The textbook way of passing a law is to introduce a bill in one legislative chamber, have that bill heard in one or more committees, and then passed by that legislative chamber and sent to the other one. The same process then occurs in the second legislative chamber, resulting in passage of the bill. Any discrepancies may be addressed in a conference committee, but ultimately both legislative chambers pass the same bill and it goes to the governor for his approval. Many bills take this textbook path, but other bills become law in less straightforward and transparent ways.
As we approach the end of the legislature’s Long Session, veteran legislators employ different methods of moving their bills to the governor’s desk. While one feels good about passing a free-standing bill that carries one’s name and the bill number as introduced, if a legislator is focused on having something becoming law, one should forget about public credit for passage of a numbered bill, and just move the bill or provision in whatever way is most likely to achieve success.
One of the easiest ways to move a bill is to have a colleague in the other chamber move a companion bill—an identical bill in the other chamber. So for example, I am a primary cosponsor on HB532 [DNCR Add New Trails & Various Changes] but the same bill was filed in the Senate as SB380. Rather than moving SB380 in the Senate, by agreement with its Senate sponsors, the House bill was moved and passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor into law.
Another way to move a bill is to incorporate a bill into the budget. Typically, the House objects to policy in the budget (unless it is policy put in to conform with a money appropriation or the House’s position on some issue), but sometimes both chambers want to avoid an extended debate or want to expedite consideration of a bill. The budget bill is a must pass bill, so including another bill in the budget is usually a sure-fire way of getting a bill passed. Of course, that assumes the budget is not vetoed.
HB570 [Water/Wastewater Public Enterprise Reform] and its companion bill, SB536, were incorporated in the budget bill, HB966 [2019 Appropriations Act]. Usually, the budget bill passes and becomes law, but this year the budget bill was vetoed by Governor Cooper making the effort to include the bill to fund the fixing failing water and wastewater systems in the budget not successful.
That has now led to another way of passing a bill. Senator Newton, my colleague, in an effort to address the issue of failing water and wastewater systems, attached the language from our bills to HB777 [Various Retirement Chngs/Wastewater Reform]. That bill is pretty different than HB570/ SB536 since it passed the House as HB777 [Purchase Opt/Credit for Prior Year FT Service], a bill to allow certain employees to purchase into certain retirement systems under certain circumstances. Of course, if the legislature overrides the governor’s veto, then HB570/SB536 will become law as part of the budget and there will be no need for the new HB777 to address water and sewer infrastructure.
So as we move towards the end of the legislative session, here is the status of the bills I have introduced:
- HB3 [Eminent Domain]. The bill passed the House and is currently awaiting action in the Senate.
- HB14 [Reconstitute Various Boards & Commissions]. HB14 was attached to SB381 [Reconstitute/Clarify Boards and Commissions] which passed both chambers and is now law.
- HB69 [Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission] & HB140 [The FAIR Act]. These are both bills to require nonpartisan redistricting. HB69 is technically dead since it didn’t meet the crossover deadline, but HB140 is not subject to the crossover deadline. If the issue of nonpartisan redistricting is taken up, it is likely to move only after the completion of the constitutional challenge to legislative redistricting currently being tried.
- HB91 [ABC Laws Modernization/PED Study] & HB536 [ABC Omnibus Regulatory Reform]. These bills got combined when they were heard in the House Finance Committee. After passing the House, the combined bill was then added to SB290 Distiller Regulatory Reform Bill] and passed by the House. The bill is awaiting action in the Senate. SB290 was a companion bill to HB378, a bill I introduced in the House.
- HB245 [DEQ/Policy Changes.-AB]. This agency bill did not receive a hearing and is now dead since it didn’t meet the crossover deadline.
- HB246 [DEQ/Fund and Fee Changes.-AB]. This agency bill was largely incorporated in the budget, HB966, but since the budget has been vetoed, the bill hasn’t become law. If the governor’s veto is overridden, then it will become law.
- HB326 [Hendersonville Local Option Sales Tax]. Technically, the bill is still alive, but it really isn’t. It will not receive a hearing before the House Finance Committee prior to the end of session.
- HB334 [NCSU Honey Bee Laboratory/Funds]. The bill would fund a complete renovation of the honey bee lab at NC State. Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) put this bill in the Senate version of the budget, and it was included in the conference report of the budget. With the Governor’s veto, funding of the bee lab has been blocked.
- HB347 [Study No Delinquent/Undisciplined Under 10]. The bill passed the House as a study bill and is now awaiting action in the Senate.
- HB373 [Ag Disaster Fund/Excessive Rain and Flooding]. The bill is a companion bill to SB268 which passed the Senate. If it becomes law, it would provide disaster relief to Henderson County and adjoining counties related to Tropical Storm Alberto. The bill was incorporated into the budget, HB966, but when the budget was vetoed, it was included in HB111 [Supplemental Appropriations Act]. HB111 is intended to provide funding for certain critical or time-sensitive items that were vetoed in the budget. HB111 passed the House last week and is expected to be considered by the Senate shortly.
- HB374 [Sex Offender/Expand Residential Restriction]. The bill passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.
