also for teacher salaries and community colleges.
Introduced by Reps. S. Martin (R-Wilson), Hunter (D-Ahoskie), Watford (R-Thomasville), and Saine (R-Lincolnton). Referred to House Finance.
Two little bills offer insight into the complexity of the state’s tax code and into the priorities some legislators have for making changes to it.
- S 230, Exempt Vacation Linen Rentals from Sales Tax, would provide a tax benefit to those able not only to rent vacation properties but also to rent the sheets and towels there. The loss of revenue will, as is the case with any tax cut, have to be made up by other taxpayers or will cause a reduction of some state expense. Either of these results is likely to have impact on those not able to rent vacation properties, much less sheets and towels.
- S 232, Septic Tank Tax Fairness Act, is an interesting place to inject “fairness” into tax laws. Current law exempts septic tank systems from sales tax if they contain at least 75% recycled material. S 232 would repeal that exemption, presumably making the state a fairer place for septic tanks that don’t use recycled materials, but at the same time removing an incentive for recycling.
CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
H 386, Intensive Family Preservation Services Funds, would allocate $6.6 million for each year of the biennium for Intensive Family Preservation Services, which help families whose children are at risk of being removed from the family.
Introduced by Reps. Hardister (R-Greensboro), Adcock (D-Cary), Jordan (R-Jefferson), and Boswell (R-Kill Devil Hills). Not yet referred.
H 305, School Boards Can’t Sue Counties. Under current law, if a local school board and its county commissioners can’t reach agreement about the sufficiency of the funds allocated by the commissioners, there’s a process for mediation. H 305 would eliminate that mediation, declare that the commissioners’ decision is final, and prohibit the school board from taking any legal action to challenge that decision.
Introduced by Reps. Conrad (R-Winston-Salem), Potts (R-Lexington), and Ford (R-China Grove). Referred to State and Local Government I and, if favorable, to Judiciary IV.
H 322, School Performance Grades. The state’s public schools are given grades based on a combination of the achievement of their students and improvement in the performance of their students. Currently only 20% of the grade is based on improvement and growth. H 322 would raise it to 50%.
Introduced by Reps. Johnson (R-Kannapolis), Horn (R-Weddington), and Elmore (R-North Wilkesboro). Referred to House Rules.
S 259, Restore Master’s Degree Pay for All Teachers, would restore this benefit to its 2013 level, when the legislature deleted it.
Introduced by Sens. Lowe (D-Winston-Salem), Smith-Ingram (D-Gaston), and Robinson (D-Greensboro). Referred to House Rules.
S 280, Early Literacy Initiative/Funds, would allocate $12 million this year for a comprehensive early literacy initiative. $7 million would increase access to an already existing program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The other $5 million would be to pilot a nurse home visitation program for all parents of newborns in six counties of various sizes.
Introduced by Sen. Hise (R-Spruce Pine). Referred to Senate Rules.
H 303/S 228, Voter Freedom Act. Under current law, a voter’s eligibility can be challenged by another voter in the same county, and evidence of returned mail sent to the challenged voter’s address of registration can be sufficient to get him/her removed from the voter rolls. There were numerous incidents last year in which individuals sent mail to a group of voters and then used mail that was returned to get county boards of elections to purge people from the rolls. H 303/S 228 would put more of the burden on the challenger. Specifically, a challenge could be filed only by another voter in the same precinct (not the entire county) and a returned first-class letter from the address listed on the challenged voter’s registration card would not be enough, by itself, to pursue a challenge. Absent an acknowledgement from the challenged voter or a statement from another county or state that the challenged voter had registered there, a voter could not be taken off the voter roll unless the notification requirements of the National Voter Registration Act had been followed. A challenger would be required to “know or reasonably believe” (current law also includes “suspect”) that the challenged voter isn’t qualified to vote, and a piece of returned mail would not be sufficient.
Introduced by Reps. Pierce (D-Wagram), Floyd (D-Fayetteville), and Lucas (D-Spring Lake) and by Sens. Clark (D-Raeford), Van Duyn (D-Asheville), and Woodard (D-Durham). Referred to House and Senate Rules Comms.
Three bills call for studies:
- H 319, Study Solar Facility Decommissioning, would require the Environmental Review Commission to study issues related to the decommissioning of “utility-scale” solar installations. This would include whether the utility should be required to put aside funds for decommissioning, whether any of the materials are hazardous, whether they can be disposed of in landfills, whether recycling the solar panels would be feasible, and whether the land could be returned to agricultural use.
