With both the House and Senate passing the budget with bipartisan and veto-proof majorities, they are each moving quickly to finish their work. Numerous bills are being taken up by both bodies, and the usually light Monday night calendar has been replaced by earlier sessions on Monday with lots of bills in the queue for votes. The legislature sent the budget to Governor Cooper on Thursday, and he has ten days to take action. If he is going to veto it, the hope is he’ll do it quickly so the legislature can override the veto prior to the start of the new fiscal year on Saturday. If he takes the full ten days, then the legislature will likely be back in session on Monday, July 3, for the override votes. [Update: Governor Cooper announced his intention to veto the bill moments after Rep. McGrady wrote this post.]
The last week of the legislative session is when work on many bills is finally completed. For example, various House and Senate committees have considered bills involving alcoholic beverages. Last week, three of those bills were combined into one bill which will probably move to the House floor next week and then go to the Senate for concurrence. The three bills now combined into Senate Bill 155 [Economic & Job Growth for NC Distilleries] were the original SB155, the so-called “Brunch bill”, and my craft brewing bill, HB500 [ABC Omnibus Legislation] and HB480 [ABC Permits/Tax Compliance & Reports]. The House Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee took up SB 155 and produced a committee substitute which combined all of the bills. The committee substitute was given favorable report after it was amended to provide for Sunday retail sales of wine, beer, and hard cider in retails stores like Ingles or Publix. If the bill passes, restaurants will be able to serve Mimosas, Bloody Marys or other drinks on Sunday morning, and grocery stores will be allowed to sell their alcoholic beverages before noon on Sunday.
As in past years, there are groups of regulatory reform and environmental bills that have passed one or both chambers and could get combined in some fashion. SB16 [Business & Agency Reg Reform Act of 2017], HB56 [Amend Environmental Law], SB 434 [Amend Environmental Laws 2], HB770 Amend Environmental Laws 3], SB469 [Amend Environmental Laws 4] and HB374 [Business Freedom Act] are all bills that have passed one or both chambers in different forms, and it is possible that they all could be conferenced together to produce one bill. That was the effort at the end of the session last year, but the Senate adjourned before taking up the omnibus bill.
Most of the emails on those bills involve Section 12 in HB374 that would limit the ability of persons to challenge permitting decisions. The provision is being pushed by the NC Chamber of Commerce and opposed by environmental groups. My view is the provision is among the worst provisions in any of these bills, and I’m not likely to support any bill that includes anything like Section 12.
With much media attention, a few weeks ago the House passed an energy bill, HB589 [Competitive Energy Solutions for NC] supported by both the sustainable energy lobby (wind and solar) and the utilities, including Duke Energy. The bill hasn’t been heard in the Senate, and Senator Harry Brown (R-Onslow) appears to be unwavering in his insistence on a moratorium on construction of new wind farms until mapping of military flyways is complete, a provision unacceptable to House leaders. If HB589 doesn’t move, it is possible that other bills will get held up as happened last year. Among the issues scuttling an omnibus regulatory reform bill in 2016 was a wind moratorium proposal.
My focus during Monday night’s session will be on two bills: HB581 [Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws] and HB616 [North Carolina Public Benefit Corporation Act]. Per usual, I’m leading the effort to defeat the billboard bill, but I’m the lead sponsor of the B Corp bill. Even if the bills pass, it is unlikely they will make it through the legislative gauntlet in one week, although I’m sure supporters of the billboard bill will try. If the billboard bill should pass, it is likely to be vetoed by Governor Cooper.
A bill that is sure to receive much attention is HB717 [Revise Certain Superior Court Districts]. The bill is in the House Judiciary 1 Committee, and it is a bill which will revise superior courts, district courts and prosecutorial districts throughout the state. Because of Henderson County’s size and compactness, the bill will not affect the county, but combining various districts will no doubt garner a lot of attention in the session’s waning days.
After passage of a budget, there is typically a budget technical corrections bill that will pass right at the end. Since the legislature simply established a “reserve” of $100 million for disaster relief, among the last bills passed will be one allocating those monies to various agencies to provide funding for housing, agriculture and various infrastructure repairs relating to Hurricane Matthew.
Aside from a budget technical corrections bill, there is usually a broader technical correction bill that makes corrections in other legislation that has passed. My experience has been the so-called “technical corrections bill,” often involves a lot more than technical corrections. Sometimes new items get put in what is viewed as a must-pass bill, so one has to be very careful in reviewing what is in the bill’s language. Also coming at the end will be an appointments bill in which the two chambers will make their appointments to various boards and committees.