North Carolina

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NC Governor Imposes 10 p.m. Curfew to Stem Coronavirus Spread

Most North Carolina businesses will be closing at 10 p.m. under a new order imposed by Gov. Roy Cooper.


Under Gov. Cooper's order, only a few businesses will be exempt from the closing order. These include grocery stores, gas stations, and health care facilities. Restaurants can continue serving take-out food after 10 p.m., but cannot allow customers to eat inside. Individuals must stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they meet certain exceptions. 


Coronavirus cases are rising in North Carolina, with many counties being considered as having critical community spread. The governor says that this justifies restricting businesses and public gatherings. He said that as the evening goes on, crowds increase and there is more chance of spreading the coronavirus. Critics push back against this logic, however, saying there is nothing particularly dangerous about late-night dining or drinking as opposed to doing the same activities earlier in the day. They contend that the governor's order will harm businesses that are already struggling.


Coronavirus cases are rising in states around the nation. Other governors are imposing or considering similar measures in an attempt to stop community spread of the virus.


Gov. Cooper said that if these restrictions do not work, he will consider imposing even stricter rules.


Do you think that states should impose curfews to stop the spread of the coronavirus?

Judge Halts North Carolina Voter ID Law

North Carolina voters will not be required to show identification before voting in that state’s 2020 primary.


In 2018, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the legislature to enact a voter ID law. In December of that year, the Republican-controlled legislature approved a law enacting a voter ID mandate. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it, but legislators overrode his veto. There have been ongoing legal battles over the law since then.


Supporters of a voter ID law say that it is necessary to ensure that only legal voters take part in elections. They contend that making voters show ID is a good way to combat voter fraud. Opponents counter that this is a law designed to make it more difficult for minorities and the poor to vote. They say that the real intention is to disenfranchise Democratic voters, not combat voter fraud.


This week, a federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of the law. He has said that it should not go into effect until courts settle whether or not this law is constitutional. His ruling does not invalidate the voter ID requirement, but does suspend it for the 2020 primary election.


A federal case over a previous North Carolina voter ID law resulted in that law being declared unconstitutional because of its effect on minority voters.


Do you support voter ID laws?

Gerrymandering Reform Gets a Hearing in North Carolina

Recent years have seen bitter legislative and court battles over North Carolina’s congressional and legislative districts. With another legal case looming, a legislative committee is considering three bills that would overhaul the way the state draws election districts.


Under two of the bills being heard this week, the state would establish independent commissions that would draw the lines of legislative and congressional districts. Another bill would empower legislative staff to draw these districts. Under each bill being considered, however, the criteria being used is aimed at making it more difficult to shape districts so they favor one party over another.


The bills accomplish this goal in a few ways. They require that there not be any large discrepancies in the population of districts, that the land areas of the districts be contiguous, and that political affiliation of voters in the districts not be considered. These would prevent oddly-shaped districts that link together voters of a certain political party from being designed.


Currently, legislators approve congressional and legislative districts. This had led to the charge that Republicans have gerrymandered the districts to cement their hold on political power. Democrats and minority voters complain that these districts disenfranchise them by diluting their voting power. These arguments have won over some judges, who have invalidated the legislatively-drawn districts as being unconstitutional.


The legislation under consideration in the legislature this week is bipartisan. It copies procedures used in other states that are aimed at minimizing gerrymandering attempts.


Do you support independent commissions designing congressional and legislative districts in order to cut down on gerrymandering?

North Carolina Considers Sanctuary City Ban

Legislators in North Carolina are advancing a bill that would prohibit sanctuary city policies in that state. This may set up another veto fight with Gov. Roy Cooper, as the Democratic governor faces protests urging him to reject this bill.


Under House Bill 370, local law enforcement officers in North Carolina would be required to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts. The bill would specifically prohibit law enforcement personnel from refusing to comply with federal immigration detainer request. These requests come from immigration agents looking to detain illegal immigrants who are in local law enforcement custody.


