The busy and eventful 2017 legislative session came to an end just after 2am on Friday, June 30th after five and a half months, making it the second shortest long session since 1973, according to a Senate press release. The legislature operates in biennium sessions with a long session in the first (or odd numbered year) and a short session in the second year (occurring in the even numbered year). This session, more bills were considered and passed in the final three weeks of session than were in the first five months.
With the GOP majority in both the House and Senate, Republicans easily passed their negotiated budget two weeks ahead of schedule, in a process much smoother than in years passed. It fulfilled promises of fiscal responsibility, teacher pay increases, and Hurricane Matthew relief funding. Alternatively, Democrat Governor Cooper vetoed the budget after calling it short-sighted on education spending and for providing tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans quickly overrode the veto with two days to spare before the current year budget expired.
Despite the expected partisan talk and action, many popular bipartisan bills were passed, including the brunch bill, which would allow alcohol sales before noon on Sundays. Additionally, several significant stakeholder negotiations yielded significant bills. H589: Competitive Energy Solutions for NC was one such bill. After nine months of negotiations, stakeholders produced a compromise bill that passed the House 108-11. Unfortunately, once in the Senate and despite requests from all stakeholders to maintain the bill as negotiated, changes were made to incorporate an 18 month moratorium on wind project permit issuance. H589 ended up being the final bill considered and was passed just before adjournment, but not without it’s share of controversy.
Sunday alcohol sales, eye surgery, campus free speech, gun laws and impeachment proceedings for the Secretary of State were among the most controversial topics that characterized the final weeks of session.
The House and Senate combined debated over 100 bills on Wednesday, June 28 as they prepared to bring the session to a close. The active agenda continued on throughout the day on Thursday, June 29 and stretched late into the night. Finally, the morning of Friday, June 30 brought the session to a close, despite lingering debate and tensions surrounding a variety of issues. Many of the issues will be taken up again when the General Assembly reconvenes for special sessions in August and September.
Special Sessions Coming
In a typical year, when the legislature adjourns after the long session, lawmakers will not return until the short session begins the following spring, except for interim committee work. This year, the legislature will return for two scheduled special sessions, the first session to begin August 3, and the second set for September 6. House Rules Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett) predicts the September session will likely focus solely on redistricting, although anything could be brought up for debate in either session. The adjournment resolution included a final deadline of November 15th for court-ordered legislative redistricting to be completed. It is possible, according to Lewis, that redistricting will happen much earlier, given the judicially imposed deadlines and the establishment of the Redistricting Committees. Bills in conference committee that are eligible for special session consideration can be seen here.
There are still a number of issues that remain on the table, including the bill that would expand the scope of practice for interior designers, many environmental regulatory reform proposals, and capital infrastructure considerations that could be considered during the special sessions but will also be on the table for discussion in the 2018 short session. PENC Action Groups are convening to consider these proposals and PENC’s positions, so please consider participating to help inform the legislative agenda for PENC and to help represent the engineering profession at the North Carolina General Assembly.
Next week we’ll provide a more detailed list of bills considered in 2017. Please see below for how to get involved in PENC Action Groups.
PENC Action Groups:
Resource Stewardship | Contact: Bob Via
Regulatory Reform | Contact: Kendra Parrish
Buildings Infrastructure and Sustainability | Contact: Sean Gleason
Transportation Infrastructure & Sustainability | Contact: David Charters
Water/Wastewater Infrastructure & Sustainability | Contact: Monroe Huckaby