Old North State Report - March 10, 2017
The defining subject of the 2017 legislative session thus far has been the tension between the executive and legislative branches. This week was no exception.
After confirming one of Governor Roy Cooper’s Cabinet appointments last week, various Senate committees issued subpoenas requiring four more nominees (Transportation Secretary Jim Trogden, Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks, Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Suzi Hamilton, and Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan) to appear in coming days. Meanwhile a three-judge panel continued to hear arguments from lawyers for Cooper and legislative leaders about whether the confirmation law approved in December is constitutional.
On the other side of the chamber, the House passed a trio of bills that would reduce the governor's ability to make judicial appointments by reducing the size of the Court of Appeals, giving lawmakers the power to fill District Court vacancies, and appointing special Superior Court judges. Democrats predicted these bills, if ultimately approved, would also end up in court fights over the separation of powers.
In the backdrop of these quarrels were the ongoing conversations about the state’s “bathroom bill.” House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger and the Governor met at the Executive Mansion to discuss last year’s law known as House Bill 2. Accounts of the negotiations between the principals and their emissaries are fairly consistent. The Senate Republicans are skeptical that the Governor will agree to any bill crafted by House Republicans. Cooper and Moore are at odds over a provision about referenda for local nondiscrimination ordinances.
The House and Senate will meet in a joint session this coming Monday night, March 13th, to hear Governor Cooper’s first “State of the State” address. It should be interesting!
In other news…
The “Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act” was introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators and new Attorney General Josh Stein. It would put additional restrictions on medical providers who prescribe and dispense opioid drugs like OxyContin and morphine and limit their public supply. The measure also would expand an existing law that created a statewide standing order at all pharmacies for access to a prescription drug that can reverse overdoses of opium-based drugs. A bill summary is available here:
The Senate is preparing to pass, once again, a measure that would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot limiting the state’s income tax at 5.5%. The current income tax rate is 5.499 percent and the constitutional limit on income taxes is now 10 percent. Lowering the rate would make it difficult to reverse many of the changes to the state budget that legislative Republicans have brought since winning the majority in 2010. A bill summary is available here:
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.