Economic development measures stuck in adjournment uncertainty
Posted August 1, 2014
Updated August 2, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A game of legislative chicken leaves the fate of several high-profile economic development measures in limbo as lawmakers shakily wind down their summer session.
Senators left Raleigh shortly after 1 a.m. Friday once they signed off on the $21.1 billion state budget, but they did not do so on the best of terms with their colleagues in the House. A last-minute fracas over coal ash cleanup legislation rubbed already raw nerves.
When members of the state House arrived for work Friday morning, they were greeted by several measures senators left behind. Among those was House Bill 1224, which tied a package of economic development programs to new rules for how and when counties can levy sales taxes.
Among the measures in that bill was a new Jobs Catalyst Fund aimed at landing very large companies, such as auto manufacturers. The bill also contains a measure that would clear the way for crowd-funding of North Carolina start-up companies.
Local sales tax cap comes back House leaders refused to take up that bill Friday. Instead, they continued to work with Senate Bill 763, which has its own economic development measures on board. Those include an extension of the historic rehabilitation tax credit and an extension of a tax rebate program aimed at helping a paper goods manufacturer in western North Carolina.
The fate of both bills is uncertain.
The House could pass House Bill 1224, but it appears unwilling to do so at this point.
As for Senate Bill 763, the House passed it Friday, but it is headed to the Senate, where lawmakers do not plan to return to work until November to take up Medicaid reform and possibly the now-stalled coal ash legislation.
Lawmakers had planned to return to town on Aug. 14 but only to deal with vetoes by the governor. But Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday that he would sign the state budget, the highest-profile measure headed his way.
"With Gov. McCrory’s decision to sign the budget, the Senate has concluded its business until the previously agreed to session on Medicaid reform in November," said Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.
McCrory vetoed a bill last month in a dispute over gubernatorial appointments that lawmakers don't plan to override.
The vetoed measure also included a provision that would exempt records of unemployment compensation appeals from the state's public records laws. A long-standing practice of providing those records to lawyers seeking clients ran afoul of federal privacy rules, and the U.S. Department of Labor had threatened to cut administrative funding for the state's unemployment program if the practice didn't stop.
Lawmakers addressed that unemployment records issue by including it in House Bill 1224.
House leaders said Friday that they plan to send senators a new adjournment resolution that would allow them to take up more than just vetoes during the Aug. 14 session or at some point later in the fall.
"We have unfinished business we need to tend to," Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said Friday.
Moore said there "was a lot of interest" in Senate Bill 763 as it is currently drafted, but he said the fate of House Bill 1224 was uncertain. As well, he said House members wanted to work on a package of regulation reductions and a handful of other unfinished measures.
House leaders planned to contact senators Friday night, he said.
It's unclear what will happen if the House does send the Senate a new adjournment resolution. Senators will meet briefly Saturday, but only for a skeleton session, where only a few members will be present. By long-standing tradition, senators don't take substantive votes during such a session. That could leave the General Assembly in a state of limbo, neither able to permanently adjourn for the year nor poised to do any substantive business.
All of which leaves adjournment and the economic development measures in a state of flux.