Politics & Government

NC General Assembly has more than just HB2 fallout

Budget subcommittees will meet Thursday, House Speaker Tim Moore said. The budget is expected to go to a vote of the full House next week.
Budget subcommittees will meet Thursday, House Speaker Tim Moore said. The budget is expected to go to a vote of the full House next week. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Controversy over House Bill 2 has put North Carolina state government in the national spotlight, but lawmakers are toiling more quietly on a host of other work.

Action taking place in the General Assembly’s third week includes:

Budget

House Republicans this week are going to show the public the work they’ve put in on their state budget proposal, the job that is supposed to be the legislature’s focus this year.

Budget subcommittees will meet Thursday, House Speaker Tim Moore said. The budget is expected to go to a vote of the full House next week.

Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger have already agreed that the budget will not exceed $22.225 billion, equal to a 2.3 percent increase over current spending.

One of the most watched budget items, proposed raises for teachers and state employees and cost-of-living increases for retirees, won’t be revealed until early next week, said Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary, chief House budget writer.

Immigration

Last year, the legislature voted to ban local governments from having “sanctuary city” policies that limit enforcement of immigration laws.

Now Republican senators want to cut off state funding to cities, towns and counties that don’t comply.

Since the sanctuary-city bill passed last fall, local governments have been banned from preventing their law enforcement officers from asking about a suspect’s immigration status. They also can’t stop law enforcement from sharing immigration information with federal authorities.

But according to a news release Tuesday from Berger’s office, “several law enforcement officials have contacted lawmakers to raise concern that some local governments are not complying with the law.”

Filed Tuesday, Senate Bill 868 would set up a process for the state attorney general to investigate complaints about sanctuary city practices. Local governments found to be in violation would lose state funding for school construction and street projects.

A joint statement from Republican Sens. Norman Sanderson and Buck Newton, the GOP candidate for attorney general, said cities and counties shouldn’t be “harboring illegal aliens at the potential expense of their own citizens’ safety.”

A separate immigration-related bill filed in the House on Tuesday would allow local governments to opt out of taking in refugees if they “lack capacity.” Local governments would also have to hold a public hearing and document their extra capacity in order to take additional refugees.

Drunken boating

Impaired boat operators who seriously injure someone would face the same penalties as those who drive drunk on the roads under a bill that began moving through the House on Wednesday.

Called “Sheyenne’s Law,” House Bill 958 was inspired by the death of a 17-year-old Concord girl in a boating accident on Lake Norman last Fourth of July.

Sheyenne Marshall was knee-boarding with family and friends when the boat pulling her turned left. A pontoon boat that had been following hers kept moving ahead, striking and killing her.

The pontoon boat driver was charged with driving a boat while intoxicated, involuntary manslaughter and operating a boat in a reckless manner. The case has not been resolved yet.

Current law makes impaired boating a misdemeanor with a fine of at least $250.

Coal ash

State lawmakers will try to reconstitute the Coal Ash Management Commission, which Gov. Pat McCrory disbanded earlier this year after the N.C. Supreme Court ruled the General Assembly had overstepped its bounds by controlling most of the appointments to the commission.

The new approach gives most of the appointments to the governor, and it restores the requirement that the state Department of Environmental Quality report to the commission proposed classifications for when to close all of the coal ash basins.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Hendersonville, is leading the effort to salvage the commission.

Staff writers Lynn Bonner, Patrick Gannon, Craig Jarvis and Colin Campbell contributed to this report

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