HB 422/SB 234 – Healthy Families & Workplaces/Paid Sick Days is similar to the paid sick leave provisions of HB 46. (See RR, February 26.) Introduced by Reps. Fisher (D-Asheville), Harrison (D-Greensboro), Insko (D-Chapel Hill), and K. Smith (D-Greenville) and by Sens. Robinson (D-Greensboro), Foushee (D-Hillsborough), and Garrett (D-Greensboro). Referred to Senate Rules. Not yet referred in the House.
HB 359 — $15/Hour Minimum Pay for Noncertified School Employees. Introduced by Reps. Everitt (D-Wake Forest), Hardister (R-Whitsett), R. Turner (D-Asheville), and Jackson (D-Raleigh). Referred to Appropriations/Education, then to full Appropriations, then to Rules.
HB 366 – Raising Wages for NC Workers and SB 291 – Living Wage for NC Workers are similar but not identical bills. Both would raise the minimum wage to $15/hour over the next five years, and both would thereafter increase the minimum wage each year to reflect increases in the cost of living. In addition, both bills would end the subminimum wage for full-time students, people with disabilities, those who are economically disadvantaged and unemployed, and workers in seasonal food service establishments. The bills are somewhat different in the following areas:
- HB 366 would phase out the subminimum wage for tipped employees over the next eight years. SB 291 would increase it, but not phase it out completely.
- HB 366 would end the exemption of agricultural and domestic workers from minimum wage laws. SB 291 would end the exemption only of domestic workers.
HB 366 was introduced by Reps. Fisher, Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson), Black (D-Durham), and Harrison and referred to House Finance and then Rules. SB 291 was introduced by Sens. McKissick (D-Durham), Nickel (D-Cary), and Mohammed and referred to Senate Rules.
ELECTION LAWS/GOOD GOVERNMENT
SB 214 – Ensure Orderly 2019 Elections. The General Assembly met in special session last December, after the approval by voters in November of the constitutional amendment requiring photo IDs in order to vote, and adopted many provisions regarding photo ID. At the time it was thought that the new provisions would go into effect for municipal elections scheduled for this fall. But, because of the death of Congressman Walter Jones, Jr. and the calling of a new election for the Ninth Congressional District because of serious problems regarding absentee ballots, there will be elections for those two congressional districts earlier this year. Since this doesn’t give adequate time for state and local boards of elections to prepare for the photo ID requirement, SB 214 delays the use of photo IDs until 2020. It was introduced, passed by the Senate and then the House, and signed by the Governor in a total of four days.
HB 397 – Revise Approval of Student/Employee ID/Voting. Those photo ID rules that were adopted in December include requirements that must be met if photo IDs issued to students and staff by colleges can be used to vote. Twelve of the 17 schools in the UNC system failed to meet those requirements, meaning that their students would not be able to use their photo ID to vote. HB 397 would modify those rules to better fit the way many of these schools issue IDs. Introduced by Reps. Hawkins (D-Durham) and Russell (D-Boone). Referred to Elections and then to Rules.
SB 294 – Make General Election Day a State Holiday would make each statewide general election day a legal holiday and a paid holiday for state employees. Introduced by Sens. Garrett, Van Duyn (D-Buncombe County) and Woodward (D-Durham). Referred to Senate Rules.
SB 339 – “We the People” Act/Referendum would have NC voters consider a referendum urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment stating that constitutional rights belong only to individuals and not to corporations and that free speech does not protect unlimited spending on political campaign contributions. Introduced by Sens. Van Duyn and Nickel. Not yet referred.
SB 338 – Efficient and Affordable Energy Rates. There are three parts to this bill:
- It would require utilities to have tiered electricity rates, under which the price per kilowatt-hour would go up as the customer used more electricity. There would be a system of exemptions from the higher tiered rates for low-income families living in rental property.
- It would create the Energy Efficiency Bank to make loans to customers for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The Bank could also make grants to low-income customers.
- It would encourage purchase of Energy Star household products by imposing a 5% “avoidable pollution tax” on energy inefficient products.
