United States: North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review - March 20, 2015

Legislature considers broad range of bills in busy week

Members of the North Carolina General Assembly had quite a full schedule this week, considering bills on everything from economic incentives and tax legislation to compulsory childhood vaccinations. In a notable moment, on Wednesday Senate Republican leaders openly feuded with North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory over the governor's proposed economic development plan.

NC Senate, Governor at odds on economic incentives

Senate leaders outlined a new jobs plan Wednesday that would rebalance how the state spends millions of dollars in incentives money while dropping the overall tax rate paid by corporations. The plan, backed by Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) would especially limit how much incentives money could go to Wake, Durham, and Mecklenburg counties. And in reducing the state's corporate tax rate to 3 percent, it would mean about $500 million less in revenue to the state. The proposal stands in stark contrast to a jobs creation effort that has already cleared the state house and is backed by Governor Pat McCrory (R-NC).

The Governor offered immediate criticism of the proposal at a news conference this week, saying that the proposal "breaks the bank" and "divides North Carolina." The differences set up a coming debate about the most effective way to grow jobs—all while McCrory's administration argues that companies will look elsewhere if the state's main incentives fund isn't replenished soon.

Read S338 here

Bill moves forward to raise retirement age for NC judges

Judges in North Carolina would be allowed to retire at age 75, which is three years later than current law allows, under a House bill that was approved by committee on Wednesday. House Bill 205 was introduced by Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, (R-Mecklenburg), who says that the measure is just the first step towards completely removing the age restriction, which she argued is beginning to lose relevance as people live longer. The present age cap of 72 went into place early in the 1970s. There are currently nineteen states that have no mandate at all.

The bill, which would apply to the state's judges, justices and magistrates – would require retirement by the end of the year in which the official turns 75. It is worth noting that North Carolina already has provisions in the state constitution which allows the General Assembly to remove judges for mental or physical incapacities no matter their age. The bill is estimated to have no financial impact on the state's retirement system.

Read H205 here

NC House & Senate elect 16 to UNC Board of Governors

This week the House and Senate chambers elected a total of 16 people to the University Of North Carolina Board Of Governors. Of the winners, 14 are registered Republicans, one is a registered Democrat, and one is registered unaffiliated.

The Senate elected the following people to the UNC Board of Governors on Wednesday:

  • Thom Goolsby of Wilmington, an attorney and former state senator, Republican.
  • Temple Sloan III of Raleigh, former CEO of General Parts, Inc., Republican.
  • William Webb of Raleigh, a senior adviser to Shanahan Law Group and former U.S. magistrate judge, Republican.
  • Michael Williford of Fayetteville, an attorney, Republican.

The Senate re-elected the following current members to the UNC Board of Governors on Wednesday:

  • John Fennebresque of Charlotte, the current chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, Republican.
  • Lou Bissette of Asheville, current vice-chairman of the UNC Board of Governors and attorney, Republican.
  • Frank Grainger of Cary, a businessman, Republican.
  • Anna Spangler Nelson of Charlotte, a businesswoman, unaffiliated.

The House elected the following people to the UNC Board of Governors on Thursday:

  • Pearl Burris-Floyd of Dallas, the vice president of the Greensboro Partnership and former state representative, Republican.
  • Philip Byers of Forest City, former Rutherford County Sheriff, Republican.
  • Walter Davenport of Raleigh, an accountant and has previously served on the UNC Board of Governors, Democrat.
  • Joe Thomas Knott III of Raleigh, a lawyer, Republican.
  • John Alex Mitchell of Durham, a land developer, unaffiliated.

The House re-elected the following current members to the UNC Board of Governors on Thursday:

  • James Holmes Jr. of Raleigh, a businessman, Republican.
  • Mary Ann Maxwell of Goldsboro, a businesswoman, Republican.
  • David Powers of Winston-Salem, a businessman, Republican.

Three current members of the UNC Board of Governors were not re-elected to their seats- Dick Taylor of Lumberton, Raiford Trask III of Wilmington, and Hari Nath of Cary.

House Committee Votes Down Bill to Keep Lottery Winners Confidential

The House Judiciary III Committee gave a no-confidence vote on Wednesday to a bill that would allow winners of North Carolina's State Lottery to prevent their names from being disclosed publicly. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) declared the bill "dead" after the committee's vote, though he could continue pushing for the measure and call for another committee vote, but Jackson said he felt the bill would be doomed on the House floor even if it had managed to make it out of committee. Roughly 15 other states keep winners confidential for some period of time. Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) who voted against the measure said of the idea, "If I was a winner, I would not really want my name released, but at the end of the day, I'm really concerned about confidence in government so I'm going to have to come down on the transparency."

Rep. Jackson said that since introducing the bill, he had heard from a myriad of people who had been, or know, lottery winners who said they were in favor of keeping the information of winners confidential. Winners, the Representative said, oftentimes have "long lost relatives" and a large caste of others who "hit them up" for money or harass them in other ways when those individuals simply want to return to their normal lives. Those comments notwithstanding, the state lottery commission opposed the secrecy measure, saying that publicizing winners helped to instill confidence in the games.

Read H30 here

Senate Bill Would Make Childhood Vaccinations Mandatory

North Carolina parents will no longer be able to claim a religious exemption to having their children vaccinated under a bill introduced Thursday in the state Senate. Senate Bill 346, sponsored by Sens. Jeff Tarte (R-Cornelius), Tamara Barringer (R-Cary) and Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) would bring North Carolina law up to current standards, while also adding vaccinations for polio and influenza B to the list of those required. The proposal comes less than a month after the Senate approved a controversial measure to permit state magistrates and other officials with religious objections to decline to perform same sex marriages. Sen. Tarte was the only Republican senator who voted against that proposal, which is currently in the House. The vaccination measure is likely to ignite even more debate statewide over the mixture of religious beliefs and public policy. Speaking at a news conference this week, Sen. Tarte said of the proposal "This was never intended to be mandated or dictated by two or three people, it's open to dialogue to set good public health policy, this is the outline and the blueprint for that."

It is worth noting that North Carolina has a marginally higher compliance with vaccination mandates than other states. Last year, 72 percent of the state's children from the ages of 19-35 months old received vaccinations, compared with just 70 percent nationally.

Read S346 here

Senator Introduces Bill to Ease Gun Restrictions

Senator Bill Cook (R-Carteret) introduced a bill this week that would make it easier for an individual who has recovered from mental illness to possess a firearm. Under current state statute, an adult who is determined to lack "the capacity to manage their own affairs due to marked subnormal intelligence, mental illness or incompetency" is not allowed to own or carry a firearm. Senate Bill 288 would seek to narrowly restrict the types of mental incompetency findings that must be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check system. If the measure were to pass both chambers, it would become effective on Oct. 1st of this year. H288 would allow individuals to petition for removal from mental incompetency listings attached to the national criminal background check, although the petitioner would also have to file a request with a District Court judge that would then be sent to the individual's treatment facility and the county district attorney. The petitioner would then have to prove "by a preponderance of the evidence" that they "will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.

Read S288 here

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