RALEIGH — Before leaving town for a one-week Easter recess, lawmakers worked longer than typical days on Monday and Tuesday ahead of a looming deadline that will see most proposed legislation die without advancing.
That self-imposed deadline — known as the “crossover date” — is the point by which bills not dealing with spending or raising money must pass one chamber or the other in order to remain eligible for consideration during the 2017-18 session.
Although there are ways around the restriction, the crossover deadline typically provokes a flurry of lawmaking. “I do not anticipate seeing that crossover date extended,” Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, told his fellow House members Tuesday night.
Earlier on Tuesday, the House passed a bill that would make it easier for people with criminal records to get state government jobs. Similar to “ban the box” proposals, House Bill 409 would ban state agencies from asking about an applicant’s criminal record until the person has received an interview.
The requirement wouldn’t apply to private companies, and it wouldn’t apply to law enforcement jobs or positions that “involve direct interaction with minors or the elderly.”
Supporters say former criminals are often rejected immediately in job searches. “If we keep stuffing them down and not taking their applications, then how can we expect them to do any better?” said Rep. Rena Turner, R-Iredell, sponsor of the bill. The bill now goes to the Senate.
In the Senate on Tuesday, three more of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s choices to run state government agencies were unanimously approved. The Senate cleared Michael Regan to head the Department of Environmental Quality. Tony Copeland was approved as commerce secretary and Susi Hamilton as natural and cultural resources secretary.
That means eight of the 10 agency heads Cooper has picked have sailed through Senate confirmation.
Cooper has also named his last two picks, tapping veteran state employees to head the Revenue and Information Technology departments. The two have begun their new roles but will also face confirmation hearings in the Senate.
IN OTHER BUSINESS:
Rainy Day Savings: Legislative budget-writers will have to set aside money every year for the state’s rainy day fund, under a bill signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper. The governor signed the bill while warning against putting too much into savings at the expense of tax breaks for the middle-class, schools and attracting jobs. Although the General Assembly passed the savings plan almost unanimously, the question of how much money to put in the rainy day fund has been a point of disagreement between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled legislature.
Superintendent Authority: In recently filed court documents, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson says the State Board of Education has “severely limited” his authority and has either ignored or denied his requests to make staffing changes at the state education department. At the heart of the legal battle between Johnson and the state board is a law passed in December transferring many of the board’s powers to Johnson. The board quickly filed suit, claiming the law diminished the board’s constitutional authority and “raises significant legal concerns.” A judge granted a temporary restraining order, preventing Johnson from taking the board’s power. A three-judge panel is expected to hear the case on June 29. Meanwhile, lawmakers have been working to help Johnson get greater control over DPI. Four Republican House members filed a measure to give Johnson more than $700,000 to hire staff for his office. Those hires would not be subject to the state board’s approval.
Planned Parenthood: Attorney General Josh Stein wants North Carolina to join other states in opposing Ohio’s law defunding Planned Parenthood. Stein is asking a judge to allow North Carolina to join a multi-state friend-of-the-court brief contending that the law passed in Ohio in 2016 unconstitutionally infringes on the right to provide and receive health-care services, violating free speech and due process rights. The law — which has been temporarily blocked by a court — would prohibit the state from awarding grants to health-care providers who perform or promote abortions.
Sunday Hunting: The House’s Wildlife Resources Committee shot down a bill that would allow wildlife regulators, rather than a handful of state laws, to govern Sunday hunting. The Scientific Wildlife Management Act would have stripped Sunday limitations on hunting with firearms, hunting migratory birds, hunting with dogs, hunting near churches and hunting in urban counties out of state law, and allowed the Wildlife Resources Commission to adopt administrative rules for Sunday hunting. The bill sponsor didn’t immediately mention the Sunday hunting features of the bill, which take up only two lines of the actual measure. After those provisions were pointed out, committee members voted down the bill. The same committee is scheduled to take up a different bill that would roll back Sunday-only prohibitions on hunting migratory birds and allow hunting on public lands on Sundays.
Sanctuary Cities: The state would punish cities that declare themselves sanctuaries for illegal immigrants by withholding funding under a bill that has cleared a Senate committee. The voice vote was split along party lines with Republicans favoring Senate Bill 145, which now heads to another committee. A similar but narrower bill is in the House. Under the House bill, universities that don’t comply with federal immigration laws would lose state funding. Cities and counties that don’t comply would lose revenue from the state such as for streets, beer and wine taxes, telecommunications taxes, sales taxes and taxes on natural gas. The state passed a ban on sanctuary cities in 2015.
State Cat: House legislators are making another attempt to name the bobcat as North Carolina’s official state cat, following a request from a group of Rocky Mount elementary school students. Rep. John Ager, D-Buncombe, pointed out that the bobcat is found in all 100 North Carolina counties, but another representative said people at Western Carolina University want their mascot — the catamount — to be chosen for the honor. North Carolina doesn’t currently have a state cat, but it recognizes 12 other animals as official state symbols. The official state marsupial is the Virginia opossum, and the official state freshwater trout is the Southern Appalachian strain of brook trout. Another House bill filed this year would name the golden silk spider as the official state spider. But it faces competition from a Senate bill that would instead pick the Linville Caverns spider as the official spider.
# # #
Compiled by the Insider State Government News Service for the member papers of the Capitol Press Association. Learn more at NCInsider.com or @NCInsider.