Two special sessions called
A ruling by the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina that two of North Carolina’s 13 Congressional districts were racially gerrymandered required the legislature to come back into session February 16-19 to approve a new Congressional district map. Although only two districts were challenged, the House Redistricting Committee chose to redraw the lines of all 13 districts. Read the final bill here (Session Law 2016-1) and see a map of the new districts.
The new Congressional districts were admittedly drawn to favor Republican candidates, making it likely that the November election will result in the same 10-3 Republican-Democrat split. A new Congressional primary and NC Supreme Court primary were included in the bill. The June 7 primary will be a ‘winner takes all’ election, meaning that in races with 3 or more candidates the candidate with the largest number of votes will win the primary and advance to the November election, regardless of the percentage of the vote won—there will be no run-off elections between the June primary and the November general election.
I support nonpartisan legislative and Congressional redistricting and I’m in favor of establishing an independent commission before the 2020 census. Since the new Congressional districts are not drawn without regard to party registration and because the ‘winner takes all’ June primary will allow a candidate to win even with a single digit percentage of votes cast, I voted against the redistricting bill.
HB2, Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, was the subject of a one-day special session on March 23 to respond to the Charlotte City Council nondiscrimination ordinance. I was in Virginia caring for sick family as planned and missed the special session vote. [Note: I am a co-sponsor of a bill introduced the first day of the short session, H946, Repeal HB2, Fund Human Relations Commission.
Short session convenes April 25
There are specific rules governing the introduction of short session bills [Bills Eligible for Consideration during the 2016 Session]. I am a primary sponsor of:
HB1009, Wake County Towns Donate Retired Service Animals, authorizes the towns and counties listed to transfer ownership of retiring canine officers to their handlers (along with two additional options). The bill received a favorable report in Local Government, passed 2nd reading in the House, and was re-referred to Local Government as a Proposed Committee Substitute since more Wake county towns and several additional counties were added to the bill (it is still within the 15-county threshold required to be considered a local bill). It received another favorable report in Local Government on June 2 and is on the House calendar for June 6.
HB1053, Cary Charter Amendments, authorizes the Town manager to convey easements and other administrative functions to streamline Town business and expedite development. Referred to Local Government.
HB1136, Morrisville/Development Fees for Roads Projects, grants Morrisville the same authority that Cary and other municipalities currently have to establish transportation development fees to help pay for road improvements. Referred to Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House.
HB1137, Treasurer’s 2016 Investment Admin. Changes.- AB, contains administrative changes recommended by an interim study committee. Referred to Retirement and Pensions.
House budget passes 103-12
The biggest responsibility of the short session is to adjust the second year of the biennial budget. HB1030, 2016 Appropriations Act, was passed on May 19. Senate President Pro-Tem Berger and Speaker Moore had agreed before the process began to limit a budget increase to 2.3% over FY 2015-16. Since I did not have a voice in the decision about how much total additional money the House would have to work with, I evaluated the House budget on where available revenue would be allocated. I voted for the $22.225 B House budget. Some budget highlights:
- an additional $469 M in compensation for teachers, state highway patrol, magistrates, Clerks and other state employees
- 0-5% salary increases for teachers on the salary schedule (tiers 2-6)
- funding for educator step increases (for individuals changing tiers)
- an estimated new average teacher salary of $49,896
- a 2% salary increase for most State and State-funded employees
- a 1.6% COLA for state employee retirees
- the annual contribution needed for the State’s Pension Fund
- additional funding to help minimize significant future increases to the State Health Plan
- $300 M added to the Savings Reserve Account, bringing the total to $1.4 B (6.5%); the target is 8%
- a $9.4 M increase for digital learning; a $11.7 M increase for textbooks and digital materials, bringing that total to $73 M
After the Senate debates the House budget it will return to us for concurrence. If the House does not concur with Senate changes, the budget will go to a conference committee of selected House and Senate members. I expect you will hear about the final budget in my next newsletter.
Thanks to everyone who contacts me about issues you’re concerned about. My inbox has stayed extra full since the short session started. I appreciate your patience as I wade through dozens of daily messages.