2011 Legislative Review
Special Report - June 22, 2011
On Saturday, June 18, the North Carolina General Assembly concluded the first part of the 2011-2012 legislative biennium and brought to an end a fast-paced session that saw the passage of a host of key pro-family initiatives. This year’s “crossover deadline,” the traditional defining point in the legislative session where most non-revenue bills must gain passage through one chamber in order to remain eligible for the remainder of the session, was on Thursday, June 9. Traditionally, legislators have had more time between the crossover deadline and the close of session, but after crossover was moved from the original May 12 date, it left only a week between the new crossover deadline and the planned close of session. Having just one week to conclude the majority of their legislative business meant that legislators were working to move their bills at a record pace. Following are the highlights from this session, controlled by a Republican majority for the first time in more than a century. Under state law, the Governor has 10 days to sign or veto a bill once she has received it. At the time of this writing, Governor Perdue, a Democrat, has vetoed seven bills from this session and there are still dozens of measures pending before the Governor.
Once again, the Legislature passed a measure that threatens the ability of parents to choose a closed adoption. HB 846Expand Access/Death Certificate/Adult Adoptee further expands the ability of biological and adoptive relatives of deceased adult adoptees and their biological parents to identify their biological and adoptive relatives. This latest measure builds on last year’s passage of HB 1463Expand Access/Confidential Intermediaries,which largely undermined the understanding of confidentiality many parents have when they place children for adoption through a closed adoption process. By risking the disclosure of identifying information, such rules could create significant disruption for adoptive and biological families across North Carolina.
On Friday, June 17, the Governor signed SB 8No Cap on Number of Charter Schools, which finally lifts the cap on the number of charter schools in North Carolina. Although the measure was introduced in the very first days of the session back in January, it grew from a simple one-page bill lifting the cap to a complex and comprehensive 23-page bill, which quickly became bogged down in the committee process. After nearly two months in a Conference Committee, a simplified compromise was reached, giving the measure quick and bipartisan approval in both chambers.
In another celebrated move, parents of children with disabilities may now be eligible under state law to receive an educational tax credit of up to $6,000 per year, provided that they meet certain requirements. In addition to giving parents more flexibility to decide on the best educational environment for their child, the bill, HB 344Tax Credits for Children with Disabilities, is estimated to save the state roughly $26 million dollars over the next five years. Passing both chambers with broad bipartisan support, HB 344 is expected to be signed into law by the Governor.
The General Assembly also passed HB 588The Founding Principles Act, a bill that would add a new course to the North Carolina curriculum for high school students. The semester-long history course would include instruction on the philosophical principles found in the documents of the nation’s founding, including “the Creator-endowed inalienable rights,” the structure of government, private property rights, personal responsibility, the rule of law, and federalism, among other subjects. The Founding Principles course would be required for graduation, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. HB 588 passed both chambers with large bipartisan support and is likely to be signed into law by the Governor.
In only a few short months, the North Carolina General Assembly took monumental strides in support of the sanctity of human life, passing key bills that in some cases had gone decades without receiving any action. First, on April 19, the legislature gave final approval to HB 215Unborn Victims of Violence Act/Ethen’s Law, which provides that criminals who injure or kill an unborn child as part of committing a crime against a pregnant woman should be charged and punished for separate offenses for injuring or killing each victim. The measure, named for the unborn child of a Raleigh woman murdered in 2007, places North Carolina fully in step with the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act, signed into law in 2004. Governor Perdue signed HB 215 into law on April 29.
This year also saw the long-awaited approval of the “Choose Life” license plate, which was included among other specialty plates gaining authorization in HB 289Authorize Various Special Plates. The bill has been sent to the Governor. You can learn about the details of HB 289 in our previous report.
In a tremendous victory for life, both chambers passed HB 854Abortion-Woman’s Right to Know Act, a bill to help ensure that women considering abortion are provided with complete and accurate information about the procedure and about their unborn child. It remains unclear whether or not the measure will be signed into law or be vetoed by Governor Perdue. More details can be found in our previous report.
State lawmakers also took a stand for life in crafting the state budget proposal for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The budget, HB 200Appropriations Act of 2011, included a provision to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions. The move makes North Carolina the third state in the country to do so, following in the footsteps of Indiana and Kansas. Although the Governor vetoed the Legislature’s proposal, both the House and the Senate secured enough votes to override the Governor’s veto.
