This year’s legislative session lasted from January until the beginning of September. Thousands of bills were filed and hundreds were passed. Here are the highlights.
I voted against the state budget, (HB 662) which will spend $ 17.18 billion this year of state funds for the following ten reasons:
- It continues the same “temporary” tax rate increases that I voted against in 2003 – higher sales tax and income tax rates – about $507 million on a fiscal year basis. Since these higher rates are set to expire in 2007 the budget is fundamentally flawed because it funds recurring expenses with this huge sum of nonrecurring revenue; unless the big spenders plan to make these “thrice-temporary” tax increases permanent by a fourth extension. Sales taxes are not deductible against your income taxes so they cost you 20% in higher income taxes.
- It continues to spend and accrue hundreds of millions of dollars in ineffectual and discriminatory corporate giveaways, like the Bill Lee Act, JDIG, the ONE North Carolina Fund and the Cigarette Export Tax Credit. The Bill Lee Act has been thoroughly discredited by our own studies and all of those giveaways defy sound economics.
- State Employees received miniscule pay raises for the last 4 years. This year’s $850,or 2.0%, pay raise is inadequate to make up for 4 years of attrition. Once again state employees are being unfairly discriminated against compared to other employees.
- The budget fails to include full funding of Early Intervention Services for developmentally disabled children (short by $6 million). My amendment to fund this shortfall was supported by a majority of the House and would not have raised taxes. The money would have come from accumulated surpluses (over $300 million) of the Golden LEAF foundation. House leaders refused to let my amendment come to a vote.
- There are over $ 125 million of recurring expenses paid for by nonrecurring revenues in the budget, in addition to $ 507 million in the first item, for a total of over $ 632 million in nonrecurring revenue paying for recurring expenses. The problem is $ 100 million worse if ABC bonuses are recognized as a recurring obligation, which they are, for a total structural deficit of $ 732 million.
- Fiscal staff has estimated that the unfunded liability for retired state employees health insurance premiums is about $12 billion. To amortize this over 30 years would cost about $1.5 billion per year. This budget takes no steps to resolve this structural problem.
- This Budget includes $1.259 billion dollars in new spending (2005-2006 over 2004-2005) – a 7.9%increase in spending. After the budget passed, additional spending in other bills raised this to an 8% increase.
- Many (if not most) of the “cuts” are not really reductions in spending, but are just taking reversions as “cuts” that historically would have reverted anyway! But the increases in budget authority are for real spending increases.
- PORK. This budget includes $75 million in over 200 items of pure pork. For example, there is $400,000 for a Teacup Museum near Sparta, NC. Pork is pervasive throughout all departments. Those who vote for this budget cannot claim that there was not enough money to meet the needs of the children, the elderly and the handicapped. The money was there but it was wasted.
- There are hundreds of pages in the budget of “special provisions” that never went through committee, were not germane to the bill, but were protected from amendments.
The Assembly failed to address the State Marriage Amendment (HB 55). This bill was signed by a majority of House members. Leadership of the House and Senate refused to allow us to vote on the question: Whether North Carolina will allow polygamy and same-sex marriage or deny recognition to out-of-state marriages along these lines? The issue will inevitably come to our courts as people move here from Massachusetts, New York, California, Connecticut and Vermont.
The Assembly failed to address any bills designed to protect unborn children and their mothers. For details email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the last day of the Assembly the lottery (SL2005-344) passed. I debated it extensively on the floor and with my colleagues. In each house a one-vote margin prevailed. Please email me for my list of arguments against a lottery.
This year I spent much time pointing out the flaws in the proposed death penalty moratorium (HB529). There was never an actual floor debate because the proponents lacked the votes. I debated in committee and on television and in publication. Email me for a detailed list of my arguments.
I was principle sponsor of:
HB 393 Holly Springs Eminent Domain. At the unanimous request of its Town Board the procedure by which Holly Springs condemns land for water, sewer, public streets and roads was affected. Chapter SL 2005-57
HB 510 Enforcement of Power of Attorney. This bill encourages third parties to accept the authority granted under powers of attorney. It provides certain ways to prove that power-of-attorneys are valid and clearly defines them so that people will feel more at ease dealing with the attorney. Chapter SL 2005-178
HB 532 Adjust Adoption Procedure This bill expedites adoptions where the birth father is not really involved. Chapter SL 2005-166
H1054 Swift Creek Management Plan/Standing to Enforce clarifies the procedure for a person adversely affected by a violation of the Swift Creek Management Plan. Chapter SL 2005-7
I was one of four sponsors of:
H1541 Homeowner Association Amendments, SL2005-422, changes the law in dozens of ways-many clarifying and improving procedural protections for homeowners:
- Capping late fees on assessments,
- Capping attorneys’ fees in uncontested actions,
- Reducing the maximum fine that may be imposed from $150 to $100
- Providing owners notice before attorneys’ fees and court costs may be assessed and allowing the owner 15 days from the date of the mailing to pay without the attorneys’ fees and court costs,
- Prohibiting payments to any officer or member of an association’s board unless the payments are made for services and expenses on behalf of the association and given prior approval by the board,
- Requiring executive boards to provide homeowners an opportunity to attend and speak at meetings,
- Requiring associations to maintain detailed records and to provide access to owners,
- Limiting restrictions on the display of the U.S. flag, the North Carolina flag, and political signs unless the covenants clearly sets out these restrictions.
H1432 Register of Deeds-Certifications. Passed the House but became law as part of a companion Senate bill.
HB 931 Tax Fairness in Education. This bill will allow parents to receive a $2,500 tax credit for relieving the taxpayers of the cost of educating their children. If you would like to see a detailed fiscal note demonstrating that this will not reduce the amount of money available per student in the public schools please contact my office and we will send it to you. This bill will give parents a way to find the best education for their children.
H1439 A study of the Exclusionary Rule/Good Faith Exception in criminal cases passed Judiciary III and has been assigned to the Legislative Research Commission.
One bill, which I debated, at length in committee and on the floor was the Actual Innocence Inquiry Commission (HB 1323). Chief Justice Lake asked me to round up Republican votes. The bill passed (80-23) and will be eligible for passage in the Short Session.
Towards the end of session conference committees are formed to help the House and Senate agree on the text of bills that are being held up due to disagreements. Generally the conferees are those who have been most active in shaping the bill. I was assigned to several conference committees including: HB 217- Driving From/Leaving the Scene of an Accident, SB 428- No Lasers Pointed at Planes, SB 590- Consumer Credit Counseling/Debt Management, SB 612- Amend Lobbying Laws, SB 1126- Implement CRFL/Amend Fisheries Law
When a senate bill appears on the House floor a House member is appointed to manage the bill. Two of the senate bills I managed were:
- S1029 – Clarify/Enhance Domestic Violence (SL2005-423)
- S461- Unitrust Amendments (SL2005-244)
I offered major amendments to:
- S856 – Access to Public Trial Press Records (SL2005-332)
- S612 – Amend Lobbying Laws (SL2005-456)
- S 1048 – Identify Theft (SF2005-414)
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you during the 2005 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly. If you need further information on any of these bills, please ask.
The writer represents Southern Wake County in the North Carolina House of Representatives.