Commerce privatization bill clears legislature
Posted June 18, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The state will turn its marketing and job recruitment functions over to a private nonprofit under a bill that cleared the legislature Wednesday.
Senators voted 49-0 in favor of the bill, which has been on Gov. Pat McCrory's wish-list since before he took office.
"I think it's the best we can get it at this point," said Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, who has been championing the bill since last session.
Brown said lawmakers may continue to tinker with the legislation in future sessions.
The main idea behind the bill is that the nonprofit group will both court businesses from out of state as well as provide aid to in-state businesses looking for help growing. However, decisions about state-funded incentives would remain under the purview of state officials in the Commerce Department.
Both the Senate and House passed versions of the partnership bill. The Senate included in its bill a film grant program designed to lure television and movie productions to the state. That measure is now being debated as part of the budget bill.
The House version of the bill, which is the one the Senate sent to the governor Wednesday, did not include the film program but makes a few changes to the partnership itself. Among the most significant changes: the board members and top executives of the nonprofit corporation will be subject to the State Ethics Act. This means they will have to submit financial disclosure forms and will be subject to the same conflict-of-interest laws as lawmakers.
A similar measure stalled at the end of the 2013 legislative session, but a 2013 budget provision cleared the way for the department to begin creating the nonprofit. That work began earlier this year, although lawmakers made clear they wanted the final say on the nonprofit's governance.
"This is a strong bill," Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said during a budget committee meeting Wednesday morning.