RICK SMITH: Failure of economic development bill is a big loss for N.C.

Posted July 13

Some 50 bills are awaiting Gov. Pat McCrory's signature - or veto at the close of the legislative session. Among them is crowdfunding legislation, which opens up new opportunities for startups and investors. But a much larger economic development bill that could have been big news for the entire state failed, leaving media attention focused on HB2. What a shame.

National headlines focused over the weekend - again - on the controversial LGBT bill with more than 60 companies joining the legal fight with a brief stating their objections. Led by Red Hat, IBM, Cisco and others, much of the tech community has spoken out strongly on the bill. That opposition includes a lot of startups and entrepreneurial ventures.

Had the General Assembly seen fit to pass the big economic development bill, they would have demonstrated that North Carolina is committed to economic growth, from smallest to largest projects.

But while HB2 could be crafted and passed in a day, the needed votes for "Prosperity & Econ. Opportunity for All NC Act" could not be found.

In early June, the backers of crowdfunding were smart enough to sense that the economic development smorgasbord bill known as Senate Bill 826/ House Bill 1090 introduced in May was NOT going to pass. The divisions between rural and urban, Democrat and Republican, were simply too sharp to be overcome regardless of the multiple benefits its backers saw in a big package that included venture capital, economic development funds and much more.

So they broke out crowdfunding, secured virtual unanimous support, and got the bill to the Governor's desk. He's expected to sign it although his office didn't respond to a request from WTW about when he would sign - and if there would be a signing ceremony.

"Something in there for everybody"

The big bill included:

  • A look at the $100 million Small Business Venture Fund
  • University commercialization efforts
  • A new statewide entrepreneurial network

And much more.

"We got a lot of ideas from them," a top backer of the bill told the General Assembly, according to WRAL's Mark Binker. "There's something in there for everybody."

As late as Friday, July 1, a Department of Commerce spokesperson told WTW that there was still hope parts of the bill would survive as part of the final budget.

But the big pieces were written off.

"I never got the sense that the broader economic development bill (the one with new market tax credits, special investment fund, etc...) was really in the conversation," Binker tells The Skinny. "It certainly wasn't in the mix as lawmakers shutdown the session."

Any chance?

So is there any hope for the bill to be reconsidered any time soon?

Little, if any, says Binker.

"When the General Assembly adjourns sine die (without day), all legislation that was pending dies with it," he says.

" Lawmakers will only return to session if:

  • The governor vetoes something. If they do return for a veto override session, typically they will just consider that particular bill.
  • Somebody calls a special session. Even if a special session is called, they'll be starting from scratch. This year's session is done.

"Barring those two possibilities: The N.C. General Assembly is not expected to be back in town until their organizing session on Jan. 11."

Jan. 11, 2017 will come well after November's elections.

And who knows how the earth will be moved then.

Rick Smith is editor of WRAL's TechWire


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