With the crossover deadline past, legislative priorities for the rest of the Long Session, outside of the budget, are coming into focus, as legislators are left with around 500 active bills to work with.
During the session leading up to crossover, 919 bills were filed in the House and 675 bills were filed in the Senate, leaving more than 1,000 proposed measures on the cutting room floor as the legislature moves forward in the session and looks toward passing a budget.
In the Senate 119 bills were passed, and in the House 333 bills were passed, leaving a little more than 450 active bills in between the two chambers, not counting bills that have a fiscal note and are exempt from the crossover deadline.
Constitutional income tax rate cap
The Senate approved a bill that would put a constitutional question to the voters of North Carolina to decide if they want to reduce the current 10 percent cap on the state income tax to 5.5 percent. Currently it is at 5.499 percent.
The question would go to a vote along in the 2018 midterm elections and would become effective in the 2019 tax year.
Senate tax cut plan
The Senate passed a bill to make a number of changes to the current tax law to reduce taxes on citizens in the state, with the bulk of the reductions aimed at the middle class.
Senate Bill 325 would reduce the income tax rate from 5.499 percent to 5.35 percent and would increase the standard deduction from $17,500 to $20,000 for married filers who jointly file their taxes.
The bill also includes increases to the other standard deduction categories, increasing the head of household deduction to $15,000, the single deduction to $10,000, and the married, filing separately deduction to $10,000 as well.
The bill is a part of what will be the Senate’s proposed budget plan, but chamber leadership decided to run the measure as a separate bill.
Also included in the plan are changes to the mortgage interest and property tax deductions as well as the child tax deduction.
The deduction for mortgage interest and property tax would be increased from $20,000 to $22,000. The child tax credit would be replaced with a deduction under which families making $40,000 a year or less would receive a $2,500 deduction and families making up to $60,000 could claim a $2,000 deduction.
The deduction then decreases in increments for each increase of $20,000 in wages, meaning a household making up to $80,000 would be eligible for a $1,500 deduction and a household making up to $100,000 a $1,000 deduction. A household making between $100,001 and $120,000 would be eligible for a $500 deduction.
Dues check-off legislation
In the Senate a bill was approved before crossover to block automatic payroll deductions by employers to pay dues to certain groups.
One of the groups that would be affected would be the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), whose dues are collected from teachers by the state and then handed over to the NCAE.
Policy observers have expressed concerns about the state spending time and effort collecting dues for private bodies like the NCAE.
Call for Convention of States
Legislators approved a measure that would have the state sign on to a call for a Constitutional Convention made up of representatives of the state for the purpose of “proposing amendments to the United States Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”
The bill, if passed, would be active until December 31, 2026 and would then expire, so if a convention had not been called by that time then the state would have to look at new legislation to rejoin the call for a convention.
Senate looks to tighten habitual DWI law
Looking toward the criminal side of the law, the Senate passed a bill that would tighten the timeframe that a person could be charged with habitual DWI offenses by excluding time incarcerated from the 10-year timeframe that the three or more offenses must be committed in to qualify for the upgraded felony charge.
Eminent domain limited to public use
Under a bill passed in the House the only way that private property could be condemned and taken under eminent domain would be if the property were taken for a public use and just compensation was paid.
The change would become part of the state Constitution and is meant as a protection for private property owners. The bill does not define what exactly a public use is but does remove the language currently in the law that says that property can be condemned for “public use or benefit” in favor of just saying “public use.”
BRIGHT Futures Act
The House passed a bill aimed at bringing high-speed internet to all corners of the state, particularly North Carolina’s 85 rural counties.
The bill title is an acronym for:
- Broadband-enabled services
- Retail online services
- Internet of things
- Training & Education
Lawmakers said the goal of the legislation is to spread broadband Internet access to the rest of the state to influence these “BRIGHT Markets” through the use of high-speed Internet.
HB 68 will open up public-private partnership law in North Carolina to include projects to install digital infrastructure needed to support broadband in cases where the project will generate private job-creating investments.
The bill would also direct the Rural Infrastructure Authority program within the Rural Economic Development Division to give grants for digital infrastructure, in addition to the grants to construct water and wastewater facilities and other physical infrastructure needs.
In addition to the granting and public-private partnership changes, the bill would have the State Board of Science, Technology, and Innovation report recommendations to the state on how to establish and fund a BRIGHT Futures Innovation Fund for at least five years to provide “annual grants or loans to accelerate innovation by investment in enterprises in BRIGHT Market segments.”
Other segments of the Department of Commerce will also be directed to study and recommend ways to accelerate the growth of the BRIGHT Markets.
Bill to make jury recusals public record
A bill passed in the House would have the clerk of the state superior court forward information on those who are recused from jury duty because of a reason that would also rule them an ineligible voter, such as being a non-citizen, but would shield recusal records from the public record if the reason was that they were ineligible under the state statute governing whom is eligible to serve on a jury such as age, service on past juries and other reasons.