In cities with sanctuary policies, local law enforcement does not cooperate with the federal government in enforcing federal immigration laws or comply with detention requests. These local officials are not breaking federal law by refusing to do so; the federal government can only request, not command, cooperation of local police or sheriffs in enforcing federal law. But some states are enacting statewide policies that require such cooperation.


The North Carolina House passed HB 370 by a vote of 63-51, and now it is being considered by the Senate. This weekend, protestors urged Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the bill if it emerges from the General Assembly.


Do you think that states should prohibit sanctuary cities? Should local law enforcement cooperate with the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws?

“Born Alive” Bill Advancing in North Carolina

Measures to tighten restrictions on abortion have been debated in states across the nation during this year’s legislative sessions. The North Carolina Senate became the most recent legislative body to advance a bill on this controversial subject with the passage of the “Born Alive Act.” However, this legislation may not survive a veto threat from that state’s governor.


Under the Born Alive Act, doctors and nurses must provide protection to any child born after a failed late-term abortion attempt. Failing to do this could result in jail time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.


Supporters of this legislation say that it is necessary to ensure that proper medical care is provided to children who survive abortion attempts. Opponents, however, say that it is aimed at a non-existent problem. They contend that the law already provides protection for infants in these situations, so this bill is aimed at scoring political points.


The North Carolina Senate passed the legislation on Monday. Now it heads to the House of Representatives for a vote. Republicans control both chambers of the legislature. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has criticized the bill. He is expected to veto it if it is presented to him.


Do you support the “Born Alive” bill? Is such legislation necessary to protect the lives of infants who survive abortion? Or are such bills simply political grandstanding?

Voter ID on North Carolina Ballot

North Carolina legislators have been trying to enact a voter ID law since 2013. A federal judge struck down their first attempt. Now they have put a measure on the ballot that would amend the state constitution to enact a voter ID requirement.


Under the ballot amendment, North Carolinians who vote in person will have to show identification before they can cast a ballot. The amendment to the state constitution would give the legislature power to define what types of identifications would be acceptable.


In 2013, legislators passed a bill that then-Governor Pat McCrory signed into law that would have required voter ID at polling places. A driver’s license, state-issued ID car, a military ID, or a passport would have met the requirements in that legislation. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the state, arguing that this requirement discriminated against minorities and violated federal law. A federal appeals court agreed, with the judges deciding that legislators enacted the ID mandate with an intention to discriminate against minorities.


Supporters of this amendment argue that it will help prevent voter fraud. They note that people must present identification in a variety of other areas, so it should be no burden to do so at a polling place. Opponents counter that there is no proof that a voter ID requirement will prevent election fraud. They also argue that these laws hurt the poor and minority voters, and are a way to make it more difficult for these voters to participate in the electoral process.


There are 34 states that require some form of identification from voters.


Do you support laws requiring that voters present identification before they cast a ballot?

Hunting, Fishing May Gain Constitutional Protection in North Carolina


A lot of North Carolinians hunt and fish. Under a ballot measure facing voters in November, their right to do so may become enshrined in the state constitution.


The proposed constitutional amendment states that “the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the State's heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good.” The amendment would allow the legislature to enact laws governing hunting and fishing, but only to promote wildlife conservation and management or to preserve the future of hunting and fishing. The amendment also states that hunting and fishing are the preferred ways to control and manage wildlife.


Supporters of this amendment say it is necessary to preserve this traditional way of managing wildlife from attacks by anti-hunting activists. With this amendment, they contend, hunting and fishing in North Carolina will be protected into the future. Opponents of the amendment say that it is unnecessary. They point out that there are no real threats to end hunting and fishing in North Carolina, so such an amendment to the state constitution is unneeded.


Twenty states have adopted similar constitutional amendments since 1996.


Do you think that state constitutions should be amended to protect the right to hunt and fish?


A Battle over Hog Farms in North Carolina


There are a lot of hog farmers in North Carolina. This hog farming produces a lot of jobs in related industries. But for the neighbors of some of these farms, the operations also produce a lot of flies, foul odors, and other nuisances.


