North Carolina’s state legislature is on a two-year cycle. One year, there’s a long session where they hash out a budget. Then there’s the short session, where lawmakers make adjustments to the budget and tie up loose ends from the year before.
While our current General Assembly has for some reason chosen to do most of its work through special sessions, we are fast approaching the 2018 short session.
The rules are different for the short session. There are limits on what can be considered. The three main categories:
- Budget bills
- Constitutional amendment proposals
- Crossover bills, or bills that have passed either the House or the Senate and are awaiting action from the other chamber.
- Study committee bills.
Then there are local bills, appointments, vetoed bills and a handful of other categories. Several hundred bills fit these criteria this year.
Here are the most important, impactful or entertaining — ranked.
1) HB322: School Performance Grades. Changes the formula for calculating the letter grades each school receives to evenly balance total proficiency and student growth. School districts have wanted this change for a long time to avoid punishing high-poverty schools that are educating students well.
2) HB35: Protect North Carolina Workers Act. Makes some major changes to what companies have to use E-Verify to make sure their workers are legally in this country. Businesses with 15 or more employees now need to use the system (down from 25). Before, people who worked less than 9 months out of the year were exempt from being checked, and that is now gone. However, farm workers and domestic workers are now exempt.
3) HB514: Permit Municipal Charter School/Certain Towns. Lets towns operate charter schools as an alternative to their public school district. The town of Matthews in Mecklenburg County has been especially interested in this.
4) HB3: Eminent Domain. Restricts the purposes for which the government can seize private property through a constitutional amendment.
5) HB409: State Agencies/Adjust Hiring Practices. Makes it easier for state agencies to hire people with criminal or arrest records.
6) HB315: Kelsey Smith Act. Allows law enforcement officers to get wireless carriers to quickly hand over call locations without a warrant if somebody is in imminent danger.
7) HB242: License Plate Reader Systems in State ROWs. Allows license plate readers, which scan plates and run them through a database of warrants or BOLO alerts, on state roads. Kind of Big Brother, but useful.
8) HB285: Suicide Prevention/Awareness School Personnel. Creates a training program to recognize the signs of suicide risk in school-age children.
9) S655: Change Date When Primary Elections Held. Moves presidential primaries from May to March, making North Carolina much more important in the process.
10) HB389: School Calendar Flexibility Pilot Program. Gives school districts in 20 mostly rural counties the ability to change the start and end days of the school year.
11) HB74: Adopt Bobcat as State Cat. This seems like a no-brainer.
12) HB779: Charter School Changes. Couple interesting things here. Allows high-performing charter schools to increase enrollment by as much as 30 percent without state approval. Gives charter school students priority entry to other charter schools if they want to switch. Helps charter schools start state-funded pre-K programs.
13) HB6: Ed. Finance Reform Task Force/PED Report. Creates task force to study how schools are funded. Not sexy, but could become super important.
14) HB113: Pvt Action Local Compliance/Immigration Laws. This would let North Carolinians sue their city or county for not deporting undocumented people. I don’t see this passing, but it would probably generate some bad press.
15) HB105: Const. Amendment-Limit Governor/LG to 2 Terms. This would change the constitution to prevent governors from serving two terms total instead of two consecutive terms. Memorably, Gov. Jim Hunt served four terms (two terms, then Gov. Jim Martin, then two more terms. It might come up again if former Gov. Pat McCrory decides to run again.
16) HB534: Computer Coding Course Elective. Directs the State Board of Education to come up with a curriculum for a coding elective in middle and high schools. Feels like this is way overdue.
17) HB659: Filling Vacancies/U.S. Senate. Instead of the governor just having to pick a new senator from the same party as the outgoing one, this would require the governor to pick from a list of three candidates provided by party leadership. File this under the category of “just in case the Democratic governor gets a Senate vacancy.”
18) HB819: Protect NC Right to Work Constitutional Amend. Would put language preventing anyone from being required to join a union in the state constitution. I guess this is a hedge against a future Democratic majority?