Legislative Update - August 12

The “Long-Session” of 2013 has come to an end. We adjourned on Friday, July 26th. The last two weeks of session saw a flurry of activity with a lot of very important legislation moving through the chamber...

August 13, 2013

The “Long-Session” of 2013 has come to an end. We adjourned on Friday, July 26th. The last two weeks of session saw a flurry of activity with a lot of very important legislation moving through the chamber.

The State Budget
The House and Senate agreed on a final state budget. The Republican budget passed the House by a vote of 66-52. Every Democrat voted against the budget and 10 House Republicans broke ranks with their party to vote against the bill. I voted against this budget because I believe it reflects the wrong priorities for our state and makes devastating cuts to public education. The Republicans chose to give huge tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals in the state and to out-of-state corporations. In addition to shifting the tax burden to middle class and working families, this decision forced them to make more cuts.

The budget slashes public education by nearly half a billion dollars. These cuts will result in 3,800 teacher assistants being laid off and increased class sizes. The budget did not provide a pay raise to teachers, despite the fact we already rank 46th in the nation in teacher pay. Tuition is set to increase at community colleges and need based financial aid was cut from the University system. All of these cuts make it harder to provide a high quality education to our children. They need an education that prepares them to graduate ready to compete in the 21st century economy – we won’t get there if we continue to underfund public education.

The final budget cut funding for Golden LEAF, the Bio-Fuels Center, the Institute of Minority Economic Development and Regional Economic Development Boards. Each of these is a proven job creation program. I believe cutting more than $100 million from them will hurt our economic development, especially in rural North Carolina. North Carolina’s unemployment rate remains the 5th highest in the nation. We should be doing all we can to encourage job creation – this budget fails that test.

The budget cemented the decision not to expand Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid would provide 500,000 North Carolinians with access to quality affordable health care. It would have created jobs and protected rural hospitals. Instead, the Republicans’ ideologically driven refusal to expand Medicaid will ensure that North Carolina continues to face a growing budget crunch each year.

Voting Bill
Late in the session the Republicans unveiled a voting bill that made sweeping changes to election laws in North Carolina. I voted against this bill because I believe we should be trying to make it easier to vote, not harder. This bill will make it harder for legal citizens to vote. It cuts the Early Voting period by 7 days. Public opinion polls indicate that 78% of voters say they support early voting. The move to cut early voting doesn’t save the state money because we will have to add more polling places and buy more voting machines to handle more voters trying to vote in fewer days. In 2011, Florida made similar changes to their election laws. The result was a nightmare. Many folks were faced with waits of more than six hours on Election Day. I support early voting and believe reducing it will make voting harder.

This bill also included the Voter ID provision that had been debated previously in the session. The version that came back from the Senate was even more restrictive than the one the House passed a few months ago. Students will no longer be able to use college ID’s and government employees can no longer use an ID issued by the state. Supporters of voter ID contend that it is needed to combat voter fraud. However, study after study shows that there is little to no voter fraud taking place in North Carolina. The end result is that it will be harder for many, disproportionately the elderly, minorities and students to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Another troubling provision in this bill increases the maximum contribution to political campaigns from $4,000 to $5,000 and then sets that amount to go up each election cycle. The last thing we need is more money in politics. The special interests and high dollar donors will now be able to buy more influence with politicians and continue a culture of pay-to-play politics. I was disturbed that this provision was stuck into a bill that makes it more difficult for hard working tax payers to vote. I will continue to fight for the middle class and working families over special interests.

This bill included many other controversial provisions, including expanding the scope of who may examine registration records and challenge voters, taking away the ability to cast a provisional ballot from a voter that shows up at the wrong precinct and ending pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds. If you’re interested you can read the full bill here.

Women’s Health Care
Another bill that received a lot of attention was SB 353 – a bill that places significant new restrictions on women’s health care providers. The bill passed both the House and the Senate and has been signed by the governor. Abortion is a difficult issue and there are a lot of sincere and emotional beliefs on each side of the issue. I voted against this bill because I believe it was an effort to make it harder for health care professionals to provide women access to a constitutionally protected medical procedure.

Proponents of the bill contended it was about increasing safety. Their argument was undermined by their process. They gutted unrelated bills and presented these bills to committee with no public notice. If they were truly interested in protecting women’s safety they rather than engaging in political games they would have slowed down and spent time giving serious thought and study as to how to best protect women. The bad process behind the bill made it clear that this was about politics, and not a serious attempt to increase safety.

This bill will allow Governor McCrory or any future administration to impose new restrictions on women’s health care clinics. Many of the regulations are unrelated to medical care and can go as far as regulating the size of the doorways and the number of parking spots available. As originally written, this bill would close all but one clinic in North Carolina. I do not support limiting access to women’s health care.

