North Carolina

Commentary & Community

North Carolina House Bill 2: Broaden property tax exemption of disabled veterans

 

Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in North Carolina, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 2, Broaden property tax exemption of disabled veterans: Passed 116 to 0 in the state House on March 29, 2017

 

To increase the annual property tax exemption of homes owned by disabled veterans or their unmarried surviving spouses from the first $45,000 in property valuation to the first $100,000. The bill would have the state reimburse local governments for lost property tax revenues from the change. In addition, the bill would give an unlimited property tax exemption to unmarried surviving spouses of fire, rescue, and police officers killed in the line of duty.

 

Comment below to share what you think of North Carolina House Bill 2!

 

 

Partisanship in Judicial Elections



Is it important for voters to know whether a judge is a Democrat or a Republican?

That is the question at the heart of the debate over whether judicial elections should be partisan.

 

The U.S. is a two-party system. With only rare exceptions, we elect people to the presidency, Congress, governorship, and legislatures from either the Republican or Democratic parties. These party labels are useful because they tell us something about the ideology of a candidate. Voters use party identification as shorthand to help them make up their minds about whom to vote for.

 

In judicial races, however, most states do not have partisan elections. According to Ballotpedia, there are seven states that have partisan races for state supreme court seats. Nine states have partisan elections for appellate court judges and twenty have partisan elections for trial court judges.

 

This issue has recently come up in North Carolina. Superior and district court elections were partisan in that state until 1996 and 2001, respectively. This year, Republican legislators passed a bill to once again make them partisan. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, but legislators overrode the veto. During a special session in late 2016, legislators passed a bill that made the state’s supreme court elections partisan. Then-governor Pat McCrory signed that bill into law. North Carolina supreme court candidates ran with party labels prior to the 2004 election.

 

Proponents of partisan judicial elections say that these party labels are needed so voters know the ideology of the judges they are electing. After all, the reasoning goes, these judges decide matters of great importance to the state, so voters should have as much information as possible to indicate how they may rule.

 

Opponents of partisan elections contend that judges have a different role to play than politicians. Judges interpret the law, not make it, so they should not be bringing partisan considerations into their role.

 

What do you think? Should judges run with party labels? Or do party politics have no role to play in judicial elections?

 

North Carolina House Bill 3: Constitutional amendment on using eminent domain to take private property

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in North Carolina, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

House Bill 3, Constitutional amendment on using eminent domain to take private property: Passed 104 to 9 in the state House on February 16, 2017

 

To add provisions to the state constitution related to eminent domain property takings, limiting this to "public use" purposes only. Current law allows it for "public use or benefit." The state Supreme Court has also let it be used for "public purpose." The amendment would also require the amount of "just compensation" for taking the property to be determined by a jury trial, if the property owner requests it. It would add natural gas facilities and pipelines to the list of public uses.

 

Comment below to share what you think of North Carolina House Bill 3!

 

North Carolina House Bill 7: Earmark share of revenue increases to the state's rainy-day fund

 

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in North Carolina, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

North Carolina House Bill 7, Earmark share of revenue increases to the state's rainy-day fund: Passed 110 to 3 in the state House on February 15, 2017

 

To set aside 15 percent of new revenue growth per year in the state saving reserve. That fund currently gets one-fourth of what's left over in state coffers at the end of the fiscal year. The bill would limit the fund's use to avoiding spending cuts if revenue declines, if a court ruling imposes damages against the state, or if there is a state emergency. Also, if a proposed withdrawal is more than 7.5 percent of the last state budget, the bill would require a two-thirds vote of both houses to approve it.

 

Comment below to share what you think of North Carolina House Bill 7!

 

North Carolina Senate Bill 4: Repeal the 'Bathroom' Bill

 

Check out this key bill recently voted on by elected officials in North Carolina, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your legislators voted.

 

Senate Bill 4, Repeal the bathroom bill: Failed 16 to 32 in the state Senate on December 21, 2016

 

To repeal HB 2, which prohibited local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws or employment mandates that are stricter than state law, effectively preempting Charlotte’s transgendered discrimination act. HB 2 also required schools and government agencies to designate bathrooms for people of their biological sex and requires that only people of that biological sex can use a bathroom with that designation, in addition to restricting protection from sex discrimination to discrimination based on biological sex.

 

Senate Bull 4, Amendment to allow local employment or public accommodation laws: Passed 33 to 16 in the state Senate on December 21, 2016

 

To table, or kill, an amendment to the HB 2 repeal legislation that would remove the section that banned local governments from enacting laws regulating employment practices or public accommodations or access to bathrooms or showers for six months.

