Mike's Weekly Message
Mike’s Weekly Message
119th District, North Carolina House
16 Jones Street, Room 1420
Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: (919) 715-3005
April 13, 2017
A SPECIAL RETROSPECTIVE: THE FIRST 100 DAYS
This past Monday marks 100th day since the members of the current North Carolina General Assembly were seated. It’s important to note that when I worked as an Assistant Sergeant at Arms in 2013 and 2014, I only saw of piece of what went on in the General Assembly. This was mainly by watching the proceedings of various committees as well as the proceedings on the House floor. Since then, I have come to appreciate the process and people who work to help legislators navigate the process, in addition to how some amount of constituent services work gets done.
Since the opening of the General Assembly on January 11th, there have been 857 bills filed. I am a co-sponsor, primary, or lead primary sponsor of a grand total of 155 of them. What you see below is a list of the twenty-five bills that I am either taking the lead on, or am playing a supporting role on. To see a complete list of all the bills I am a co-sponsor, primary sponsor, or lead sponsor, click here.
The summary below shows where each of these bills are in the process. A certain number of these bills have made it over to the Senate, while the others are still going through the committee process in the House, or they are soon to be heard on the House floor.
I want to focus for a moment on the bills that I am either a primary or lead primary on.
House Bill 27 Clarify Expiration of Vehicle Registration (Lead)
Back when new members were getting their legislative license plates, I had a chance conversation with the Director of the License Plate division. When she told me there was a bill that her department needed to clarify some language as to the expiration of special license plates, I asked to email me to tell me exactly what she needed. It was a very technical bill, with a two word change in the law. The bill moved through the House fairly quickly, and is sitting in the Senate Rules Committee.
I anticipate Senate action on the bill within the next couple months.
House Bill 76 Increase Fire and Rescue Pension Benefit
The lead on this bill is Rep. Kyle Hall of Rockingham County. The bill received a favorable report in the Pensions and Retirement Committee, and it waiting to be heard in Appropriations.
House Bill 98 Criminal Offense/ Vandalize Fire and EMS Equipment
Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary, who is also the House Senior Appropriations Chair, is the lead sponsor on this bill. As a retired firefighter who saw equipment being damaged by people who were out to create mischief, I am solidly in favor of stiffening penalties to deter more vandalism like this.
The bill passed unanimously on the House floor, and is presently in the Senate Rules Committee.
House Bill 101 Local Firefighter Relief Fund Eligiblilty (Lead)
This bill is about to get a considerable “makeover.” Within a few days of filing this bill, Rep. Patricia Hurley of Randolph County filed a similar bill (H 190 Local Firefighter Relief Fund Eligibility). Rep. Hurley and I agreed to take some language out of my bill that slightly varied from hers, and incorporate it into her bill.
As such, that left House Bill 101 to be able to be used as the vehicle for another bill, as long as the change complied with certain House rules. For example, a bill originally filed as a local bill must be a local bill in order to be allowed as a vehicle for another bill. I’ll get into more detail on that in a future Weekly Message.
So what new bill is this going to be? I have asked our legal department to use language from a resolution by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to create a bill affirming Jackson County as the Trout Capital of North Carolina. Since House Bill 101 started as a Public Bill, the new language can be used as a Public Bill. There should be some movement through committee on this soon.
House Bill 181 First Responders Act of 2017
Rep. Harry Warren of Rowan County is the lead sponsor of this bill. Part of this bill provides tax relief to firefighters, establishes local firefighter relief eligibility, and has a provision defining hate crimes against police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel.
Because of the various provisions in the bill, it was necessary for the bill to be heard in multiple committees. The bill, with amendments, passed favorably in both State and Local Government II committee and the Transportation committee.
The bill’s final committee referral is the Finance Committee, because of the tax relief provisions.
House Bill 189 Search and Rescue Name/ Funds
Rep. Ted Davis of Wilmington is taking the lead on this bill. This bill changes the name of the Urban Search and Rescue Team to the State Search and Rescue Team, in light of the thousands of rescues that these dedicated professionals made in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and the Western North Carolina wildfires last year.
The bill also appropriates additional funds for these teams. The bill is in Appropriations.
House Bill 258 Amend Medical Malpractice Healthcare Provider Definitions
Rep. Dennis Riddell of Alamance County is the lead sponsor on this bill. The only thing it does is add paramedics to the statutory definitions of healthcare providers. It has passed unanimously in the House and is in the Senate Rules Committee.
House Bill 260 Attorney General/North Shore Road Payment (Lead)
This bill has a long history, because of events that took place in Swain County back in the 1940s, as well as some agreements that were entered into with the Federal Government in 1943, and again in 2010.
In 1943, Swain County and North Carolina entered into an agreement with the United States Department of the Interior that the Federal government would facilitate the construction of road going through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, connecting roads that been previously flooded the year prior. As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters and press releases, the Federal government failed to follow through on the construction of the North Shore Road, and the project was scrapped altogether in 1972.
