And they are off -- sort of
By SANDY SEMANS
North Carolina General Assembly convened on Jan. 14 to begin its
current session and to choose the leadership in both the House and
Phil Berger (R-District 26) will
remain the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Tim Moore (R-
District 111) is now Speaker of the House, replacing former Speaker
Thom Tillis, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November, beating
The legislative members returned to
work on Jan. 28 and 29 to complete legislative housekeeping issues,
such as committee and seat assignments and to file the first of what is
expected to be a long list of bills over the coming months.
Bill Cook (R-District 1) has been appointed to the following standing
committees: co-chair Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources and of
the Appropriations on Natural and Economic Resources; member of
Commerce; Education/Higher Education, Finance, Judiciary II and Program
Evaluation. He also now sits as a member of the following non-standing
committees: Committee on Cultural and Natural Resources, Joint
Legislative Education Oversight Committee, Environmental Review
Commission and the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee.
Paul Tine (U-District 6), who recently changed his party affiliation
from Democratic, will serve on the following standing committees:
chairman of both Appropriations and Transportation; vice-chairman of
the Appropriations and Insurance committees; member of Commerce and Job
Development, Education – Community Colleges, Judiciary I, Rules,
Calendar and Operations of the House, Transportation and Wildlife
Tine also is assigned to the following
non-standing committees as a member: Joint Study Committee on the
Affordable Care Act and Implementation Issues; Committee on Funeral and
Cemetery Regulation, Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on
Information Technology, Committee on Public Enterprise Systems and Use
of Funds, Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee and
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance.
Bob Steinburg (R-District 1) is chair of the standing committee on
Agriculture; member of the Commerce and Job Development Committee,
Environment, Finance, Judiciary I, Transportation and Wildlife
Resources. He will chair the non-standing Committee on Chowanoke Nation
Recognition and will be an advisory member of the Joint Legislative
Education Oversight Committee.
During the brief
two-day session, a total of 47 bills were filed, including resolutions
and local bills as well as a couple of place-holders which are blank
bills that legislators can use later to file language that generally is
of local interest to their respective districts.
the General Assembly is set to reconvene on Monday, Feb. 2, legislative
leadership has announced that no further action will be taken on bills
again until after Gov. Pat McCrory's State of the State address,
scheduled at 7 p.m. on Feb. 4.
The following bills are some that will be awaiting legislative actions.
Bill 8 seeks to make elections of judges to the Appeals Court and the
Supreme Court partisan races. Currently, the nonpartisan races are
pared down to two candidates for the General Election by holding a
primary of all candidates. The two receiving the most votes have their
names placed on the November ballot. If passed, the proposed change
would prompt partisan primary races with one candidate from each party
winning a spot on the General Election ballot. This has passed first
reading and been sent to the House Elections Committee for further
review. Steinburg is one of the bill's sponsors.
Bill 24 that seeks to apply more changes to the Unemployment Insurance
is co-sponsored by Tine. The bill proposes changing the name of the
Employment Security Commission to Division of Employment Security and
placing it under the Department of Commerce. If passed and signed into
law, the bill would allow the state to garnish credit card receipts
from businesses failing to pay their unemployment insurance tax.
receive unemployment benefits, identification would be required and
claimants would have to make at least five contacts per week in an
effort to obtain employment.
The bill also seeks
to eliminate the minimum number of weeks that benefits can be drawn and
the maximum length would be tied to statewide seasonally adjusted
unemployment rates. There also would be new rules that would govern how
and when seasonal workers may receive benefits.
Bill 3 seeks to eliminate payroll deductions for state employees' dues
to employee associations. An attempt last year to eliminate such
deductions from educators' paychecks was slapped down by the court as
discriminatory. This proposal would apply to all state workers and the
groups that represent them.
Two bills are aimed at getting tougher with those convicted of driving while impaired.
Bill 32, if made into law, would reduce the number of drunk driving
offenses from three to two in order to be deemed a habitual impaired
House Bill 31 seeks to reduce alcohol
level from .04 to zero for those mandated by the courts to use an
ignition interlock system after being found guilty of driving while
Two bills propose to roll back laws passed last session.
seeks to reinstate the Sales Tax Holiday traditionally used to buy
school supplies, while H27 would, if passed into law, restore the
Earned Income Tax Credit. The Budget and Tax Center reports that 2,771
families in Dare County received the earned income tax credit before it
was repealed. The estimated total of payments to those families in 2013
Two bills, if passed, are almost guaranteed to be challenged in the court system.
in the Senate, S2 would give magistrates, and assistant and deputy
Registers of Deeds the right to recuse themselves from performing “all
lawful marriages based upon any sincerely held religious objection.”
Cook was one of the sponsors of the proposed legislation.
H30 would remove transparency related to the identity of state lottery winners and the amounts that they win.
Semans is a retired newspaper editor and reporter who now works as a
free-lance writer. She lives in Stumpy Point. Her update on the
goings-on in this session of the General Assembly will appear weekly in
The Island Free Press, usually on Friday.)
PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED 2015 LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
First bill filed would prohibit condemning property for economic development