- HB395 [Regulate Challenge Courses]. The bill was never heard in the House. A bill on the same subject, HB380 [Aerial Adventure Courses/Sander’s Law] did pass the House. HB380 is now awaiting action in the Senate. Having opposed HB380, my hope is the Senate will not take action on that bill.
- HB536 [ABC Omnibus Regulatory Reform]. The bill passed the House, but has now been combined with SB290 and is awaiting action in the Senate.
- HB559 [The Pollinator Protection Act]. While this bill is now dead having not made crossover, funding for the bee lab at NC State University is still possible if the legislature overrides the Governor’s veto or some other budget bill is put together later in the session.
- HB560 [Ban PFASBin Fire Retardant Foam]. This bill is technically dead having not made crossover, although another primary cosponsor, Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) was working to revive the bill by adding an appropriations provision to it to keep it alive.
- HB570 [Water/Wastewater Public Enterprise Reform]. The Senate companion to this bill passed the Senate, and it is now included in the budget and in HB777. With broad support, the bill is likely to pass in some form.
- HB592 [Check-Off Clean Water Mgmnt Tr. Fund]. The bill passed the House and is now awaiting action in the Senate.
- HB610 [Civil Procedure/Deponent Declaration]. The Senate companion bill, SB508, has cleared both chambers and is awaiting action by the Governor.
- HB649 [Grand Jury if LEO Charged Performing Duties]. The bill is dead since it didn’t make crossover.
- HB671 [Behavior Analyst Licensure]. The bill would provide licensure for behavior analysts, the primary providers of services for autistic children. The bill passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. [Note: This bill is one of my primary priorities in the coming weeks.]
- HB682 [Capital Procedure/Severe Disability]. Having not made crossover, the bill is dead.
- HB732 [Nonprofit Mergers/Incr Charit. Solic. Exempts]. The bill passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.
- HB741 [Study Flood Mitigation]. Having not made crossover, the bill is dead.
- HB758 [MSD Expansion and Governance/DACSBStudy]. The bill has cleared both chambers and is awaiting action by the governor. It will allow Henderson County to join the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County and will lower sewer rates in Henderson County. The bill is expected to be signed. Interestingly, the bill includes a provision, that was in the budget, put forth by Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) to study wildlife enhancement, invasive species control, and natural habitat restoration on state properties. In other words, my bill was used as a vehicle for another legislator to pass a provision important to that legislator. Rabon is the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, the gatekeeper for all legislation in the Senate. I was certainly willing to provide a vehicle for Sen. Rabon to move a provision that I supported in the budget and was important to him. Having the Senate Rules Chairman move your bill is certainly a good way to get a House bill passed.
- HB759 [Electronic Recycling Amendments]. The bill is dead, having not made crossover. However, the subject of electronic recycling is the subject of a study in the budget bill. With the budget having been vetoed, it is unclear if the State’s electronic recycling program will be studied by a legislative committee between legislative sessions.
- HB812 [Nutrient Offset Amendments]. The bill has become law.
- HB823 [NC Managing Environmental Waste Act of 2019]. The bill seeks to address the problem of single-use plastic. The bill passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.
- HB828 [Energy Savings Incentives/State Agencies]. The bill is dead since no action was taken prior to the crossover deadline.
- HB879 [End of Life Option Act]. The bill is also dead, since no action was taken prior to the crossover deadline.
- HB885 [Study Criminal Justice Data Collection]. The bill passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.
- HB966 [2019 Appropriations Act]. This is the budget bill that was vetoed by the Governor. It will take a three-fifths vote to override the Governor’s veto; 72 House Members and 30 Senators would have to vote to override the veto if all House Members and Senators are voting. A veto override would have to start in the House since it is a House bill. As of today, no attempt to override the veto has been taken.
- HB971 [Modern Licensure Model for Alcohol Control]. This is a bill to adopt a licensure model for the sale of alcoholic beverages. The bill is sometimes called the “privatization bill” since it would get the state and local governments out of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. The bill is likely to be heard in the House ABC Committee before the end of the Long Session.
- HB995 [Hard Cider/Revise Excise Tax Rate]. The bill got a favorable recommendation from the House ABC Committee, but is being held in House Finance. The bill is not likely to be heard this year.
In the not-so-distant-past, by mid-July the legislature would have passed a budget and would be getting ready to adjourn. With the budget hung-up and no near-term solution evident, the session continues with no clear end in sight.
If the budget becomes law in some form, several bills that I’ve put forward are likely to become law, e.g. HB334 [NCSU Honey Bee Laboratory/Funds], HB570 [Water/Wastewater Public Enterprise Reform], among others]. Within days, it is possible that several of the alcoholic beverage laws will clear the Senate in SB290. Two bills, HB758 [MSD Expansion and Governance/DACSBStudy] and HB610 [Civil Procedure/Deponent Declaration] will likely become law when the Governor signs them.
The session is expected to continue for several more weeks while everyone awaits some resolution of the budget stalemate. Until the budget is complete, legislators, including this one, will continue to use the time to complete work on pending legislation.