Finally in 2010, Congressman Heath Schuler, then – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the State of North Carolina, and Swain County signed a settlement agreement stating that Swain County would get up to $52 million as compensation for the Federal government’s failure to follow through on what was previously agreed upon. According to the agreement, Swain County would be paid $12.8 million within months of the agreement being signed. Unfortunately, the Federal government would be given until December 31, 2020 to pay the remaining monies, at which point the Federal government would be absolved of the debt.
The bill I filed would direct North Carolina Attorney General to explore legal avenues for Swain County to recover what it had been promised. I was very pleased that the Attorney General’s office not only stated that they would do that immediately, but they also spoke favorably on the bill in committee.
House Bill 260 passed unanimously, and has made it to the Senate.
House Bill 293 Onslow/Pender Bd. Ed./Partisan/Swain Clarify
Rep. George Cleveland of Jacksonville was joined by Rep. Phil Shepherd of Jacksonville, as well as myself and Rep. Chris Millis of Pender County on this bill. This bill is a textbook case of a local bill, in which the language affects 15 counties or less in total.
I want to focus on Section 3 of the bill, which deals specifically with Swain County. The main issue is that newly elected members of the Swain County school board aren’t able to hold their organizational meeting of the new term until April. Once this bill becomes law, starting in 2018, the Swain County Board of Education will be able to hold it’s organizational meeting on the first Monday in December, one month after the election as opposed to five months.
House Bill 293 passed by a vote of 72-41, and is in the Senate Rules Committee.
House Bill 299 State Health Plan Administrative Changes
Rep. Josh Dobson of Nebo took the lead on this bill. It’s a bill that is still making it’s way through the committee process. It’s receive a favorable report out of the Insurance Committee, and is now in State Personnel, where it is scheduled to be heard on the 19th of April.
House Bill 308 No Insurance While Driving/Tow Vehicle
Rep. George Cleveland is the lead sponsor on this bill. This bill would require motor vehicles to be towed and stored if a motorist is caught driving with no insurance, until such time as a person demonstrates they are insured.
The bill passed the Insurance Committee last week, and has been re-referred to Judiciary I.
House Bill 323 Honor the Life and Memory of Howard Wilson (Lead)
When this bill was drafted, I was not aware that the language would be suitable for a “Representative Statement” that could be read on the House floor. So at my request, Bill Drafting put the language into a Representative Statement.
Howard Wilson was a mentor of mine when I served with the Charlotte Fire Department, who passed away last February. At the behest of several members of the Charlotte Fire Department, and with the blessing of my Mecklenburg County colleagues, the statement was read on the House floor on March 29th.
It is possible that the bill could be used as a vehicle for other legislation, although I’m not sure what form that will take.
House Bill 340 Special Separation Allowance Firefighters/RSW
Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary took the lead on this bill.
House Bill 340 provides firefighters who meet specified criteria with an annual separation allowance equal to .85% of the annual equivalent of the base rate of compensation most recently applicable to the firefighter for each year of creditable service, to be paid in equal installments on the payroll frequency used by the employer, beginning in the month in which the firefighter retires under basic service retirement.
To qualify, the firefighter, must have either completed 30 or more years of creditable service or attained 60 years of age with 25 or more years of creditable service, must have not attained 62 years of age, and must have completed at least five years of continuous service rendered on or after July 1, 2017, as a firefighter immediately preceding a service retirement.
House Bill 340 has passed unanimously, and has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
House Bill 341 Unlicensed Driver/ Tow Vehicle
Rep. George Cleveland is the lead sponsor on this bill. House Bill 341 required vehicles to be towed and stored until the owner of the vehicle makes his driver’s license valid.
The bill has been referred to Judiciary I. If it receives a favorable report, it has a serial referral to the Appropriations Committee.
House Bill 344 Exempt Ocular Surgery From CON Laws
Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern is the lead on this bill.
First, it might be necessary to explain what Certificate of Need (CON) is. Some number of states have laws that require doctors who might want to open same-day, outpatient clinics for specific procedures (knee surgery, for example) to prove a need in the community to have additional outlets to perform such a service. Repealing Certificate of Need is one way of free-market health care reform, which would foster genuine competition and rein in health care costs. This bill would be a good first step.
House Bill 344 has been referred to the committee on Health. If it receives a favorable report, it will be sent to Appropriations.
House Bill 359 CC/High School Enrollment in CTE Courses (Lead)
This bill ultimately became an amendment to another bill, House Bill 450 Future Ready Student Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Craig Horn of Weddington. The bill provides for allowing high school students to earn credit through a community college toward a certificate in various trade jobs, ranging from HVAC jobs to EMS and firefighter jobs. I was honored to have my bill be part of a larger, wider ranging bill that will benefit to students who may not want a four-year degree as a career path, but can still develop skills that will allow them to earn a decent income after high school.
