By George Reed, Retired Executive Director
[For the latest committee referrals and re-referrals, go to the General Assembly website www.ncleg.net. There you can also find the texts of bills, procedural histories, and recorded votes.]
Newly Introduced Bills
BUDGET AND TAXES
H 727, Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, would add a lengthy and detailed amendment to the state constitution, subject to voter approval. The heart of the amendment is that the state’s budget could not increase each year more than the national inflation rate plus the state’s population growth rate. A larger increase would require a 2/3 vote in both houses of the General Assembly. The constitutional amendment would also create two special funds to be used in times of budget shortfalls and non-financial emergencies.
Introduced by Reps. Blust (R-Greensboro), Riddell (R-Snow Camp), Bert Jones (R-Reidsville), and K. Hall (R-King).
Two non-identical bills entitled Charter School Transportation Grant Program would allow charter schools with a significant number of low-income students to be reimbursed for student transportation costs. H 644 was introduced by Reps. Hardister (R-Greensboro), Brockman (D-High Point), Torbett (R-Stanley), and Conrad (R-Winston-Salem). S 662 is from Sen. Smith-Ingram (D-Gaston).
H 658, Early Literacy Initiative/Funds, is identical to S 280, See RR, March 20.
Introduced by Reps. Burr (R-Albemarle) and Dobson (R-Nebo).
S 664, Restore Education-Based Salary Supplements, would once again augment salaries for teachers and other school personnel who have completed a graduate degree.
Introduced by Sens. Britt (R-Lumberton) and Homer (R-Wilson).
H 678, Opportunity Scholarships/Accredited Schools Only, would require students getting vouchers to attend schools accredited by the State Board of Education or by a national or regional accrediting agency recognized by the state’s Division of Nonpublic Education.
Introduced by Rep. Ager (D-Fairview).
H 704, Divide School Systems/Study Committee. The past 50 years have seen a consolidation of several smaller school districts into larger, county-based districts. Reasons have included financial economies of scale and the move toward integrated schools. Now there is some pressure to split up large systems, especially from the suburbs of Wake and Mecklenburg counties, whose countywide school districts have the states’ largest enrollments. H 704 would create a study committee to consider whether and how merged systems could be re-divided. It would report back to the General Assembly, with recommendations, by May 2018.
Introduced by Reps. Brawley (R-Matthews), Malone (R-Wake Forest), and Bradford (R-Cornelius).
S 646, Universal Voter Registration, would set up automatic voter registration at driver’s license offices, other specified public agencies, community colleges and UNC institutions.
Introduced by Sens. Woodard (D-Durham), Clark (D-Raeford), and Lowe (D-Winston-Salem).
S 655, Change Date When Primary Elections Held, would move the date from early May to early March.
Introduced by Sen. Brock (R-Mocksville).
S 656, Electoral Freedom Act of 2017. Under current law, a new party or an unaffiliated candidate for statewide office has to get a certain number of signatures to be on the ballot. The number is based on how many people voted for governor in the last election, and, based on 2016, that number would be about 94,000. S 656 would lower the number for a new political party to 10,000 and for an unaffiliated candidate for state office to 5,000. There are also reductions for offices that are not statewide.
Introduced by Sen. Brock (R-Mocksville).
H 769, Voter Freedom Act of 2017, differs from S 656 in details but would also make it easier for new parties and unaffiliated candidates to be on the ballot. The number of signatures required would still be a percentage of voters in the most recent elections, but the percentage would drop from 2% to 0.25%, which, based on 2016 turnout, would be fewer than 12,000 signatures.
Introduced by Reps. Shepard (R-Jacksonville), Adcock (D-Cary), Jordan (R-Jefferson) and R. Moore (D-Charlotte).
H 674, Independent Redistricting Commission, would amend the state constitution, subject to voter approval, to take the responsibility for redistricting away from the General Assembly and give it to the Independent Redistricting Commission, made up of seven retired judges and justices and appointed by the Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, the Governor, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House. They would be required to pursue three goals: compactness of districts; one person one vote; and minimizing split counties, municipalities, etc.
Introduced by Rep. John (D-Raleigh).
H 735, Redistricting by Computer, is in many ways similar to H 674. Its Independent Redistricting Commission would be made up of nine people appointed by the Governor, President Pro Tem, and Speaker, and membership would not be limited to retired judges. A fourth goal is named: having “politically neutral district plans to the extent possible.” H 735 specifies that the Commission is to adopt computer programs that would use politically neutral criteria to generate redistricting plans consistent with the bill’s goals.
Introduced by Rep. Blust (R-Greensboro).
H 698, Increase Penalty for Voter Fraud, would increase these penalties to higher felony levels.
Introduced by Rep. Speciale (R-New Bern).
H 700, Online Voter Registration. Individuals eligible to vote and having a current NC driver’s license or DMV-issued card for nonoperators (the so-called “walker’s license”) would be able to register or change their registration online. DMV would be required to work with the State Elections Board to verify an applicant’s driver’s license or social security number.
Introduced by Reps. Insko (D-Chapel Hill), Meyer (D-Hillsborough), and Morey (D-Durham).
H 714, Fair Redistricting Study Committee. See S 554, RR for April 14.
Introduced by Reps. Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson), Pierce (D-Wagram), Terry (R-Winston-Salem), and McGrady (R-Hendersonville).
H 724, Citizens United Disclosures, would require any North Carolina corporation to have a shareholder vote before annual spending of $10,000 or more in support of or opposition to candidates for political office.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), Insko (D-Chapel Hill), Fisher (D-Asheville), and Michaux (D-Durham).