Introduced by Sens. Van Duyn and Woodward. Not yet referred to a committee.
HB 135/SB 341, Government Immigration Compliance contains several provisions related to local government interaction with immigrants. Specific provisions include:
- Law enforcement could no longer rely on identity documents created for immigrants by nonprofits or local governments. FaithAction in Greensboro is one such organization that has been issuing immigrant IDs for several years and had them recognized by local law enforcement.
- A process is created by which an individual, even an anonymous individual, could require the attorney general to investigate that person’s “good faith belief” that a city, county or local law enforcement agency is not following state laws regarding immigration. A finding of failure to comply could result in loss of certain state funds and/or a fine of $10,000 per day of noncompliance. (The bill states specifically that the legislature has “supreme power and complete discretion” over the use of state money and can use that power “to create additional incentives” for compliance.)
- Any person who believes the city or county where s/he lives is violating the prohibition against sanctuary ordinances can bring a court action that could result in a $10,000/day fine against the city or county.
- Institutions in the UNC System are prohibited from becoming “sanctuary universities.”
- The state’s Department of Public Safety would have to enter into a 287(g) agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE requiring certain state law enforcement people to perform immigration law enforcement functions under the supervision of ICE officers.
Introduced by Reps. Cleveland (R-Jacksonville), Presnell (R-Burnsville), Speciale (R-New Bern), and Brody (R-Monroe) and by Sens. Sanderson (R-Arapahoe) and Britt (R-Lumberton). Referred to House State and Local Government, then to Education/Universities, then to Judiciary, and then to Rules. Not yet referred in the Senate.
- Require local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone in local jails and to honor any detainer request made by (ICE), unless the person is a victim or witness to a crime or is reporting a crime.
- Allow federal law enforcement officers to conduct “enforcement activities” in city and county jails.
- Permit individuals to go to court if they believe their local law enforcement agency is not complying with state laws regarding immigration. That agency could be fined up to $25,500 per day if the court finds it is not complying.
- Require community outreach by county sheriffs and city chiefs of police to inform people that a law enforcement officer cannot inquire about the immigration status of a victim of a crime or witness to a crime.
Introduced by Reps. D. Hall (R-Lenoir), Jones (R-Tabor City), Saine (R-Lincolnton), and C. Smith (R-Hampstead). Referred to Judiciary, then to State and Local Government, then to Rules.
SB 244 – Restore Master’s Pay for Teachers would reinstate education-based salary supplements for teachers and instructional support personnel. It would also appropriate $8 million to pay for these supplements. Introduced by Sens. Waddell (D-Charlotte) and Mohammed and referred to Senate Rules.
HB 386 – Ensure Safety of School Drinking Water would require public schools and child care facilities built before 1991 and which have not had their plumbing system replaced to have their drinking water tested for lead. If unacceptable levels are found, parents are to be notified, and the school/facility must take immediate action to provide alternate drinking water that is safe. A Child Lead Exposure Prevention Fund would be established with an $8 million appropriation and would be available to help schools and child care facilities with testing and remediation expenses. Introduced by Reps. Warren (R-Salisbury), Grange (R-Wilmington), Ross (R-Burlington), and B. Turner (D-Asheville). Referred to Health, then to Education K-12, then Appropriations/Education, then full Appropriations then Rules.
SALES TAX EXEMPTION
SB 346, Nonprofit Sales Tax Exemption. Under current law, charitable nonprofits, including churches – 501(c)(3)s, in tax language – must pay state sales taxes at the time of purchase, but most can then apply for a semiannual refund of the taxes they have paid. This, of course, takes staff time and means the nonprofit doesn’t have use of that money for six months. Some nonprofits either don’t know of the refund option or decide it’s not worth it. SB 346 would reverse the process. Qualifying nonprofits would apply for a sales tax exemption certificate which, if presented at the time of purchase, would result in no sales tax ever being paid on that purchase. Introduced by Sen. D. Davis (D-Greenville). Not yet referred to committee.