My apologies for letting two months go by between communications. While lobbyists complained of a slow start to the legislative session, that isn’t my perspective. I’ve been busy from day one. Initially, some probably weren’t sure what exactly kept me so busy, but with the filing of House Bill 186 [Repeal HB2/State Nondiscrimination Policies], that should have become clear. Since the unsuccessful effort to repeal House Bill 2 during the Fifth Special Session in December, I’d be tasked with continuing to work fixing HB2.
While there are strong opinions on all sides, my constituents hopefully understand that I’m just trying to do my job. I didn’t vote on the bill, and for the longest time expressed no opinion about the bill. Rather, because of my lack of involvement in HB2’s passage, I became the conduit for the opinions and concerns of some number of my colleagues to legislative leaders. My instructions from my leadership initially were to keep them abreast of what I was hearing from colleagues, and then I was instructed to work on language to “fix” the problem — whatever that meant.
The last ten months have been spent working on that “fix.” At some point, I’ll recount all of the twists and turns of HB2. For now, I can only say what led me to file HB186. Early this year, some colleagues and I had a series of meetings with Governor Cooper’s senior staff. Upon arriving at a recent recall meeting, we were told that the meeting would be short since the Governor had no proposal to put forward even after we had worked for weeks to find a solution. The clear implication was that we would deal with the problem sometime after an election in 2018.
Well, that was unacceptable. Governor Cooper publicly said he was wanting to compromise, but my view was he did not seem to know what a compromise was. I showed him what a compromise looked like by filing HB186, the only HB2 fix that received bipartisan support and drew fire from the social conservatives on the right and the LGBT activists on the left. Rather than responding to the bill filing by being neutral or proposing it could provide the basis for talks, the Governor’s response was to spend the next week trying to convince Democratic House members to take their names off the bill or to not co-sponsor it.
As of now, things are up in the air. Discussions are ongoing, and other legislators are trying to draft legislation that might garner 61 votes in the House. Of course, it isn’t hard to get 61 votes in the House relating to HB2. I could have filed a bill that would have gotten 61 votes but would not have brought an end to the economic boycotts (however unfair) that are hurting some parts of the State.
After the special sessions last year, I promised to explain what happened relating to HB2, and I will honor that promise — just not right now. Anything I might say now wouldn’t add anything constructive to the ongoing efforts to resolve the issue.
Aside from HB186, I’ve filed nine other bills, four of which are probably major bills and have received extensive media coverage. The major ones are:
- House Bill 3 [Eminent Domain] — a bill to provide for a vote on an amendment to the NC Constitution to strictly define and limit when governments can use their powers to seize private property while ensuring jury trials and just compensation (more on that at this link).
- House Bill 13 [Class Size Requirement Changes] – a bill to change a provision in last year’s budget that limited school boards from using state monies provided to reduce class sizes for other purposes (more on that at this link).
- House Bill 200 [Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission] – a bill to create a nonpartisan process for redistricting congressional and legislative seats following the census.
- House Bill 280 [Juvenile Justice Reinstatement Act] – a bill to “raise-the-age” from 16 to 18 when persons will be considered an adult for purposes of criminal proceedings, other than serious violent crimes (more on that at this link).
- In the coming weeks, expect a fuller explanation of these bills as well as others bills that are certainly important to some, for example, House Bill 307 [Board Cert. Behavior Analyst/Autism Coverage], a bill which relates to the broader autism-related bill that I introduced and became law last session.
The legislature has a series of drafting and filing deadlines for bills. Local bills have to be filed by March 29 and most public bills by April 11. The coming weeks will be spent putting the final touches on a variety of bills before the bill filling deadline.
Having been appointed as co-chair of the House Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Committee, I expect to file a regulatory reform bill relating primarily to craft brewing, perhaps as early as next week. As has been reported, my expectation is that I will file one or more bills responding to the NC Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of an earlier law combining water and sewer systems in the greater Asheville area and potentially addressing other issues as between the City of Hendersonville and Henderson County.
Having never filed local legislation without first communicating with local officials, I have until the end of the month to complete talks with in county commissioners, mayors, city council members and school board members in Henderson and Buncombe counties. My hope is not to surprise anyone, which means I also expect to preview any local bills with my legislative colleagues, Senators Edwards and Van Duyn and Representatives Ager, Henson, and Turner.