MVA Monitor – August 22

As the budget stalemate nears its second month, new budget proposals emerged from the General Assembly. The next few weeks could see attempts at piecemeal budgets and tax rebates. In other news, high profile and controversial bills continued to move through the legislature.

Finally, early voting is under way in the special elections for the District 9 and District 3 Congressional seats and off-year municipal elections.

Issue Insights

State & Legislative Issues

State Budget

There was still no movement on the state budget bill, HB 966, 2019 Appropriations Act, this week. Instead, the governor and the legislature continued their public war of words. Sen. Phil Berger (R) referred to Gov. Roy Cooper (D) issuing ultimatums and taking hostages, while the governor responded that Republican legislative leaders were stonewalling and trying to buy off Democratic legislators.

There were some new budget developments this week. On Wednesday, legislative leaders announced a proposal for a state income tax rebate. Under the proposal, taxpayers could get a rebate of taxes paid of up to $125 for a single taxpayer or $250 for a married couple filing jointly. The proposal would result in tax rebates totaling about $680 million. The proposal points out that collections during the 2018-19 state fiscal year were about $900 million more than anticipated. If the proposal is enacted, rebate checks would be mailed by December 15.

Generally, the state budget is passed in a single bill. In order to address the stalemate, legislative leaders have proposed separating some non-controversial and/or time-sensitive items into smaller appropriations bills. Already making their way through committee are bills that would provide for pay increases for correctional officers and funds for Medicaid transformation (an item unrelated to Medicaid expansion, a key roadblock in budget negotiations). Speaker Tim Moore (R) has indicated that the House will take up legislation next week regarding pay raises for teachers and other state employees. In a letter to Sen. Berger, Gov. Cooper was harshly critical of the proposal, but stopped short of stating he would veto any legislation.

5 million NC taxpayers could get tax refunds this fall if bill passes (Raleigh News & Observer)

ICE Cooperation

On Tuesday, the House gave final approval to HB 370, Require Cooperation with ICE Detainers, and the legislature sent it to the governor. It took Gov. Cooper less than 24 hours to respond with a veto. The bill would require confinement facilities to comply with detainers and administrative warrants issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and would authorize the removal of a sheriff or officer from office for failing to comply with ICE detainers. An ICE detainer is a written request that a local jail or other law enforcement agency detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after his or her release date in order to provide ICE agents extra time to decide whether to take the individual into federal custody for removal purposes. It is not a warrant. Federal law does not require a jurisdiction to comply with an ICE detainer but leaves it to the discretion of the local official. The final votes in both the House and Senate were along party lines. This likely sets up another battle over a veto override attempt as neither chamber currently appears to have the necessary votes (a 3/5 majority) to override.

Cooper vetoes bill requiring sheriffs to honor ICE detainers (WRAL)

Hemp Bill

On Wednesday, the House gave approval to SB 315, North Carolina Farm Act of 2019. The bill has struggled to make it through the House, primarily due to provisions related to smokable hemp. The version of the bill that passed the House contains a ban on smokable hemp that becomes effective May 1, 2020. Smokable hemp does not contain significant amounts of THC, the intoxicating substance in marijuana, but law enforcement has argued that smokable hemp is difficult to distinguish from marijuana without chemical analysis which would make enforcement of the state’s marijuana prohibition more challenging. The bill must now go back to the Senate for concurrence. The lead sponsor in the Senate has pushed for an effective date on the ban of no earlier than June 1, 2020. A later effective date would give growers more time to sell this year’s crop before a ban goes into place and would also allow more time for the General Assembly to address the issue based on any compromise between law enforcement and hemp proponents.

NC farm bill containing smokable hemp ban OK’d by House (Charlotte Observer)

Local Issues – Charlotte

New High School

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is exploring potential sites for a new high school in south Charlotte. Crews were testing soil conditions on county-owned land behind Olde Providence Elementary School this week and prompted outcry from nearby neighbors. CMS is reportedly also considering three other sites for the new school, which aims to help alleviate crowding at Providence, Ardrey Kell and South Mecklenburg High Schools.

Olde Providence eyed as site for new high school (Charlotte Ledger)

Local Issues – Raleigh

Pfizer Expansion

Earlier this week, Pfizer announced a major expansion of its Sanford facility, located on the southern edge of the Triangle. The $500 million investment will be used for the construction of a state-of-the-art gene therapy manufacturing facility. The project is expected to bring an additional 300 jobs to the area. The new facility will complement activities currently undertaken in Sanford as well as at facilities in Chapel Hill and Wake County.

Pfizer to build $500M facility in Sanford, create hundreds of jobs (Triangle Business Journal)

News Roundup