This dispute between farmers and their neighbors has not only led to legal battles in the state’s courts, but has also produced a rift between Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and the Republicans who control the state legislature. Governor Cooper recently vetoed a bill that would have limited nuisance lawsuits against farmers, but legislators quickly overrode his veto.


The legislation, SB 711, expands the state’s right-to-farm law to make it more difficult to bring nuisance lawsuits against farming or forestry operations that have been in existence for more than one year. Under this legislation, such lawsuits would be allowed only if the operation undergoes a “fundamental change,” which does not include a new owner, a change in size, the use of new technology, or engaging in a new type of farming or forestry.


This bill comes in the wake of high-profile lawsuits from residents who live near large hog farms. In one April case, a jury awarded $50 million to 10 neighbors who sued over a nearby hog farm. That amount was later reduced. Another trial against Smithfield Farms is currently ongoing.


Governor Cooper vetoed the bill in late June. In his veto message he said, “North Carolina’s nuisance laws can help allow generations of families to enjoy their homes and land without fear for their health and safety… Our laws must balance the needs of businesses versus property rights. Giving one industry special treatment at the expense of its neighbors is unfair.”


Within two days of the governor’s veto, both houses of the legislature voted to override it. Those backing this bill said that farmers who follow state law should not fear that they would be sued for millions of dollars. They pointed out the importance of farming to the state’s economy, contending that nuisance suits could drive farmers out of business.


Do you think that it should be more difficult to sue farmers for nuisances like odors?


Gov. Cooper: Raise Taxes and Increase State Employee and Teacher Pay


Thousands of teachers marched on the state capitol in Raleigh to greet North Carolina legislators as they started deliberations in mid-May. Their demands for higher pay found an ally in Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. His budget proposal would give teachers and state workers a salary increase. To pay for these plans and other spending hikes, he wants to cancel a scheduled tax decrease. The Republicans who control the legislature have other ideas.


Under Governor Cooper’s budget proposal, teachers would see a pay increase of 8%. The current budget provides a 6% pay increase for these teachers. The governor is also proposing a pay increase for state employees of 2% or $1,250, whichever is higher. State law enforcement officers would receive an additional $1,000 pay increase on top of that.


This would be paid for by halting some tax decreases that were passed in 2013. Instead of lowering the tax rate to 5.25% on households making income over $200,000, the governor wants to keep that tax rate at 5.499%. He would also like to cancel the tax rate decrease on corporate incomes.

Governor Cooper points out that North Carolina teacher salaries are below the national average. He says that with federal tax cut legislation, there is no longer a pressing need for all of North Carolina’s scheduled tax cuts to take effect.


Republican legislative leaders are wary of canceling tax decreases, pointing out that this would really be a tax increase for those who were scheduled to receive them. They say that they would like to help teachers, too, and are looking at using state money for one-time bonuses. Some legislators charge that the governor is using this issue as a political stunt in an election year.


Whatever legislators pass in the budget bill, it is subject to Governor Cooper’s veto.


Do you think that scheduled tax decreases should be stopped in order to give North Carolina teachers a raise of 8%?


Energy Issues Fueling Disagreement in North Carolina


From a natural gas pipeline to offshore drilling, energy issues are a top concern for North Carolina’s elected officials in early 2018.


The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a contentious issue since the proposal to extend it through North Carolina was announced. Environmentalists attacked it as being harmful to the environment, while business groups and unions supported the pipeline for its job-creating potential. North Carolina regulators recently approved permits allowing pipeline construction can begin, but this move spurred further controversy in the Tar Heel State.


On the same day state regulators approved permits for the pipeline, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced that the companies behind the pipeline were setting up a $57.8 million fund for the state to use for environmental and renewable energy projects. Republican legislators charged that this was a “slush fund” given in exchange for state approval, something the governor denied. The legislators then passed a bill, later signed by Gov. Cooper, re-directing the money put in this fund to be used for schools along the pipeline’s path.