- H 320, Study Electronics Recycling, would require a study of recycling requirements for discarded computer equipment and televisions.
- H 321, Study Solid Waste Disposal Tax, would call for a study on this tax, which is distributed mostly to the Inactive Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund and to local governments providing solid waste management services.
All three have been introduced by Rep. Dixon (R-Warsaw) and referred to House Environment.
H 363, The Pollinator Protection Act. The bill notes that a third of food produced in North America relies on pollination by honey bees and that colony collapse disorder is a condition impacting pollination. While several factors seem to be at work, many in the scientific community have linked neonicotinoids, a category of pesticides which affect the central nervous systems of insects, with the decline of pollinators. H 363 would limit the sale and use of these pesticides to licensed pesticide applicators, farmers using them for agricultural purposes, and veterinarians.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), McGrady (R-Hendersonville), G. Martin (D-Raleigh), and Setzer (R-Catawba). Referred to House Environment and, if favorable, to House Agriculture.
S 236, Efficient and Affordable Energy Rates, would encourage a reduction in the state’s energy consumption in three ways: 1) the establishment of “tiered rates” for electricity customers under which the use of higher quantities of electricity would result in a higher price per kilowatt hour, 2) creation of the Energy Efficiency Bank, which would loan money to customers who invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy products, and 3) imposition of a 5% tax on residential appliances and other products which do not meet Energy Star standards. Income from the 5% tax would help to fund the Bank.
Introduced by Sens. Woodard (D-Durham), Foushee (D-Hillsborough), and Smith-Ingram (D-Gaston). Referred to Senate Rules.
S 279, Change Exclusion for Solar Energy Systems, is identical to H 171. See RR, February 27.
Introduced by Sens. Britt (R-Lumberton) and Sanderson (R-Arapahoe). Referred to Senate Rules.
H 345, Omnibus Firearms Bill, has, as the title suggests, several parts. Among them:
- Specify that the ban on carrying a firearm onto education property does not cover property used for both a school on a part-time basis and a religious institution except when in use as a school.
- Permit the Governor and his immediate family to carry a weapon in the Executive Mansion or the Western Residence of the Governor. (And you thought this General Assembly was only into taking away powers from Gov. Cooper.)
- Permit legislators and legislative employees who have a concealed handgun permit to bring their guns into legislative buildings and on the grounds. That permission could be overruled as it pertains to the visitors’ gallery of the legislative building.
There’s a peculiar new crime, “Going armed to the terror of the people.” It forbids someone from being armed “with an unusual and dangerous weapon for the purpose of terrifying others and go[ing] about on public highways in a manner to cause terror to the people.” But, not to worry, it wouldn’t apply to people with handguns, whether carried openly or concealed, and a violation – for terrorizing people with an unusual and dangerous weapon – would be only a misdemeanor.
Introduced by Reps. Speciale (R-New Bern), Pittman (R-Concord), Brody (R-Monroe), and Boswell (R-Kill Devil Hills). Referred to House Judiciary I.
HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE
H 367, Community Health Centers Grant Program/Funds, would allocate $7.5 million for each year of the biennium to the state’s Office of Rural Health to be used for Community Health Centers Grants (to free clinics, federally qualified health centers, rural health centers, local health departments, school-based health centers, and other nonprofits serving people who are poor and underinsured). The grants would have a focus on health care services to low-income and vulnerable populations. Individual grants could not be more than $150,000 per year and priority would go to areas with the highest levels of poverty and clients who are poor.
Introduced by Reps. Dobson (R-Nebo), Presnell (R-Burnsville), and Jordan (R-Jefferson). Referred to House Appropriations.
H 387, Corner Store Initiative, would seek to provide more nutritious food in areas of poverty, where obesity and diabetes are significant food-related health issues. Specifically it would provide small grants for equipment and other needs of small stores in food deserts (federally designated areas of high poverty and with poor access to a grocery store). Funds would come from the Healthy Food Small Retailer Fund, established by H 387 but not funded by it.
Introduced by Rep. Holley (D-Raleigh), Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem), McElraft (R-Emerald Isle), and Quick (D-Greensboro). Not yet referred.