House Bill 450 passed the House unanimously, and is waiting to be heard in the Senate.
House Bill 414 Swain County/Official Fly Fishing Museum (Lead)
House Bill 414 designates the Swain County as the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians. The bill received a favorable report in State and Local Government Committee, and will be next heard in the House Rules Committee.
House Bill 418 SOS/Save Our Street Signs (Lead)
This bill increases the penalty for defacing, damaging, or stealing street signs. Part of the problem is that missing street signs can make it difficult for a first responder to find the location of an emergency, thus slowing the timeliness of responding to such an emergency. The bill also provides reward money up to $1000 leading to the arrest and conviction of the offenders. The reward money would come from Department of Transportation funds.
The Committee on Transportation reported the bill favorably, and will be heard in Judiciary I.
House Bill 492 Increase Penalties for Certain Assaults (Lead)
House Bill 492 would increase penalties for assaults on first responders and other government employees and officials. This bill came from my own personal experience as a firefighter in Charlotte, where I saw too many people get assaulted in the line of duty.
The bill received a favorable report in the State and Local Government committee, and will soon be heard in Judiciary II.
House Bill 535 Operating Funds for Linville Nursery
Reps. Michelle Presnell, David Rogers, and I join Rep. Josh Dobson in sponsoring this bill. The bill appropriates $200,000 in recurring funds for the Linville Nursery. The bill is in Appropriations, so it’s possible that the language in the bill will be incorporated into the budget when the House receives it.
House Bill 565 Modify Composition/911 Board (Lead)
House bill 565 adds three members to the 911 Board within the Department of Information Technology, with one individual appointed by the Governor from the Central Branch, one appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives from the Western Branch, and one appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate from the Eastern Branch, based on the branches defined by the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management.
Last week, the bill was referred to Finance, with a serial referral to the Rules Committee.
House Bill 597 Willful Injury of Person/Trap in Public Park
I have joined Rep. John Bradford of Cornelius on this bill.
House Bill 597 enacts a new General Statute Chapter 14, Article 13C (Malicious Injury through Use of a Trap in Public Parks). The bill defines a public park (includes public parks, public recreational areas, walking trails, greenways, horse trails, and State forests) and also provides a definition for traps (any object or devise designed or placed in a manner to cause bodily injury upon contact with the object or device).
Classifications range from an A1 misdemeanor to a Class H felony, depending on the severity of injuries caused.
This bill is presently waiting to be heard in Judiciary II.
House Bill 623 Transfer Certain Excess Lands/Haywood BoEd (Lead)
House Bill 623 transfers a section of land adjacent to Haywood Middle School, presently owned by the State of North Carolina, to the ownership of the Haywood County Board of Education. Haywood County would own this land as long as it is used for educational purposes, which would include parking spaces and sporting events. The transfer would cost $1.00.
The bill was referred to State and Local Government II last Monday.
House Bill 754 Optional Meals for Bed and Breakfast Guests
Rep. Mary Belk of Charlotte asked if I would join her on the bill, and I agreed.
According to current law, bed and breakfast establishments are required to include the cost of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the price of the rooms. The bill would simply give the option of these establishments to price lunch and dinner separately.
House Bill 754 was referred to the committee on Commerce and Job Development, with a serial referral to the Rules Committee.
House Bill 774 Require County DSS to Review
Speaker Pro Tem Sarah Stevens and I are the primary sponsors on this bill. It provides that when a juvenile is in non-secure custody with DSS, the department is required to follow the placement and review the case of the juvenile in their custody throughout final disposition of the case or until permanency is achieved.
The bill is presently in Judiciary II.
I expect that the next two weeks to go at break-neck speed with these bills. The big deadline we are up against is April 27th, which is our cross-over deadline. What this means is that in order for these bills to heard in the 2018 short session, they must pass the House and receive first reading in the Senate by the close of business on the 27th.
OTHER ACTIVITIES IN OUR OFFICE
There are a number of other matters that our office is working on. More often than not we get calls from constituents with problems ranging from problems getting a car title transferred to helping a local farmer navigate the regulatory maze. So far, we’ve had about a dozen of these matters come to our attention. When they do, we work to connect a department or agency liaison with a constituent to work together to attempt a satisfactory conclusion.
We can’t always guarantee a favorable outcome. There are times where we are constrained by law. But we do try as hard as we can to accommodate all the requests as they come in.
We also have done dozens of congratulatory letters for anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, honor roll students, and other major life events where we can rejoice and celebrate. Sadly, we’ve also had to do condolence letters for the passing of a loved one. Whether its an opportunity to rejoice with someone, or to try to provide comfort and encouragement for someone who is hurting, we’re happy to accommodate.
If there is anything my office can do for any of you, please know that you can reach out to me or my Legislative Assistant, Ed Stiles via phone call or email.