Capital punishment, abortion restrictions, aborted baby parts sales, illegal aliens and sanctuary cities

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in North Carolina during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 297, Ban the sale of aborted baby parts: Passed 79 to 29 in the House on September 28, 2015, and 41 to 3 in the Senate on September 24, 2015

To prohibit the sale of an unborn child's remains that resulted from an abortion or miscarriage. The bill also bans the state from entering into contracts for family planning services with organizations that perform abortions.

 

House Bill 465, Impose more restrictions on abortion: Passed 71 to 43 in the House on June 3, 2015, and 32 to 16 in the Senate on June 1, 2015

To increase the waiting period for an abortion from one to three days, to limit the types of doctors that may perform abortions, and to mandate new inspections on abortion clinics. The bill also establishes the Maternal Mortality Review Commission, which will inspect records from health care facilities and pharmacies with the goal of reducing maternal deaths.

 

House Bill 318, Require state contractors verify they employ no illegal aliens and ban sanctuary cities: Passed 80 to 39 in the House on April 23, 2015, and 28 to 17 in the Senate on September 28, 2015

To mandate that, for most state contracts, a contractor must verify his or her employees’ legal status using the federal E-Verify program. The legislation also prohibits cities from banning their law enforcement officers from collecting information regarding an individual’s immigration or citizenship status and providing that information to the federal government.

 

House Bill 774, Change capital punishment procedure: Passed 74 to 34 in the House on July 29, 2015, and 33 to 16 in the Senate on July 27, 2016

To allow a medical professional other than a licensed physician to be present at the execution of a death sentence and to shield information about the drugs being used in executions from public disclosure.

 

Senate Bill 15, Reform unemployment compensation: Passed 36 to 7 in the Senate on August 27, 2015, and 83 to 27 in the House on August 20, 2015

To modify the state’s unemployment compensation system by, among other things, requiring a valid photo ID to collect benefits, allowing investigators more discretion to check for identity theft, and strengthening safeguards so that inmates do not collect benefits.

 

Food assistance standards, school board lawsuits, EPA carbon rule, kid tanning bed ban, and gas tax

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in North Carolina during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 1047, Increase standards for food assistance: Passed 74 to 39 in the House on June 16, 2016

To require that the Lottery Commission supply the Division of Social Services information on individuals who win lottery prizes in excess of $2,250 to determine if these winners are on food assistance and have not reported these winnings. The bill also sets forth increased penalties for noncompliance with work requirements, including permanent disqualification from receiving benefits on the third instance of noncompliance.

 

House Bill 726, Prohibit school boards from suing counties: Failed 52 to 66 in the House

To ban school boards from suing counties over budget appropriations for the district they represent.

 

House Bill 571, Prohibit agency compliance with federal carbon regulations: Passed 84 to 33 in the House on April 16, 2015, and 31 to 12 on August 5, 2015

To prohibit state agencies from taking actions to comply with the federal government’s “Clean Power Plan” mandate to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

 

House Bill 158, Ban minors from using tanning beds: Passed 103 to 12 in the House on April 21, 2015, and 48 to 2 in the Senate on May 13, 2015

To prohibit the owners of tanning facilities from letting anyone under the age of 18 use tanning equipment.

 

Senate Bill 20, Lock in gas tax rate: Passed 41 to 8 in the Senate on March 31, 2015, and 79 to 39 in the House on March 31, 2015

To set the gas tax at a fixed rate of 34 cents per gallon by the end of 2016. Although this is a decrease from the current rate, this legislation prevents the gas tax from decreasing below 34 cents per gallon, which under the current formula would have happened due to lower wholesale gas prices.

 

Let public see cop-cams, renewable energy subsidies, limit on state spending and taxes

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in North Carolina during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 972, Deny public access to police recordings: Passed 93 to 21 in the House on June 27, 2016, and 48 to 2 in the Senate on June 29, 2016

To prohibit the public from having access to recordings made by law enforcement, such as those made by body-worn cameras or dashboard cameras. These recordings shall only be disclosed to people who whose image or voice were on the recording, or to their representatives if deceased or a minor. The legislation also authorizes local governments and nonprofits to conduct limited needle exchange programs.

 

Amendment to House Bill 972, Allow release of police recordings in use of force incidents: Failed 42 to 72 in the House on June 27, 2016

To allow the release of a law enforcement recording if the recording was of a use of force incident that resulted in serious bodily injury or death.

 

Senate Bill 372, Extend tax breaks for renewable energy investment: Passed 37 to 7 in the House on April 1, 2015, and 87 to 28 in the House on April 21, 2015

To authorize a one-year extension of existing tax breaks on the cost of construction for proposed renewable energy projects. The bill requires a promise from those seeking an extension that the project will be “substantially completed” by January 1, 2016.