In the final days before adjournment, an intense battle over gambling emerged in a behind the scenes struggle. The effort, propelled by lobbyists from the gambling industry, would have allowed the Governor to grant Class III (Las Vegas style) gambling for the Cherokee casino, which is located on their reservation in western North Carolina. Although no language was ever put into a formal bill format, the effort emerged with quick momentum until gambling opponents of both parties quickly rallied enough opposition to defeat the measure. In addition to expanding gambling at the Cherokee casino, several attorneys agreed that the proposal could pave the way for casino gambling in other parts of North Carolina.
Another gambling measure, SB 621Simulated Gaming Allowed/Certain ABC Outlets, proposed to allow the possession of certain gambling equipment in North Carolina that is now illegal, allowing hotels and restaurants around the state to use that equipment to hold sponsored gambling events. After it became clear that the proposal faced serious opposition during the committee hearing on the measure on June 14, the effort quickly faded from the legislative forefront. For more details on these efforts, see our previous report.
This year both the House and the Senate filed bills to defend marriage in North Carolina. SB 106/HB 777Defense of Marriage both propose to place a referendum on the North Carolina ballot in November 2012 to allow North Carolinians to vote on whether or not to protect marriage by placing its definition in the State Constitution. Unlike years past, where both chambers refused to allow any debate on measures proposing a Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA), this year the General Assembly will be considering the MPA later in the year in a session devoted to considering several proposed constitutional amendments.
In a compromise between the House and the Senate, both chambers approved SB 498Modify Law Re: Corporal Punishment, which allows parents to give written notice if they choose to exempt their child from receiving corporal punishment from school officials. SB 498 is currently pending final approval on the Governor’s desk. Also gaining consideration, but not passed in committee, was HB 239Grandparents’ Visitation Rights. HB 239 would have challenged existing parental rights by allowing grandparents to sue an intact family for visitation rights with their grandchildren.
This session did not include any successful efforts to make changes to state law that would affirm or give legal protection to individuals based on subjective, changeable characteristics or behaviors that many understand to be physically and psychologically harmful. SB 208Conform State Law to Lawrence v. Texas, a measure to conform North Carolina law to a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling unconstitutional the prosecution of private, consensual sodomy between adults, was filed as in recent years, but received no action. HB 478Non-Discrimination in State/Employment, which would have added “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” as protected classes under the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity provisions of the State Personnel Act, was not considered this session.
Another bill, which did not pass but is still eligible for consideration when the Legislature returns, would make extensive changes to several aspects of the State’s election laws. SB 47Restore Partisan Judicial Elections passed the Senate and the House, but because the House made several changes to the bill, it will need to be considered by the Senate again. This bill includes several important changes to election operations, such as:
The Legislature also attempted to make several significant changes to the way citizens in North Carolina vote. Before closing out the legislative long session, the North Carolina General Assembly sent a bill to Governor Perdue on June 17 that would require voters to show a photo ID to vote. As part of requiring all voters to prove their identity, HB 351Restore Confidence in Government would create a voter registration card that would be available free of charge to voters who do not already have one of the approved forms of voter identification. Approved identification includes a driver’s license, passport, government employee ID, or military ID card. Voters without a photo ID would be able to cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted once the voter provides proof of his or her identity in person at the county board of elections.
- Prohibiting compensating people for registering voters.
- Eliminating same-day voter registration and voting.
- Eliminating straight-ticket voting, where voters can currently indicate votes for all the candidates affiliated with a particular party, except President and Vice President, with one vote at the beginning of the ballot.
- Replaces the often-confusing and controversial instant runoff voting with plurality elections that declare the candidate earning the most votes in a race to fill a judicial vacancy as the winning candidate.
- Rotating the order in which parties are listed on the ballot every four years. Candidates are listed on ballots by party, rather than alphabetical by name.
- Restoring party affiliations to judicial elections.
- Shortening early voting by one week.
- Requiring local special elections to be included in an existing State, county, or municipal general election.
- Limiting the legal contributions from State vendors to candidates for offices that would have authority over the vendor’s contract with the State.
Copyright © 2012. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.