News Clips

Jordan Lake Clean-Up Rules Suspended
The General Assembly passed a bill that delays rules meant to help clean up the lake.The Senate voted 27-14 in favor of SB 515 that would delay for three years aspects of the cleanup of Jordan Lake that haven’t yet begun. Late Thursday, the House passed the bill 63-41.

The rules, created several years ago, are intended to help clean up Jordan Lake, which much of the Triangle depends upon for drinking water. It places construction and water system regulations on communities upstream.

Landfill Changes Ok’d
State lawmakers have tentatively approved controversial provisions that would loosen environmental safeguards for landfills and trash trucks. The changes were slipped into a conference report on regulatory reform and passed the Senate apparently unnoticed.

Efforts to Speed Up Fracking Delayed, GOP Vows to Try Again

A last-minute legislative effort to speed up the state’s fracking timeline was derailed after lawmakers couldn’t round up enough support for it in the House. Throughout the day Thursday, the House kept on putting off a vote on the bill, eventually shelving the legislation when it became obvious it was too divisive. Rep. Mike Hager, a Rutherfordton Republican who shepherds energy bills in the House, said Senate Bill 127 was too controversial to push through in the waning days of the legislative session. “We like for controversial legislation to go through the committee process,” Hager said.

Some House members feared the measure reneges on a promise made in last year’s adoption of a state policy on shale gas exploration, a law written to provide maximum public protections and environmental safeguards. Both Hager and Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Jacksonville, said the legislation is likely to be resurrected in the future when more time can be dedicated to it. Brown said the Senate put off voting because of the House. “The House just needs a little more time to work on it,” he said.

New Gun Bill Raises Safety Concerns
A far-reaching bill that expands the places where permit holders can legally carry concealed weapons is drawing praise from gun rights advocates and criticism from some local officials and business owners.

The bill, approved by the N.C. General Assembly, could be signed as early as Thursday by Gov. Pat McCrory. It allows concealed-carry permit holders to take handguns to a range of places, including bars and parks, and store them in locked cars on government, school or university property.

Supporters said the bill will make neighborhoods safer, since concealed-carry permit holders have been vetted by authorities. But opponents contend that allowing guns where alcohol is served or where children play will only lead to problems.

Eugenics Compensation

The $20.6 billion state budget compromise includes $10 million to compensate verified, living victims of the state's former eugenics program, which sterilized men and women against their will through large parts of the 20th century. The amount each victim gets would depend on how many come forward and are verified by the state as victims. Currently, fewer than 200 living victims have been verified, meaning each would get about $50,000. But if the number of victims increases, the payment to each victim would decrease. The payments would be made on June 30, 2015.

The House had supported the compensation in previous sessions, and the Senate relented this year as part of the final budget deal. Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, a lead Senate budget-writer, said some senators remained concern about the precedent that paying victims of previous eras and government policies sets. "At the end of the day (House Speaker Thom Tillis) was determined that it was going to be part of the final package," Brunstetter said. "The governor has been very interested in it, and it was part of the compromise that was necessary to get a package put together."

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, a strong supporter of the payments, also acknowledged that some lawmakers are struggling with the idea of atoning for the decisions of past legislatures. But he deemed the eugenics program the “most egregious overreach of government power into someone’s personal life.” He said he believed the compensation program is “very consistent with good conservative principles.” “Government ought not take away things from the average citizen, and that’s exactly what government did here,” he said.(Patrick Gannon, THE INSIDER, 7/23/13).

NC Tax Bill Closes Some Loopholes, Preserves Others

RALEIGH — Chiropractors are losing a sales tax break that may increase the cost of vitamins and other nutritional supplements for their patients. Newspapers would have to charge sales tax to subscribers or those who buy from vending machines. And sales tax holidays for school supplies and energy-efficient appliances would disappear.

But still on the books is a $1,500 cap on the sales tax for a yacht or a jet, a provision that costs the state $10 million a year in lost revenue. Beer, liquor and tobacco distributors would keep their rebates worth a combined $12 million annually for collecting taxes from their customers on behalf of the state. Country clubs and other recreational nonprofits keep their exemption from the corporate income tax, a tax break worth a combined $600,000 a year.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Raleigh. Please feel free to contact my office to share your concerns on issues or if my office can be of any assistance to you.



North Carolina House of Representatives
District 50: Orange & Durham Counties


919. 715-3019 (o) 919.754-3201 (f) 919.942-2661 (h)


Just so you know…
You can listen live to the chamber sessions, committee meetings, and press conferences on the General Assembly website: www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, click on “audio” and select House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room, Finance Committee Room, or Press Conference Room.

While the General Assembly is in recess…
My office will be staffed Monday through Thursday during the week. The hours will be Mondays: 12 Noon until 5 PM; Tuesdays thru Thursdays: 8 AM until 5 PM.

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