RALEIGH — As the state budget stalemate between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-controlled state legislature approaches two full months, the N.C. General Assembly continues to hold its long session, which began in January.
Many of the new acts, such as Session Laws 2019-209, 2019-210 and 2019-211, legislate raises for certain state employees, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and N.C. State Highway Patrol.
Other new laws or proposed laws are as follows:
Small business health care bill signed into law
A bill that seeks to establish standards for small business employees to attain health care coverage through business and industry associations became law without the governor’s signature on Aug. 26.
Session Law 202 previously passed the N.C. Senate on March 14 by a 38-8 margin, with Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock) voting in favor. The N.C. House passed its own version by a 82-32 margin, with Rep. Ray Russell (D-Boone) voting in favor and the state Senate concurring on Aug. 13.
The bill was on Cooper’s desk for 10 days while the N.C. General Assembly was in session, meaning it became law without his signature.
David Jackson, president and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, previously spoke in support of the idea in April.
Reducing state testing
A bill that would eliminate the use of the N.C. Final Exam as part of the statewide testing program to assess teacher performance and professional growth in 2020-21 was signed into law by Cooper on Sept. 5.
“No later than March 15, 2020, the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction shall submit to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee a plan on how to use other means to accomplish the purposes for which data is collected by the N.C. Final Exam,” Senate Bill 621 states.
Also, the bill directs local education boards to review all local standardized testing every even-numbered year for the previous two years. The purpose would be to see if the total testing time or number of tests administered exceeds the state average and if so, the local education board would be required to submit a plan to eliminate certain tests.
SB621 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the state House and Senate.
Small business retirement options
Session Law 2019-205 will create the Joint Legislative Committee on Small Business Retirement options, with a report due back no later than March 31, 2020.
S.L. 2019-205 was signed into law on Aug. 27 by Cooper.
The committee will study ways the state can reduce the regulatory and operational burden on small businesses that want to offer payroll deduction retirement savings options to employees, among other feasibility and mechanism options.
Outdoor advertising bill vetoed
Saying local governments should have more of a say where billboards are placed in their communities, Cooper vetoed House Bill 645 on Aug. 22, which sought to relax outdoor advertising laws.
HB645 had previously passed the state Senate 27-17 on July 23, with the N.C. House voting 60-54 to concur on Aug. 7.
The bill was referred to the Committee On Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House. It would require a 60 percent vote in both bodies to override Cooper’s veto.