 

Amendment to House Bill 760, Limit renewable energy mandate: Passed 97 to 19 in the House on April 29, 2015

To limit the mandate that public utility companies must obtain a certain portion of their energy from renewable sources at 6%, instead of allowing the mandated amount to rise to 12.5% in 2021. This amendment also fixes the limit at 6% for other utility companies in the state, reduces the amount companies can charge customers to recover costs for renewable energy, and repeals the property tax exclusion for solar energy electric systems.

 

Senate Bill 607, Limit state spending and taxes: Passed 31 to 14 in the Senate on August 12, 2015

To allow voters to approve or reject a constitutional amendment that would limit state spending increases to the average inflation rate plus the population growth rate. However, two-thirds of the legislature could vote to authorize higher spending. This amendment would also limit the state’s income tax to five percent and establish an emergency saving reserve fund.

 

Hemp farming and use, partisan judicial races, and government seizing or buying property

 

 

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in North Carolina during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

Senate Bill 313, Establish industrial hemp pilot program: Passed 101 to 7 in the House on September 28, 2015, and 42 to 2 in the Senate on September 29, 2015

To establish a program to grow industrial hemp, as long as such a program is consistent with federal rules and regulations.

 

House Bill 766, Expand allowable use of hemp extract: Passed 47 to 0 in the Senate on July 1, 2015, and 112 to 2 on July 14, 2015

To allow the use of hemp extract that contains a high amount of cannabidiol but a low amount of THC in order to treat intractable epilepsy. Previously, this treatment was only available to those participating in a pilot program.

 

House Bill 8, Make some judicial races partisan: Passed 69 to 48 in the House on April 20, 2015, and 32 to 12 in the Senate on September 24, 2015

To require party designations for candidates running for Judge of the Court of Appeals.

 

House Bill 3, Curtail eminent domain: Passed 113 to 5 in the House on February 10, 2015, and 31 to 18 in the Senate on June 28, 2016

To place a constitutional amendment before the voters that would prohibit state and local governments from using eminent domain for the benefit of private parties, although using eminent domain for public purposes would remain lawful.

 

House Bill 108, Establish loan fund for local government property purchases: Passed 90 to 25 in the House on April 15, 2015

To establish a fund that would provide loans for local governments or other agencies to acquire and develop business facilities.

 

Transgender bathroom use, discriminatory firing, sanctuary cities, state contractors hiring illegal aliens, and poor-performing schools

Check out these key votes made by elected officials in North Carolina during the most recent legislative session, and go to www.votespotter.com to signup and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 2, Amend state laws concerning transgendered individuals: Passed 82 to 26 in the House on March 23, 2016, and 32 to 0 in the Senate on March 23, 2016 (Senate Democrats walked out of the chamber instead of voting on the bill)

To prohibit local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws or employment mandates that are stricter than state law, effectively pre-empting Charlotte’s transgendered discrimination act. The legislation also requires schools and government agencies to designate bathrooms for people of their biological sex and requires that only people of that biological sex can use a bathroom with that designation, in addition to restricting protection from sex discrimination to discrimination based on biological sex.

House Bill 169, allow state suits for wrongful discharge: Passed 85 to 15 in the House on July 1, 2016, and 25 to 14 in the Senate on July 1, 2016

To allow individuals to sue in state courts alleging that they were wrongfully discharged from employment on account of their race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability status. This legislation amended a provision in HB 2. Legislators who opposed the bill generally did so because they thought it did not go far enough in remedying what they saw as defects in HB 2.

HB 2, Move congressional primary date: Passed 29 to 15 in the Senate on February 19, 2016, and 75 to 30 in the House on February 19, 2016

To move the primary election date to June 7 to accommodate a new congressional redistricting plan. This vote occurred during a special session of the General Assembly called after a federal court case found the state’s previous congressional districts unconstitutional.

HB 318, Require state contractors verify they employ no illegal aliens and ban sanctuary cities: Passed 28 to 17 in the Senate on September 28, 2015, and 70 to 43 in the House on September 29, 2015

To mandate that, for most state contracts, a contractor must verify his or her employees’ legal status using the federal e-Verify program. The legislation also prohibits cities from banning their law enforcement officers from collecting information regarding an individual’s immigration or citizenship status and providing that information to the federal government.

HB 1080, Allow charter schools to manage poor-performing schools: Passed 35 to 14 in the Senate on June 28, 2016, and 66 to 40 in the House on June 29, 2016

To create a pilot program that would allow charter school organizations to manage five schools that have a track record of poor academic performance. The operators can only be chosen if they have a track record of successfully improving performance in similar schools.