Legislators are continuing to raise issues about whether Gov. Cooper acted properly. They note that he owns property along the path of the pipeline, although the governor has said he would not profit directly from any state funds related to building it. The chairman of the Senate Rules Committee is calling for an investigation into the governor’s role in setting up the $58 million fund. Regulators deny that their decision to approve the pipeline was linked to the agreement brokered by the governor to establish the fund.


While Gov. Cooper supports moving ahead with a natural gas pipeline through the state, he is fighting efforts to allow oil and natural gas production off of North Carolina’s coast. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration revealed an offshore energy plan that would permit oil and gas exploration in North Carolina’s coastal waters. Attorney General Josh Stein as well as some local and state lawmakers also oppose this plan.


The final decision on offshore drilling rests with the federal government. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has already exempted Florida from the areas where offshore drilling would be allowed. If the final federal plan includes North Carolina, Gov. Cooper has vowed to sue to stop it.


Do you think energy companies gave Gov. Cooper a “slush fund” in return for the state approving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? Do you support offshore oil and natural gas production off of North Carolina’s coast?


Northam Inaugural Features Promises on Obamacare, Abortion, and Gun Control


On Saturday, January 13, Ralph Northam took office as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He did not waste any time in discussing hot-button issues. His inaugural address touched on three issues that will be hotly contested during this year’s session of the Virginia General Assembly – Obamacare expansion, access to abortion, and gun control.


Here is what he had to say on these topics when he addressed the inauguration crowd:


  • Obamacare: “It is past time for us to step forward together and expand Medicaid to nearly 400,000 Virginians who need access to care.”


  • Abortion: “We should also resolve together today to refrain from any effort to curtail a woman’s constitutional right to make her own decisions about her health.”


  • Gun Control: “If we are going to build a healthier Virginia for everyone, we must address the public health crisis of gun violence. Gunshots kill more people in Virginia every year than car accidents, but if you walk into the right gun show, it’s easier to get a firearm than it is to rent a car. I am ready to work with you to make Virginia safer by passing smart reforms that keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.


Governor Northam’s stances on these issues put him at odds with the General Assembly. While the 2017 elections narrowed their majority in both chambers, Republicans still control the legislature. As their track record under Governor McAuliffe shows, they are not hesitant to pass conservative legislation in spite of gubernatorial veto threats.


With an increased number of Democrats in the legislature than during Gov. McAuliffe’s term, Gov. Northam will have more allies in his legislative fights. Even so, it is difficult to see how the governor will convince legislators to expand Medicaid, refrain from passing abortion restrictions, or enact gun control measures.


Do you think that Virginia legislators should work with Governor Northam to expand Medicaid eligibility, preserve access to abortion, and place more limits on gun ownership?


Governor’s Appointment Powers Curbed in North Carolina


North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and the Republicans who control the General Assembly have had a rough first year. One of their areas of contention is over the governor’s appointment power. With a supermajority in the legislature, Republicans have little fear that Gov. Cooper’s vetoes of legislation to curtail his power to make appointments will stick. The governor has had some success in court in fighting back against these legislative moves, but a recent court decision was a setback for him.


Legislators and the governor both agree that appointments to various state boards and commissions is very important. However, they disagree on who should make appointments to these positions. Late last year, legislators removed some judicial appointment power from the incoming governor. Here are some of the bills considered by the legislature this year that continue with this theme:


House Bill 335, Modify governor appointments for court vacancies: Passed 70 to 48 in the House

To change how the governor makes appointments to fill vacancies on the state Supreme Court, court of appeals, superior court, or district attorney. For any such vacancy, the bill would have the governor choose from a list of three candidates recommended by the political party to which the justice, judge, or district attorney vacating office was affiliated. Under current law the governor simply appoints a replacement.


House Bill 659, Modify governor appointments for U.S. Senate vacancies: Passed 76 to 41 in the House

To change how the governor makes a temporary appointment to fill a vacant seat to the U.S. Senate. The bill would have the governor choose from a list of three candidates recommended by officials of the political party to which the U.S. Senator vacating office was affiliated. Under current law the governor simply appoints a temporary replacement from the same political party as the vacating Senator.


