MVA Monitor – May 17

It was a relatively quiet week at the General Assembly. No votes were taken on the House floor until Wednesday and on the Senate floor until Thursday. Only about a dozen bills had any action this week.

Issue Insights

State and Legislative Issues

Abortion Bill

Most advocates on both sides of the abortion issue have had their eyes on legislation enacted in Alabama and Georgia this week. Meanwhile, a North Carolina bill dealing with care for individuals born in the process of a failed abortion remains stalled in the House of Representatives. SB 359, Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, would require medical professionals to care for newborns who survive an abortion and would enact new punishments for medical personnel who don’t comply with the law or who fail to report noncompliance. The bill was ratified by the General Assembly on April 16 and presented to the Governor. The Governor vetoed the bill two days later. The Senate voted to override the veto on April 30. The motion to override has been on the House calendar during each session at which votes were to be taken since May 2 but has been withdrawn and re-calendared for a later date each time. To override a veto, a motion to override most pass each chamber with at least 60 percent support from those present and voting. The bill originally passed the House with less than 60 percent support and House leaders have indicated that to date they have not had enough votes to meet the threshold.

As abortion bills advance nationwide, where does NC’s ‘born alive’ bill stand? (Raleigh News & Observer)

State Board of Elections Shake-Up

On Monday, Kim Westbrook Strach was ousted as the Executive Director of the State Board of Elections. Strach has worked at the agency for nearly two decades and has led it since 2013. Strach originally made a name for herself at the agency by leading high-profile investigations that led to guilty pleas by former Speaker of the House Jim Black, former Governor Mike Easley, and former Commissioner of Agriculture Meg Scott Phipps. While members of the Board from both major parties praised Strach’s work, the vote to remove her fell along party lines – with the three Democrats voting for removal and the two Republicans voting against it. There were allegations of political motives in the removal. Wayne Goodwin, the Executive Director of the NC Democratic Party, had accused Strach of “protect[ing] Republican interests and refus[ing] to recuse herself from various conflicts.” Strach, who is registered as an unaffiliated voter, is married to Phil Strach, an attorney who has often represented the Republican-led legislature in court cases.  The Board voted to replace Strach with Karen Brinson Bell, a former Elections Director for Transylvania County and a registered Democrat.

NC elections boss Kim Strach is fired and a new director is named (Raleigh News & Observer)

Finance Package

On Thursday, the Senate took the first of two required votes to pass its tax package, SB 622. The package is similar to the one included in the House budget, which passed two weeks ago. The package would increase the standard deduction for individual income tax filers, reduce the corporate franchise tax rate, institute market-based sourcing for corporate income tax purposes, extend several sales tax exemptions and the historic rehabilitation tax credits, and require marketplace facilitators (entities like eBay that provide a market but are not the actual seller of goods) to collect sales and use taxes that are already legally due. The State Constitution requires votes to be held on separate days for certain bills relating to state and local finance. The second vote is expected early next week.

Business tax cuts in House budget likely to be part of Senate plan as well (WRAL)

Local Issues – Raleigh

Council Rescinds Grant

Earlier this week, the Raleigh City Council rescinded a grant it had approved just one week prior. On May 7, the Council voted to approve a grant of $30,000 to the NeighborHealth Center. NeighborHealth is a faith-based, nonprofit that provides health services to underserved communities, including refugees and the uninsured. Controversy surrounded the grant once it was learned that NeighborHealth had ties to one group that opposes abortion and one that supports conversion therapy for LGBTQ individuals. In addition, the grant had not followed the usual process as NeighborHealth had missed the application deadline – the grant went through a special process involving the City Council’s contingency fund. In a statement, NeighborHealth specified that it provides care for all without regard to sexual orientation. It also clarified that it receives referrals or support from the two organizations in question, but does not provide money, in-kind support, or referrals back to the organizations.

Raleigh to rescind grant over center’s ties to anti-abortion, LGBTQ conversion groups (Raleigh News & Observer)

News Round-up

Sen. Dan Bishop declared winner of NC District 9 GOP Primary (WCNC)

Bishop takes his campaign to rival’s doorstep on the first day of the 9th District race (Charlotte Observer)

North Carolina sues e-cig company JUUL over rise in teen vaping (Charlotte Observer)

NC State research suggests easier way to close tech skills gap (Triangle Business Journal)

Downtown Raleigh rezoning request could mean more skyscrapers (WTVD)

One of country’s ‘sexiest accents’ is found in the Outer Banks, national survey says (Charlotte Observer)