H 687, Amend Various Coal Ash Provisions, would set up a process for closing North Carolina’s coal ash ponds by 2029. It would involve prioritization of high-risk, intermediate-risk, and low-risk impoundments, with the high-risk ones being closed by 2019. Ponds would be drained (“dewatered”), with the coal ash residue being moved to a lined solid-waste landfill.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), Ager (D-Fairview), Autry (D-Charlotte), and Reives (D-Sanford).
H 721, Omnibus Act Regarding Coal-Based Energy, would 1) prohibit the use of coal produced by mountain-top removal, 2) place a moratorium on building any new coal-fired power plants unless they are carbon neutral, and 3) require divestment of state funds invested in coal-fired energy.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), Fisher (D-Asheville), Autry (D-Charlotte), and Ager (D-Fairview).
H 722, Hog Lagoon Sunset/Livestock Treatment, would 1) phase out hog waste lagoons by 2022, 2) set minimum humane standards for cows, poultry and hogs, and 3) study the use of antibiotic drugs in livestock.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), Autry (D-Charlotte), and Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson).
H 588, Omnibus Gun Changes, contains many of the provisions of earlier bills that would ease restrictions on gun ownership and on where guns may be carried. As Becky Ceartas of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence writes:
The worst parts of the bill would:
- Eliminate NC’s successful pistol purchase permitting system. This means that a convicted felon, dangerously mentally ill individual, domestic violence abuser or a minor could buy a handgun online or at a gun show, no questions asked.
- Allow the carrying of a concealed gun at a UNC system school or a community college. This includes areas where there are children on campus, such as at university hospitals or on-campus day cares. Out of state concealed carry weapons permits also would be valid, which is doubly concerning because some states have little or no training.
Introduced by Reps. Speciale (R-New Bern), Pittman (R-Concord), and Millis (R-Hampstead).
H 723, Gun Safety Act, is a multi-part bill designed to reduce gun violence and improve gun safety. Its provisions include:
- Repeal the Stand Your Ground laws.
- Strengthen safe storage laws.
- Require the owner of a gun to report its loss or theft to law enforcement.
- Require gun owners to have liability insurance covering guns.
- Require sheriffs to verify that an applicant for a gun permit has firearm liability insurance before issuing the permit.
- Limit reciprocity for out-of-state gun permits to those states whose criteria for issuing a permit are at least as stringent as NC’s.
- Prohibit large-capacity ammunition magazines (those holding more than 15 rounds).
- Divest the state of its investments in gun manufacturers.
- Require law enforcement agencies to have written policy regarding the investigation of officer-involved deaths.
- Authorize courts to issue a gun violence restraining order, which would make it illegal for the person to have guns or ammunition. The order could be requested by a family member of the person or by a law enforcement office and would be based on a determination that the person poses a significant danger of injuring someone with the gun.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), Insko (D-Chapel Hill), Fisher (D-Asheville), and Cunningham (D-Charlotte).
HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE
H 662, Carolina Cares, would extend health care coverage to many who would have been covered if North Carolina had expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. For more information, click here for analysis by Steve Ford.
Introduced by Reps. Lambeth (R-Winston-Salem), Murphy (R-Greenville), Dobson (R-Nebo), and White (R-Clayton).
H 767, NC Toxic-Free Kids Act, would prohibit children’s products (clothing, toys, car seats, containers for baby food, etc.) from containing any bisphenol A, phthalates in quantities greater than 1,000 parts per million, or TRIS in amounts great than 50 ppm. The bill spells out these chemicals’ association with leukemia, behavioral problems, lower IQ, organ damage, and other health concerns.
Introduced by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro) and McGrady (R-Hendersonville).
H 711, Increase Hate Crime Punishment, would specify that hate crimes could be caused by either actual or perceived characteristics of the victim. In addition, the protected categories are expanded. Current law includes race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin. H 711 would add disability, military or veteran status, employment status, socioeconomic status, and political affiliation. (Missing from the list are sex/gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.) Penalties for crimes based on these categories would be more severe than for the same crime without the basis in hate.
Introduced by Reps. Murphy (R-Greenville), Stevens (R-Mt. Airy), and Faircloth (R-High Point).
S 652, Increase Access to Higher Education, would give in-state tuition status to students who have graduated from high school in NC (or gotten a GED) and who attended school in NC for at least three years immediately prior to graduation.
Introduced by Sens. Chaudhuri (D-Raleigh) and Van Duyn (D-Asheville).
H 734, In-state Tuition Equity, would be similar in effect to S 652, but with a requirement of two years of NC schooling, not three.
Introduced by Reps. Meyer (D-Hillsborough), Fisher (D-Asheville), and Harrison (D-Greensboro).
LOTTERY AND OTHER GAMBLING
H 638, Public School Construction Grants and Lottery Changes, would allocate a part of lottery revenues for school construction in the state’s economically neediest counties. The bill would also permit an increase in lottery advertising from 1% of total revenues to 2%.
Introduced by Reps. Corbin (R-Franklin), Garrison (D-Henderson), Hunter (D-Ahoskie), and Potts (R-Lexington).
H 750, Gaming Commission/Video Lottery Terminals, would rename the NC Lottery Commission as the NC Gaming Commission and authorize it to start up video lottery games.
Introduced by Reps. Warren (R-Salisbury) and Hardister (R-Greensboro).
H 647, Task Force on Homelessness, would create a legislative task force to make specific proposals to the 2018 General Assembly.
Introduced by Reps. Pierce (D-Wagram), Terry (D-Winston-Salem), Jordan (R-Jefferson), and Quick (D-High Point).
H 819, Protect NC Right to Work Constitutional Amendment, is identical to S 632. See RR, April 14.
Introduced by Reps. Burr (R-Albemarle), Dixon (R-Warsaw), Presnell (R-Burnsville), and Millis (R-Hampstead).