Old North State Report - March 3, 2017
The back-and-forth over a proposed House Bill 2 compromise continued this week.
Governor Roy Cooper called on Republican legislators to drop a provision that would allow for a referendum vote on local nondiscrimination ordinances. Cooper said the new legislation does not have sufficient support to succeed, indicating that most Democrats in the House will not go along with it unless further compromises are made.
Representative Chuck McGrady, the primary sponsor of House Bill 186, said Cooper has been lobbying House Democrats to oppose his bill and argued that the governor needs to focus instead on negotiating with Republicans if he wants to see the House Bill 2 issue resolved. McGrady's proposal would restore the ability of local governments to pass nondiscrimination ordinances although the ordinances could only address transgender bathroom access for government facilities, not private businesses. It would allow opponents of a local ordinance to submit a petition and initiate a ballot referendum if they collect enough signatures, forcing a vote on the ordinance.
Business-friendly groups urged lawmakers to compromise on a repeal of House Bill 2, which has cost the state a number of conventions, sporting and entertainment events, and job expansions. Interest groups on the right and left continued to demand that no concessions be made from their points of view.
In other news this week…
Meanwhile, Governor Cooper unveiled his first budget, proposing $1 billion in new spending for his priorities including education and health care. Republican lawmakers, who have focused on tax relief and spending increases limited to the growth in inflation and population, called Cooper’s $23.5 billion plan “reckless.” The highlights of the Governor’s proposed budget, as presented to the Joint Appropriations Committee, can be found here:
Deep details of the Governor’s proposed budget can be found here:
The House Health Committee heard an hour-long discussion on legislation which would allow optometrists to perform three types of surgeries: removing skin tags from around the eyes and two procedures involving lasers. Proponents say it will increase access to eye care. Opponents argue it could jeopardize the safety of patients. The scope-of-practice bill can be found here:
The House unanimously approved a bill establishing a Joint Legislative Committee on the Unfunded Liability of the Retiree Health Benefit Fund. Drawing attention to the issue is a top priority of new State Treasurer Dale Folwell. A summary of the legislation can be found here:
Finally, on Thursday, two Senate committees recommended approving Larry Hall as head of the State’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The confirmation was a relatively collegial conclusion to weeks of legal wrangling that resulted in the Senate forcing Hall to appear and testify. Hall is the first of Governor Cooper’s cabinet appointees to go through the confirmation process which the General Assembly created after Cooper defeated Governor Pat McCrory and which Cooper contends is unconstitutional. A lawsuit over this process is pending in court. The Governor issued a statement Wednesday night saying, despite Hall’s appearance and favorable vote from the committee, he still thinks the process is unconstitutional, and he reserves the right to challenge any votes taken on his cabinet appointments.
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