S 290, Medicaid Expansion/Healthcare Jobs Initiative, would expand Medicaid eligibility to include everybody under the age of 65 and with incomes at or below 133% of the federal poverty level. While most of the funding would come from federal Affordable Care Act money (if the ACA continues), additional funds would come from state appropriations, state savings because of state-funded programs transferred to Medicaid, and an assessment on hospitals.
Introduced by Sens. Clark (D-Raeford) and Bryant (D-Rocky Mount). Referred to Senate Rules.
H 328, Athletic Associations Accountability Act, directs the Speaker Moore and President Pro Tem Berger to file a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service “alleging that the [NCAA and ACC] have engaged in excessive lobbying activities” because they’ve moved athletic events out of North Carolina in response to HB2. In addition, as summarized by David Heinen at the NC Center for Nonprofits, H 328 would “[r]equire state universities to disclose the names of any employees or faculty members who serve on the boards, committees, commissions, or task forces of the NCAA and ACC and to make public all matters (other than legal settlements and personnel matters) on which these nonprofit boards, committees, commissions and task forces voted and how each individual votes on these items. All of this information would be public record.”
Many of you who engage in advocacy associated with churches and other nonprofits have enough contact with the IRS rules to recognize how preposterous this allegation is. The bill itself states that the ACC and NCAA have revenues of over $1 billion. IRS regulations permit an “insubstantial” amount of an organization’s work to be given over to lobbying (i.e., communicating with legislators or encouraging others to do so, in support of or opposition to specific legislation), with “insubstantial” vaguely defined as something between 5% and 20% of the organization’s total activities, including budget. Even if you presume that every penny the ACC and NCAA have spent on moving games and tournaments qualifies as lobbying (and clearly that is not the case), they would have to be spending at least $50 million to be doing excessive lobbying.
Heinen notes additional reasons why this bill should be of concern to nonprofits generally, regardless of their position on HB2:
- This type of legislation – and the media attention it generates – can mislead the public about what types of advocacy activities are legal for 501(c)(3) nonprofits.
- The bill could force some board members of the ACC and NCAA to violate their fiduciary duties to the nonprofits by making public board discussions and votes that they are legally required to keep confidential.
- This proposal could chill nonprofits’ free speech by setting a precedent that it is appropriate for state legislators to retaliate against individual 501(c)(3) organizations when they disapprove of the nonprofits’ advocacy activities, even though these activities are legal, appropriate, and consistent with their missions.
Introduced by Reps. Brody (R-Monroe), Millis (R-Hampstead), Yarborough (R-Roxboro), and Boswell (R-Kill Devil Hills). Referred to House Judiciary I.
H 306, E-Verify Required for All Government Contracts. Current NC law requires private employers with 25 or more employees to use the federal E-Verify program to verify that their employees are in the country legally. H 306 prohibits the state or any of its subdivisions from entering into contracts unless the contractor and its subcontractors use E-Verify.
Introduced by Reps. Millis (R-Hampstead), Cleveland (R-Jacksonville), Conrad (R-Winston-Salem), and Collins (R-Rocky Mount). Referred to House State and Local Government II and, if favorable, to House Regulatory Reform.
LIMITING THE GOVERNOR’S POWERS
H 335, Vacancies in Courts, would require that vacancy appointments to any level of the state’s judiciary be made from a list of three persons recommended by the appropriate committee of the political party of the person vacating the seat. While this requirement does not currently exist for the courts, it is how vacancies in the General Assembly are filled and is further evidence of how politicized the courts are becoming.
Introduced by Reps. Burr (R-Albemarle), K. Hall (R-King), Saine (R-Lincolnton), and Bumgardner (R-Gastonia). Referred to House Judiciary I Comm.
S 234, SBA Pay/Needs-Based Public School Capital Funds, would use lottery funds to increase compensation for public school principals and assistant principals and for school construction in the state’s least developed counties. In addition, advertising expenses for the lottery could increase from 1% to 2% of total annual lottery revenues.
Introduced by Sens. Tillman (R-Archdale), Brown (R-Jacksonville), and Hise (R-Spruce Pine). Referred to Senate Education/Higher Education. If favorable, to Senate Appropriations and, if favorable, to Senate Rules.
H 334, Families’ Stabilization Act, would prohibit employers from paying workers different wages for the same work based only on gender. It would apply to government entities and to all other employers with more than five employees.
Introduced by Reps. Cunningham (D-Charlotte), Fisher (D-Asheville), Black (D-Durham), and Butler (D-Wilmington). Referred to House State Personnel and, if favorable, to House Judiciary I.