After last-minute changes, lawmakers end overtime session

Posted September 30, 2015

— The 2015 session of the North Carolina General Assembly finally adjourned at 4:18 am Wednesday, after lawmakers waited around through the early hours while House and Senate leaders negotiated changes to legislation already passed this year.

The "Technical Corrections" bill, an annual tradition, is usually the last or second-to-last bill lawmakers pass in a session. Many of the changes it makes are indeed technical – correcting typos, punctuation and spelling errors and incorrect references to other statutes.

But every year, some substantive changes are made as well. Some are "clarifications" of provisions passed earlier in the year, often seeking to correct unintended consequences. Others make significant modifications to policy, often with little notice or debate.

The final version of Senate Bill 119, the 2015 Technical Corrections Act, made several significant changes to major 2015 bills.

House Bill 318 Immigration/Food benefits – One provision in Senate Bill 119 would allow law enforcement to use locally issued but officially "unrecognized" forms of ID to help identify crime suspects or victims. The change was made at the request of law enforcement.

Another provision changes the effective date of the ban on extended food stamp benefits for unemployed, able-bodied adults from March 1, 2016, to July 1, 2016, to give the Department of Health and Human Services time to restart its job training programs, which were cut during the recession.

House Bill 373 Election Changes – Provisions in Senate Bill 119 would give members of the Council of State, including Gov. Pat McCrory, the authority to set up their own "affiliated campaign committees" separate from party funds and would tighten the rules for caucus committees accepting donations during session.

House Bill 263 Greensboro Redistricting – An amendment to Senate Bill 119 by Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, would restore the city's power to redraw its own voting maps after the 2020 census. The city's court-ordered 2016 referendum can go forward as planned.

The corrections measure passed both chambers easily around 4 a.m.

It now goes to McCrory, who, due to the adjournment, has 30 days to sign or veto any remaining bills. Otherwise, they will become law without his signature on Oct. 30.

The adjournment resolution brings lawmakers back to begin the short session on April 25, 2016. That's an earlier start than in previous years, made possible by the change in the primary date in House Bill 373. Previously, lawmakers waited to begin the short session until after the primary in early May. With the primary now moving up to March, session can begin earlier.

This year's session ran 13 weeks past the end of the fiscal year June 30, making it the longest legislative session since 2002. According to Legislative Services Controller Wesley Taylor, each extra week of session adds $210,000 in expenses over and above the basic operating cost for the legislative complex. That brings the total overtime cost of the session to $2.73 million.


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