Medicare Heats Up NC Senate Race

 In North Carolina, the Senate race between incumbent Richard Burr and challenger Deborah Ross is increasingly focusing on Medicare. Will Republican control of the Senate hinge on what North Carolinians think about Medicare reform?

At issue is Senator Burr’s 2012 proposal (never actually put in bill for) to restructure Medicare. When he announced it, Burr said, “We made a promise to our seniors that Medicare will be there when they need it most, but the program as it currently stands is broken. We have a moral obligation to our parents, children, and all Americans to take steps now to save Medicare. The Medicare program in its current form is unsustainable, and we have an obligation and opportunity to improve it for our nation's seniors within the next few years.”

Ross is charging that Burr introduced his plan to help insurance companies, not seniors. According to Ross, “some politicians in Washington want to fundamentally change Medicare by privatizing it and putting the insurance companies in charge. For example, Richard Burr has taken more than $1 million from insurance companies. In turn, he wrote a plan that would raise the retirement age, privatize Medicare, and give seniors a voucher that may or may not cover their health care costs. While this may help private insurers' profits, it will force seniors to pay more.”

Senator Burr has said he stands by his proposal. However, he also distances himself from it, saying, “We threw that out as an option as to what could be considered. Until you decide what you’re going to do with the Affordable Care Act, there’s no sense in even having a debate on what Medicare in the future looks like or how you make Social Security sustainable.”

What would Burr’s Medicare plan, dubbed “The Seniors’ Choice Act,” actually do?

  • Limit out-of-pocket expenses for seniors in traditional Medicare Parts A and B
  • Provide targeted care coordination for seniors in traditional Medicare
  • Increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 over 12 years
  • Starting in 2016, this proposal would have allowed seniors to receive funds from the government to choose a private Medicare plan

The last part is the most controversial part of the legislation. Senator Burr contends that allowing seniors to have choice for their Medicare plans will give seniors a “choice of a better benefit that meets their individual health care needs.” Ross calls it “privatization.”

Ross has also released a Medicare plan, which includes:

  • Paying doctors based on quality, not quantity, of care
  • Cracking down on inefficiencies, errors, and abuse
  • Giving consumers information and incentives to make better health care decisions
  • Ending the FDA backlog for generic drug approval

When Senator Burr says that Medicare is unsustainable, he is talking about the program’s future unfunded liabilities. The Senate Finance Committee’s Republican staff sum up the issue in a 2015 analysis: “Assuming current law remains unchanged, the Trustees project Medicare’s 75 year total spending in excess of dedicated revenues is $27.9 trillion. Again, using the CMS Actuary’s more realistic alternative scenario, that figure soars to $36.8 trillion.”

What do you think? Should Medicare be reformed along the lines of what Senator Burr has suggested? Or is Ross right to focus on minor fixes to the program?

Carbon Rules and the NC Governor’s Race

Should North Carolina comply with the Obama Administration’s attempt to regulate carbon emissions? Or should the state fight the EPA’s regulation?

That issue has come into play in the race between Republican Governor Pat McCrory and his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper. Twenty-six states are suing the Obama Administration over the Clean Power Plan. North Carolina is one of them, but at the direction of the governor, not the attorney general.

The Clean Power Plan is a regulation put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency that requires states to implement a plan to reduce carbon emissions. The states suing the EPA contend that the agency is going beyond the powers granted to it by law and forcing states to implement an energy plan that will increase electricity costs.

In most states, the Attorney General is the state official who filed suit against the Clean Power Plan. Not in North Carolina, however. Attorney General Cooper disagreed with his colleagues across the nation, saying, “Although this legislation poses constitutional questions, I am even more concerned that this action will risk North Carolina's well-deserved reputation for protecting the quality of our air, recruiting businesses that produce cutting-edged technologies and offering leadership around the world on energy issues.”

Instead, Cooper wants a cooperative approach with the federal government. The Citizen-Times reports that Cooper favors getting groups together to write a plan to comply with the federal carbon-cutting requirements.

Governor McCrory does not favor this collaborative approach with the EPA. He has strong words for the new rules, saying, “Not only will these new federal rules raise electricity rates, they have the potential to jeopardize the success we’ve made in making North Carolina’s air the cleanest it’s been since we began tracking air quality back in the 1970s.”

With Attorney General Cooper’s unwillingness to fight the rules in court, McCrory directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to file suit against this regulation. The state Senate also voted in favor of legislation that would block implementation of the rule.

Do you support Governor McCrory’s attempt to fight this regulation in court? Or do you think Attorney General Cooper is right in his call to work with the federal government to implement this rule?