Over the past two weeks, legislators’ energies were focused on passing bills to meet the “crossover” deadline — the date on which bills die if they haven’t passed from one chamber to another. While there are some bills that don’t need to meet crossover, such as bills having to do with spending, a significant number of bills are now dead having failed to meet the crossover deadline.
Cynics will point out that there is always a way to breathe life into a dead bill or even get a new bill passed. This is true; however, it is hard to do. As a practical matter, many bills died today when the House and Senate ended their sessions.
One can’t determine the effectiveness of a legislator simply by looking at the bills introduced by that legislator and the number that move forward, but it is one indication of effectiveness. So how did I do?
I introduced 19 bills. One bill will become law when the Governor signs it. Ten bills made crossover and are now alive in the Senate. Two bills were companion bills to Senate bills. One of those bills made crossover, and the second is still being worked on and will likely move forward in a different bill that made crossover. Four bills were not subject to crossover and are still alive. That means only 2 bills that I introduced are now dead, and both of them are special cases.
House Bill 186 [Repeal HB2/State Nondiscriminatory Policies] was the bipartisan bill to repeal HB2 and allow municipalities to adopt nondiscrimination ordinances. While the bill was not passed, the bill was critical in keeping the repeal effort alive at a point when it seemed it would die. Ultimately, a similar bill, HB142, passed, and accomplished the objective of HB186. HB186 was a “stalking horse” for the bill that became law, so it did what it needed to do.
House Bill 200 [Non-partisan Redistricting Commission] is a bill to put redistricting in the hands of a non-partisan redistricting commission rather than having the legislature completely in charge of redistricting congressional and legislative seats. Various good government groups have been pushing for non-partisan redistricting since I first arrived in the General Assembly, and I’ve been a primary sponsor of the bill (although not the lead sponsor) in each of the past three sessions. I became lead sponsor when all of my former primary sponsors retired over the years.
HB200 is a bill that might pass at a point in time when neither Republicans nor Democrats are sure they will be in charge of the redistricting process, and don’t want to take the risk that the other party will have that responsibility. My guess is that this bill is most likely to be passed in the 2019-2020 session, at a point in time when there will be redistricting in 2021 following the census.
Sometimes, a legislature files a bill, not so much with the expectation that a bill will be passed, but with the hope that it will keep an issue alive. HB200 was that type of bill. It gave activists interested in the redistricting process a rallying point. They had something they were for, even if it didn’t yet have the support of the majority of legislators. HB200 is a bipartisan bill, and my hope is that non-partisan redistricting will ultimately be adopted.
The bill that passed and will become law when the Governor signs it is House Bill 13 [Class Size Requirement Changes]. While not exactly the same bill that passed the House, it will delay implementation of class size restrictions contained in last year’s budget law. The bill includes provisions intended to get K-3 class size data from the various school systems. Since the State is already paying for class size reductions, it should be clear to school boards that transitioning to lower class sizes must occur. The House concurred with the Senate’s changes to the bill by a vote of 111 to 4.
Beginning next week, my focus will become passing House Bill 280 [Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act]. This is the so-called “Raise-the-Age” bill. North Carolina is the only state that still treats 16- and 17-year olds as adults within the criminal justice system. This bill will change that. Aside from bringing North Carolina law into conformity with the laws of other states, what will be needed is increased funding of the juvenile justice system since we’ll be moving most 16- and 17- year olds from the criminal justice system to the juvenile justice system. Passing HB280 will come first, just as important as passing the bill is securing funding within the next budget.
My expectation is that I will take lead on Senate Bill 343, the Senate version of House Bill 432 [Increase Teach Supplement/Electronic Notice]. The North Carolina Press Association is opposing this bill, while the North Carolina County Commissioners Association and the North Carolina League of Municipalities are supporting the bill. While the Hendersonville Lighting has already published its editorial on the bill, there should be no surprise that newspapers will oppose the bill given that it will take millions of advertising revenue from them. A fuller discussion of this bill will be provided in a future post.
My further expectation is that I will also take the lead on Senate Bill 285 [Equal Representation for Asheville], a bill introduced by Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson] relating to the creation of districts for Asheville City Council seats. SB285 made crossover, and, while Senator Edwards will present the bill to whatever House committee to which it is assigned, I’ll handle the bill when it comes to the floor. Some might find that strange, since I represent Henderson County, but I’m the senior House member who is supporting the bill from the greater Asheville area. As then-Senator Tom Apodaca did for me on numerous occasions, I will handle bills that my colleague, Senator Edwards, needs to have handled in the House.
When the legislature returns next week, the Senate’s focus will be in putting its budget together. The House must wait for the Senate to pass its budget, so during the next few weeks the House will work on its remaining bills that were not subject to crossover, e.g. HB280 or House Bill 616 [NC Public Benefit Corporations Act], and will begin to take up Senate bills, such as SB343 and SB285. At this point, the legislature seems on track to pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, but a lot can happen between now and then. With the crossover deadline having effectively narrowed the number of bills eligible to be heard, legislating will become more serious with a smaller group of bills receiving being considered.