News from the Legislature

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From the office of N.C. Rep. Karl Gillespie

The House held no-vote sessions on Monday, June 14, 2021. On Tuesday, the House held several committees, including Appropriations, Education, of which I am a member. Legislative committees continue to meet to finalize the details of the budget. Presenting in this week’s Appropriations, Education committee were the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, as well as RAVE Mobile Safety.

Tuesday’s afternoon session convened and the following bills were considered:

– HB659, Guilford/Rockingham Funds Extension, would extend the time for spending certain water and sewer infrastructure funds. The bill passed unanimously.

– SB192, City of Hickory/Planning Commission, would repeal local acts establishing the Hickory Regional Planning Commission and require the City of Hickory to adopt an ordinance providing for a planning board under Article 3 of Chapter 160D. The bill passed on a voice vote.

– SB194, Re-Stagger Terms/Aldermen/N.Topsail Beach, would retain the staggered terms for members serving on the Board of Aldermen in the Town of North Topsail Beach, and provide that all five seats are up for election in 2021 only. The bill passed a third reading on a voice vote.

On Wednesday, I attended the Joint Mental Health Caucus where Dr. Benjamin Gilmer provided the members with a very informative presentation. Later that morning, many of my colleagues and I toured the State Highway Patrol Training Academy in Raleigh.

Session convened Wednesday afternoon and we considered numerous bills, including:

– HB83, Eliminate Income Tax For Military Retirees, would exclude military retirement pay from taxation for certain retired members of the Armed Forces of the United States. I voted in favor and the bill passed 100-5.

– HB477, Temporary Event Venues, would authorize municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more to adopt an ordinance to establish a process to issue permits for temporary event venues and to charge $100 fee for the initial permit. I voted in support and the bill passed, 104-1.

– HB624, North Carolina Regulatory Sandbox Act, would help facilitate the development of innovative financial and insurance products or services that utilize new or emerging technology by creating a “regulatory sandbox program” whereby an overseeing agency would be allowed to waive, with limited exceptions and for a limited time, statutory or regulatory requirements that otherwise would not permit a participant to offer the product or service to consumers. I voted in favor and the bill passed, 103-2.

Thursday’s session consisted of votes on the following bills:

– SB314, Local Government Commission Assistance Toolkit, would avoid or correct local government unit fiscal distress by delaying the impact of changes to sales tax distribution formulas, require a statement indicating the municipality’s prospects for financial viability and effective fiscal management be included on the petition for a new municipality, require training for city and county managers when a unit of local government exhibits fiscal distress, and establish a process by which an unsustainable city could seek assistance and potentially dissolve, and to regulate the hours of the Registers of Deeds offices in the State. The bill passed unanimously, 101-0.

– SB367, UNC Self-Liquidating Capital Projects, would authorize the financing and construction of listed capital improvement projects by the constituent institutions of The University of North Carolina. The projects will be financed through revenue bonds, special obligation bonds, and other funds available to the institutions, excluding tuition and appropriations from the General Fund. The bill passed, 99-2.

The House held a no-vote session on Monday, June 21, 2021. Monday evening, the Senate released their version of the state budget. 

Highlights of the Senate version of the budget include:

– 3% raises for state employees and $1,500 bonuses for state employees who earn less than $75,000 a year and $1,000 bonuses for those who earn more than $75,000.

– Cutting personal income tax rate from 5.25% to 4.99% in 2022, and further reducing the tax rate to 3.99% by 2026.

– Dedicates $4.3 billion to the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund over the next two years, $3 billion of which is available for projects ($1.3 billion is obligated to pay for previous debt).

Members of the House had no input in this version of the budget. The House will be putting forth its budget proposal in the coming weeks.

On Tuesday, I attended a caucus meeting with my colleagues prior to the start of session. Tuesday’s session consisted of votes on the following bills:

– SB367, UNC Self-Liquidating Capital Projects, would authorize the financing and construction of listed capital improvement projects by the constituent institutions of The University of North Carolina. The projects will be financed through revenue bonds, special obligation bonds, and other funds available to the institutions, excluding tuition and appropriations from the General Fund. I voted in favor and the bill passed, 108-2.

– SB644, Landlord/Tenant Changes, would clarify and reaffirm the statutory authority of landlords to recover out-of-pocket expenses and litigation costs in summary ejectment proceedings. The bill passed unanimously, 110-0.

– HB642, Down Syndrome Organ Transplant Nondiscrimination Act, would prohibit health care providers and health insurers from organ transplant discrimination on the basis of disability. The bill passed unanimously, 110-0.

The North Carolina Legislative Building, circa 1964

On Wednesday, I attended the Agriculture Committee where we voted on the North Carolina Farm Act of 2021. It passed Agriculture and was referred to the Rules Committee.

Wednesday’s session consisted of votes on various bills, including:

– SB173, Free the Smiles Act, would establish that governing boards of K-12 schools would have authority to determine during the 2021-2022 school year, the use of face coverings. The bill would also require school boards to define their masking policies by an August 1 deadline. If no policy has been adopted by the deadline, students will not be required to mask. If a masking policy has been adopted by that deadline, the policy must be reconsidered for a vote each month. I voted in favor and the bill passed, 66-44.

– SB208, Labor Law Changes, would make various changes to the labor laws in North Carolina, including: eliminating an advisory council created under the Mine Safety and Health Act and clarify that trains previously or currently in use on the national rail transit system are not subject to regulation as amusement devices by the Department of Labor. I voted in favor and the bill passed, 103-8.

– SB474, Septic Management Amendments, would make certain changes and clarifications to the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) septage management program concerning permit decision timelines, permit amendments, inspection requirements, required operator training, permit length, and continuing education. I voted in favor and the bill passed, 87-24.

The legislative week concluded Thursday with a voting session. Among the bills we considered, were:

– SB126, Clean Up Obsolete Boards, which would abolish obsolete boards and commissions that are no longer functional and to make other changes to boards and commissions. I voted in favor and the bill passed, 77-30.

– SB450, Various Education Changes, which would require the following: Installation of carbon monoxide alarm and detection systems in existing public school buildings. 

• Clarify testing requirements for nonpublic schools.

• Require municipalities to provide water, sewer, or water and sewer services to properties used as charter school facilities when certain conditions are met, and require municipalities to grant qualifying voluntary annexation petitions for those properties. I voted in favor and the bill passed, 92-14.

– SB605, North Carolina Farm Act of 2021, would make various changes to laws applicable to agriculture, forestry, and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. I voted in favor, and the bill passed, 75-32.

Did You Know?

New general revenue forecast indicates budget surplus

Consensus Revised Revenue Forecast was released by the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division and the Office of State Budget and Management. Projections estimate $6.04 billion in overcollections when compared to the May 2020 forecast.

While many other states are struggling financially, North Carolina has one of the strongest economic outlooks in the nation. North Carolina’s commitment to responsible fiscal management has helped position the state as one of the premiere destinations in the country, with the state ranking as the number two destination for Americans fleeing other states with bleak economic outlooks.

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