@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Bill would cut funding to NC cities, counties that 'defund' local law enforcement

Posted February 15, 2021 7:47 p.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2021 8:22 p.m. EST

— Senate Republicans rolled out a proposal Monday to cut state funding to any city or county in North Carolina that disproportionately reduces the local budget for law enforcement.

They also revived an issue that prompted pushback from sheriffs two years ago: requiring local authorities to hold people in county jails for federal immigration authorities.

Senate Bill 100, the Police Funding Protection Act, states that any city or county that cuts how much it spends on law enforcement personnel or operations by at least 1 percent of what's allocated to other city or county departments will have its state funding reduced in return. Local officials would have to appeal to lawmakers to explain the cuts – and the lack of impact on law enforcement – to get the state money back.

The measure is in response to calls to "defund" police in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and other Black individuals at the hands of law enforcement officers.

"What we're seeking to do here is to ensure cities and counties who are receiving funds from the state continue to adequately fund their law enforcement, so their law enforcement can continue to do what they need to do to keep our citizens safe," said Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson.

Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, noted that Asheville's violent crime rate has jumped 16 percent over the last year as its number of sworn police officers has dropped by more than 60.

"Unfortunately, what is changing is the support from some communities toward the fine men and women that risk their lives to accept the responsibility to help us prevent anarchy," Edwards said. "We're seeing radical extremists launch vicious attacks on enforcing our laws right here in North Carolina."

"We need to get rid of the idealism that chaos should rule the day instead of law and order," Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin said.

Scott Mooneyham, a spokesman for the North Carolina League of Municipalities, said decisions on police budgets should be left up to local officials, not state lawmakers.

"The legislation does not even provide for spikes in police budgets due to spending on equipment, police cars and the like. The result, over time, would likely be the opposite of its sponsors’ intent – any police budget increases will be minimal to avoid potential budget decreases in the following year," Mooneyham said in a statement.

"Local budgets are decided by locally-elected officials responsive to local taxpayers," he added. "If those local voters do not like those spending decisions, they can vote those local officials out at the ballot box. They have no ability to vote out a state legislator from another part of state putting conditions on a local budget but which those local taxpayers fund."

“The proposed legislation, in its current form, seems to erode local control," agreed Kevin Leonard, executive director of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. "We have strong concerns about this version of the bill moving forward. Further, it seems this issue developed out of a very specific local issue in Buncombe County and Asheville, and that issue should be resolved there instead of involving all 100 counties."

Senate Bill 101, dubbed Require Cooperation with ICE 2.0, states that local officials must determine the identity and immigration status of anyone booked into their county or city jail on a felony charge or an impaired driving charge. If they can't, they must request the assistance of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to do so.

Anyone found to be in the U.S. illegally must, under the proposal, be held for 48 hours so ICE agents can pick them up.

Sheriffs in Wake, Durham, Mecklenburg and other large counties balked at a similar proposal filed in 2019, saying cooperating with ICE damaged their relationships with their local Latino communities. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed that bill because it included a provision that sheriffs who didn't abide by the proposal could be removed from office.

Sen. Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico, said that part of the bill has been revised to state that a jail administrator could face a misdemeanor charge for noncompliance.

"It takes people off the streets who should not be here in the first place and who are here and engaging in criminal acts," Sanderson said of the lehislation. "So, it makes our communities much safer."

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