House Bill 240, Eliminate governor appointments to fill district court vacancies: Passed 66 to 47 in the House

To transfer to the legislature the governor's authority to appoint the replacement judge to fill out an unexpired term when a district court vacancy occurs.


House Bill 241, Eliminate governor appointments of special superior court judges: Passed 67 to 47 in the House

To transfer to the legislature the governor's authority to appoint a special superior court judge when a vacancy occurs or the incumbent judge's term ends.


Senate Bill 68, Create new bipartisan elections and ethics board: Passed 49 to 0 in the Senate and 68 to 42 in the House

To merge the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission into a new "Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement," which would have four Democrat members and four Republican members. The governor would appoint members from lists of nominees given him by the state party chairs.


The governor vetoed SB 68, but legislators overrode his veto. Then he sued, contending the bill was an unconstitutional violation of his power to make appointments for the executive branch. In October, the North Carolina Superior Court said that it did not have jurisdiction over the lawsuit since the makeup of state boards and commissions is a matter for legislators and the governor, not judges, to settle. However, the court did say that if it were to rule on the suit, then it would likely rule against the governor. The state Supreme Court now has the power to decide the case if it wishes.


There is history in North Carolina of legislators stripping appointment power from governors of opposing parties, with Democrats doing making similar moves when they controlled the legislature. There is also no standard for how these appointments should be made. Appointment power differs state-to-state, with governors playing a larger role in some states than in others. However, some observers are expressing concern at the scope of the legislature’s action in North Carolina. They charge that this is pure partisan politics, with Republicans looking to weaken the Democratic governor. Some take the opposite view, however, contending that this is merely the legislature introducing more checks-and-balances to the appointment process.


Do you support the legislative action to remove some of Governor Cooper’s appointment power? Or are Republicans playing hardball politics in stripping power from the Democratic governor?


North Carolina Legislators Busy Overriding Governor’s Vetoes


Last year, voters in North Carolina elected Roy Cooper, a Democrat, as governor. They also returned a Republican super-majority in the General Assembly. Predictably, this combination has resulted in sustained conflict throughout the legislative session.


One major sign of this conflict is the fact that Governor Cooper vetoed 13 bills during his first year in office. Legislators overrode ten of those vetoes. Here is a list of some of the bills that legislators enacted over the governor’s objection:


Senate Bill 656, Eliminate primary elections for judges and justices: Passed 70 to 44 in the House and 30 to 16 in the Senate.

To end primary elections for judges and state Supreme Court justices, instead listing all candidates with their political affiliations on the general election ballots. The bill would also make it easier for other political parties to gain state recognition and for unaffiliated candidates to get listed on ballots. It would lower the threshold to win a primary election plurality to 30% of the vote.


House Bill 56, Fund Cape Fear River cleanup and end bag ban: Passed 61 to 44 in the House and 29 to 10 in the Senate.

To make several changes to state environmental laws. Among other things, the bill would appropriate additional state funds to support cleanup and monitoring efforts of the Cape Fear River in the wake of the "GenX" chemical discharge. It would also repeal a prohibition against retailers in Outer Banks counties from using plastic bags and paper bags composed of less than 40 percent recycled paper.


House Bill 100, Show political party labels of judge candidates on ballot: Passed 65 to 51 in the House and 32 to 15 in the Senate.

To print superior and district court judge candidates' party affiliations on voter ballots. Elections for these judgeships used to be partisan until 1996 for superior court and 2001 for district court. This bill would repeal state law making them nonpartisan. Similar legislation passed in December 2016 to make North Carolina Supreme Court and Court of Appeals elections partisan.


House Bill 239, Cut the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12: Passed 71 to 42 in the House and 30 to 13 in the Senate.

To reduce the size of the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12. The bill would do that by abolishing the next three incumbent judges' seats that become vacant.


