By George Reed, Retired Executive Director
Newly Introduced Bills
BUDGET AND TAXATION
H 356, Tax Reduction Act of 2017, would increase the standard deduction for state income taxes from $17,500 to $18,500 for married/filing jointly, and by comparable amounts for other tax statuses.
Introduced by Reps. Szoka (R-Cumberland), Saine (R-Lincolnton), Brawley (R-Matthews), and S. Martin (R-Wilson). Referred to House Finance.
S 325, Billion Dollar Middle Class Tax Cut. (Yes, that really is the bill’s short title.) Among the bill’s tax cuts:
- The personal income tax rate drops from 5.499% to 5.35%, something that will benefit taxpayers who are very wealthy, not just the middle class.
- The standard deduction for married/filing jointly rises from $17,500 to $20,000, with comparable increases for other filing statuses.
- The cap on deductions for mortgage interest and real estate taxes rises from $20,000 to $22,000 for married/filing jointly, with comparable increases for other filing statuses. (Current law is a flat $20,000 for all.)
- The tax credit for children is repealed and replaced with a child deduction. The current credit is up to $125 per child. The deduction would be for up to $2,500 per child, with lower-income parents getting the largest deductions. The actual value of the deduction would depend on several factors, including how much gross taxable income the parents have. (Credits are a direct reduction in the tax owed. Deductions reduce one’s taxable income.)
The bill also reduces the corporate income tax rate from 3% to 2.5% over the next two years, changes how the franchise tax is imposed on corporations doing business in the state, and alters the method for multistate income tax apportionment for banks and other corporations doing business in several states. These corporate tax changes will benefit corporations, large and small, and higher income people, not just the middle class touted in the bill’s title.
Introduced by Sens. Tillman (R-Archdale), Brock (R-Mocksville), and Tucker (R-Waxhaw). Referred to Senate Rules.
CRIMINAL AND JUVENILE JUSTICE
H 409, State Agencies/Adjust Hiring Practices, is intended to reduce barriers to employment for people with a criminal history. It would apply to all state agencies and government employment except for those employers required by law to do a criminal background check prior to considering a job applicant and for positions in law enforcement or working directly with minors or the elderly. While H 409 is similar to H 233, Ban the Box (see RR, March 13), it would permit an applicant to be asked about a criminal record after an interview, and it would only encourage, not require, similar practices from local governments.
Introduced by Reps. R. Turner (R-Olin), Hardister (R-Greensboro), Grange (R-Wilmington), and Pierce (D-Wagram). Referred to House State Personnel and, if favorable, to Judiciary III.
H 417, Actually Get Rid of Common Core Act (also truly the short title of the bill), would repeal the Common Core standards for math and English language arts and replace them with specified other curricula (one from the U.S. Department of Education and the other from a professor at the University of Arkansas). The bill also specifies that schools will teach math only in the “traditional sequence” of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.
Introduced by Reps. Pittman (R-Concord), Speciale (R-New Bern), Ford (R-China Grove), and Boswell (R-Kill Devil Hills). Referred to House Education – K-12 and, if favorable, to House Rules.
S 316, Suicide Prevention/Awareness School Personnel, is identical to H 285. See RR, March 13.
Introduced by Sens. Krawiec (R-Kernersville), D. Davis (D-Snow Hill), and Pate (R-Mount Olive). Referred to Senate Health Care and, if favorable, to Education/Higher Education and, if favorable, to Rules.
H 401, Supporting Clean Energy/Creating Green Jobs, is a House resolution calling for the state to “transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to 100% clean renewable energy for all energy sector economies by December 31, 2050.” The bill also contains several whereas clauses spelling out the threat of global climate change and the many positive aspects of renewable energy, especially solar.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), Autry (D-Charlotte), Fisher (D-Asheville), and Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson). Referred to House Rules.
H 427, Efficient and Affordable Energy Rates, is identical to S 236. See RR, March 20.
Introduced by Reps. Insko (D-Chapel Hill), Fisher (D-Asheville), Harrison (D-Greensboro), and Autry (D-Charlotte). Referred to House Energy and Public Utilities and, if favorable, to Judiciary I and, if favorable, to Finance.
S 331/H 465, Military Operations Protection Act of 2017, would impose a moratorium on the construction of wind energy facilities until the end of 2020. During that time, the General Assembly would study whether or not wind farms encroach on military training and other military operations in NC.
Introduced by Sens. Brown (R-Jacksonville), Sanderson (R-Arapahoe), and Pate (R-Mount Olive) and by Reps. J. Bell (R-Goldsboro), Dixon (R-Warsaw), and Cleveland (R-Jacksonville). Referred to Senate Rules. Not yet referred in the House.
HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE
S 305/H 422, Raise Awareness About Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias, would allocate $500,000 over the next two years to the Center on Outreach in Alzheimer’s, Aging, and Community Health at NC A&T University. The Center will develop workshops, support groups, and conferences designed to improve awareness and knowledge about dementias in the state’s 20 counties with the highest number of low-income families. The bill encourages the Center “to work with faith-based organizations to provide outreach to the community.” In addition the Center would develop a caregiver toolkit for families caring for someone with dementia and would hold conferences to help families. This assistance for families would address financial issues, legal planning, care for the caregiver, and available local resources.
Introduced by Sens. Robinson (D-Greensboro), Barefoot (R-Wake Forest), and Chaudhuri (D-Raleigh) and by Reps. Murphy (R-Greenville), Dobson (R-Nebo), and Boswell (R-Kill Devil Hills). Referred to Senate Health Care and, if favorable, to Senate Appropriations and Senate Rules, and to House Health and, if favorable, to House Appropriations.
