April 24, 2015
Legislative Update: Lawmakers racing
the clock to get bills moved
By SANDY SEMANS
were in overdrive this week as they tried to push bills through the
system to meet the crossover deadline set for Thursday, April 30. Most
bills not meeting the deadline will not be eligible for further
consideration during the current session.
The bills that showed action this week dealt with a hodge-podge of topics ranging from judicial races to tail lights.
One bill of particular local interest is House Bill 388,
sponsored by Rep. Paul Tine, U-Dare. The bill has cleared the House and
is now in the Senate Chamber. If made into law, it would allow Dare
County to levy 1/4-cent sales tax to raise revenues to pay its share of
the cost of dredging Oregon Inlet. That portion of the proposed
legislation expires in 2020. The tax can be imposed without a
referendum until 90 days after the completion of the Bonner bridge
replacement. To continue collecting the tax, a referendum would have to
be approved before that time. Before levying the new tax, the county
has to give the Secretary of Transportation 75 days notice. Collection
can start in the beginning of the quarter that occurs after the notice
period. As of press time, if passed into law within the next two
months, the earliest date that it can be collected would be Oct. 1.
After being introduced in January and then lying dormant, HB 8
flew through committee and required readings and votes in the House so
that it could be passed to the Senate this week. The bill 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. Rep. Bob
Steinburg, R-Edenton, is one of the bill's sponsors.
House Bill 93
was favorably voted out of the Transportation Committee and passed on
to the Appropriations Committee this week. If it becomes law, it will
eliminate the tolls on all the state's ferries. The bill also aims to
establish the Ferry Capital Improvement Account. Revenues for the
account would be derived by receipts from advertising, sponsorships,
and concessions. All unallotted and unencumbered balances on the last
day of the fiscal year that were appropriated from the Highway Trust
Fund to the Ferry Division would not revert. Other appropriations and
donations from public and private sources also would go into the fund
that would be used for capital improvements and ferry facilities. Tine
is one of the bill sponsors.
Senate Bill 90,
sponsored by Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, has cleared the Senate and is
now in the House. If passed, it would mandate that vehicles have
two brake lights in the rear – one on each side - and that motorcycles
likewise have a brake light in the rear.
moved from the Rules Committee to the Education Committee last week. It
proposes a new structure and guidelines for the reduction in school
personnel. The bill states: “In determining which positions shall be
subject to a reduction, a local school administrative unit shall
consider the following:
"a. Structural considerations, such as
identifying positions, departments, courses, programs, operations, and
other areas where there are less essential, duplicative, or excess
personnel; job responsibility and position inefficiencies;
opportunities for combined work functions; and decreased student or
other demands for curriculum, programs, operations, or other services.
Organizational considerations, such as anticipated organizational needs
of the school system and program or school enrollment.
identifying which teachers in similar positions shall be subject to a
dismissal, demotion, or reduction to employment on a part-time basis
under the policy, a local school administrative unit shall consider
work performance and teacher evaluations."
House Bill 128,
was moved out of committee last week after being reported as
unfavorable. If it was signed into law, it would have allow voters to
petition for a referendum on local government projects to be funded by
Certificates of Participation (COPs). The bill is unlikely to move
farther forward in the process.
Senate Bill 19
is now in the House. It includes a number of exemptions and changes in
income and sales taxes. A bakery that sells baked products with no
eating utensils would be exempt from collecting sales tax. The standard
deduction would be the same for a surviving spouse as the deduction for
married filing jointly. A county could not impose a license, franchise,
or privilege tax on a person engaged in supplying piped natural
gas, telecommunications service taxed under G.S. 105-164.4(a)(4c),
video programming taxed under G.S. 105-164.4(a)(6), or electricity. A
taxpayer who has constructed, purchased, or leased renewable energy
property would be allowed a credit equal to 35 percent of the cost of
the property if the property is placed in service in this state during
the taxable year. Other tax changes for corporations also are in the
is now in Senate. It would mandate that every student have at least one
semester of art education between sixth and 12 grades. The bill has
passed its first reading and has been assigned to the Committee on
Also now in the Senate is HB 201,
which changes the rules for municipal zoning protests. The bill
instructs that anyone protesting an action should submit a written
statement to the clerk for the respective board at least two days prior
to the proposed vote; the clerk would forward the letter to the board.
And, if passed into law, it would remove the mandate of needing
three-fourths of the voting members to approve a protested change;
instead, a simple quorum would be needed.
sponsored by Cook, has been reported favorably by Judiciary Committee 2
so will now be up for second and third readings. It lays out a
process that, if passed into law, would allow those who are barred from
purchasing firearms due to mental competency to have their names
removed from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System if
subsequently found competent by a judge and the clerk who first
determined competency agrees. Removal from the system would allow the
person to purchase a firearm.
Tine is one of the sponsors of HB 302,
a bi-partisan bill now in the Senate. The bill seeks to strengthen the
oyster industry by studying oyster aquaculture, expanding oyster
sanctuaries and stiffening penalties for taking oysters from
sanctuaries. It also, if passed, would change the name of the Senator
Jean Preston Marine Shellfish Sanctuary to Senator Jean Preston Oyster
Sanctuary Network. The late Preston was a legislator from Carteret
County who was a frequent champion of commercial fishing and water
Cook is one of the sponsors of SB 160
which has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and in now in
Finance Committee. It is titled the Enhance Safety & Commerce for
Ports/Inlets. If it becomes law, it provides that there be a 50-50
match between the state and counties to cover dredging costs for
inlets, including Oregon Inlet.
Initially, the bill includes a
provision that would have given the county control of all portions of
the 6 percent occupancy tax. At the county's request, that provision
has been removed. Another change to the bill appropriates $4 million
annually to use toward Oregon Inlet dredging.
Two bills of local interest don't appear to be moving toward meeting the crossover date on Thursday, April 30.
if passed into law, would change the method used to distribute sales
tax revenues that come back to local government. The bill proposes a
three-year phase-in to a per capita sales tax system distribution to
replace the current formula which portions out the sales tax based 75
percent on point of sale and 25 percent based on population. The
new plan would increase the amount that some rural counties would
receive, while reducing revenues flowing to more prosperous areas. Of
all the counties that would see decreased revenues, Dare County would
take the largest hit – 59.2 percent reduction in sales tax revenues.
Countywide, the potential lost sales tax revenues for the county and
the towns will total approximately $16.7 million. The loss to the
county’s budget equals about $11.5 million. But the tax beat goes on.
A second bill, SB 608,
is another attempt to redistribute local sales taxes among counties.
The impact to local town and county coffers appears to be negligible,
compared to SB 369, but the bill includes extending sales tax to
such services as barbers and dentists.
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
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Legislative Update: Humor unleashed in the General Assembly
Legislative Update: Lawmakers made hay while the sun was shining
Legislative Update: Bill on dredging causes local turmoil
Legislative Update: 156 new bills filed this week
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Legislative Update: It was raining bills all week
Legislative Update: Occupancy tax provision is out of dredging bill
Legislative Update: Lawmakers take aim at N.C. Constitution
Legislative Update: More taxes and Constitutional amendments proposed