House Bill 467, Limit damage awards for hog farm odors and other disturbances: Passed 68 to 47 in the House and 30 to 19 in the Senate.

To limit damage awards for when bad smells, noises, etc. from hog farms, livestock, poultry farms, tree harvesting operations, etc. interfere with people's private enjoyment of their own property. The bill would set compensation for a "nuisance disturbance" to the reduction in the property's fair market value caused by the disturbance, and cap it at fair market value.


Senate Bill 257, Set the state budget for 2018-19: Passed 39 to 11 in the Senate and 77 to 38 in the House.

To enact the state budget for the 2018-19 biennium. Highlights include a 5.9% increase in spending over two years; reductions in personal and corporate income tax rates; a 9.6% increase in teacher pay over two years; reduced funding for the governor's office and the Justice Department; and funding for the state's rainy-day fund and a new reserve for capital investments, repairs, renovations, and debt service.


Do you think that Governor Cooper is right to veto bills dealing with the state budget, the judiciary, and other issues? Or is the governor trying to stop needed reform in North Carolina government?


North Carolina House Bill 630


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North Carolina House Bill 630, Reform Social Services and Child Welfare Systems: Passed 101 to 14 in the state House on June 14, 2017.


To make several reforms to the state social services and child welfare systems. Among the changes, the bill would have the Department of Social Services work with several public and nonprofit organizations in setting up regional offices for localized administration of social services. It would also have the state contract with an outside organization to draw up reforms of accountability and oversight of the state social services and child welfare systems.


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North Carolina House Bill 589


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House Bill 589, Change How Utilities Contract with Renewable Energy Facilities: Passed 34 to 11 in the state Senate on June 28, 2017. 


To restructure state electricity policy and place a four-year moratorium on new wind facilities. Currently, utilities are obligated to buy almost all renewable energy as it is produced regardless of system needs. This bill would have utilities field bids to get most of the state's expected renewable capacity under contract to dispatch as needed. It would also require cleanup and financial assurance rules for large solar projects, let military bases and public universities contract with renewable facilities, and let consumers contract with solar companies to install or lease solar facilities and participate in net metering.


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North Carolina House Bill 253


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House Bill 253, Show Political Party Labels of Nine Counties' School Board Candidates: Passed 34 to 13 in the state Senate on June 29, 2017.


To disclose school board candidates' party affiliations on voter ballots in Beaufort, Carteret, Cleveland, Dare, Hyde, Madison, Onslow, Pender, and Yancey counties.


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North Carolina House Bill 746


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House Bill 746, Allow Concealed Carry of Handguns Without a Permit: Passed 64 to 51 in the state House on June 8, 2017.


To relax several state laws concerning handguns, especially to allow lawful handgun owners, with certain restrictions, to carry openly or concealed without a permit.


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North Carolina Senate Bill 569


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Senate Bill 569, Reorganize State Law Addressing Powers of Attorney: Passed 114 to 0 in the state House on June 27, 2017


To clean up state law addressing powers of attorney (where someone has appointed another person to make decisions on their behalf). Current statutes concerning powers of attorney are spread throughout state law; this bill would put them together. It does not apply to health care powers of attorney.


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North Carolina Senate Bill 24


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Senate Bill 24, Legalize restaurant use of outdoor grills: Passed 47 to 0 in the state Senate on April 5, 2017 and 113 to 0 in the state House on May 11, 2017


To establish criteria by which restaurants and other food establishments may use outdoor grills to prepare food for customers. Current law prohibits the practice.


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North Carolina Senate Bill 145


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Senate Bill 145, Penalize 'sanctuary' cities and public universities: Passed 34 to 15 the state Senate on April 26, 2017


To create financial penalties for cities and public universities adopting "sanctuary" policies against immigration laws. "Sanctuary cities" would be ineligible to receive distributions from the state highway fund and several other public funds and no longer immune from lawsuits for crimes committed there by illegal immigrants. Public universities with sanctuary policies would lose management and budget independence. The bill would also end an exemption letting law enforcement officers use prohibited ID forms to establish identity or residency.


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