S 322/H 441, Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) Act, would require hospitals to give patients (or their guardians) the opportunity to designate a caregiver who will provide help to the patient in the patient’s home after discharge. It could be a family member, friend, or neighbor. If a patient names a caregiver, the hospital has to give a description of all after-care tasks, with instructions to the caregiver and contact info for community resources.
Introduced by Sens. Lowe (D-Winston-Salem), Pate (R-Mount Olive), and Hise (R-Spruce Pine) and by Reps. Cunningham (D-Charlotte), Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem), White (R-Clayton), and Holley (D-Raleigh). Referred to Senate Rules and to House Aging and, if favorable, to House Health.
S 329, Divestment from Companies That Boycott Israel, is very similar to H 161, as amended. See below, under Current Status.
Introduced by Sens. Tucker (R-Waxhaw), Gunn (R-Burlington), and Brock (R-Mocksville). Referred to Senate Rules.
S 332, Repeal HB 2, would repeal HB 2 but also prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances regulating public accommodations or access to restrooms and other similar facilities. The prohibition on local governments would expire 30 days after the 2017 General Assembly adjourns for more than 30 days.
Introduced by Sen. Ford (D-Charlotte). Referred to Senate Rules.
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
S 327, Drivers with Disabilities and Law Enforcement, would allow the state’s drivers license database and license plate database to record a designation that the person has a mental illness, developmental disability or both. The bill states that this would be done “upon request,” though it doesn’t specify whether that means the request of the person or of someone else. It would also require training for law enforcement in how to interact with people with these designations. This training would include conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques and alternatives to physical or lethal force.
Introduced by Sen. Tillman (R-Archdale). Referred to Senate Rules.
H 410, Root Out Poverty/Task Force Funds, would create the Statewide Poverty Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services. It would be made up of 15 members appointed by the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Governor, along with seven nonvoting, ex officio members. It would be tasked with implementing poverty reduction targets and making recommendations to reduce poverty and increase economic recovery. It would remain in existence until poverty has been reduced by at least 50%. The bill also allocates $600,000 over the next two years for the operation of the Task Force, including the creation of two new positions to staff it.
Introduced by Rep. Pierce (D-Wagram), C. Graham (D-Lumberton), Willingham (D-Rocky Mount), and Hunter (D-Ahoskie). Referred to House Appropriations.
H 366, Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights, has several provisions designed “to ensure the fair scheduling and treatment of retail employees” (defined as those working in businesses such as department stores, groceries, restaurants, hotels, and janitorial services). Regarding scheduling, employers would be required to give a good-faith estimate of the minimum hours a new employee is likely to be asked to work and then give employees at least two-weeks’ notice of their specific work schedules. Employers who then change a worker’s schedule or who have a worker on-call but don’t call them in would owe specified pay to the impacted worker. There would be exceptions for various issues over which the employer had no control. Regarding treatment, employers could not treat part-time employees differently from full-time in hourly wage, access to paid time off, and eligibility for promotions solely on the basis of the part-time status.
Introduced by Reps. Brockman (D-High Point), Fisher (D-Asheville), Harrison (D-Greensboro), and Holley (D-Raleigh). Referred to House Rules.
S 304, Required Financial Audits, would require all nonprofits that receive state or local funds to be audited every four years by a CPA selected by the State Auditor, who could collect the actual costs of the audit from the nonprofit. The bill would also require audits of state government offices and agencies on a more frequent basis. David Heinen of the NC Center for Nonprofits notes that the bill’s sponsors have been receptive to concerns that nonprofits not have new financial burdens placed on them.
Introduced by Sens. Tarte (R-Cornelius), Hise (R-Spruce Pine), and B. Jackson (R-Autryville). Referred to Senate State and Local Government and, if favorable, to Appropriations and then to Rules.
H 413, Limit Legislative Service to 16 Years, would amend the state constitution, subject to approval by the voters, to limit total service in the General Assembly (House and Senate combined) to 16 years. (With the spate of constitutional amendments that have been introduced, it should be noted that constitutional amendments approved by the House and Senate go straight to the voters, not to the governor, and a simple majority vote by the people changes the constitution. Part of North Carolina’s weak-veto system is that constitutional amendment bills cannot be vetoed, something that pre-dates the current moves to take powers away from Gov. Cooper.)
Introduced by Reps. Bert Jones (R-Reidsville), Stevens (R-Mt. Airy), Riddell (R-Snow Camp), and Faircloth (R-High Point). Referred to House Rules.
Current Status of Introduced Bills
H 100, Restore Partisan Elections/Superior and District Court. The House and Senate have overridden the Governor’s veto. All judges will now be elected in partisan races.
H 161, Divestment from Companies that Boycott Israel, has been amended to delete the willingness to continue to do business if the price were right. Its divestment provisions would apply to direct investments, but not mutual funds and other such indirect investments. It has passed the House and is now in the Senate.
H 174, Concealed Carry/Church School Property, was amended in committee to spell out the time frame in which the prohibition of guns on school property would prevent guns at church. (Note that the bill would affect situations in which an “educational property” is the location of both a school and a place of religious worship. That could be a church renting space from a public school or a church which operates a school and shares space with it. Current law prohibits carrying a firearm on “educational property.”) The amendment defines “school operating hours” to mean “times when curricular or extracurricular activities are taking place on the premises and any time when the premises are being used for educational, instructional, or school-sponsored activities.” The bill is on the House calendar for Monday evening.
H 285, Suicide Prevention/Awareness School Personnel, has been re-referred to the House Education – K-12 Committee.
H 322, School Performance Grades, has been passed by the House and sent to the Senate, where it is in the Rules Comm.
S 75, Constitutional Amendment – Maximum Income Tax Rate of 5.5%, has been passed by the Senate and is in House Finance.