Wake Dems Weekly Update: The hits keep comin'

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 13

July 8, 2017
 

Things are quiet on Jones Street, but the ramifications of session continue to be felt a week after adjournment.

The latest news dropped Thursday: buried in the budget was a zeroing-out of funding for a previously planned Freedom Monument for the Capitol grounds recognizing the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina. At the same time, legislators boosted funding for a Fayetteville Civil War museum by $5 million. Has there ever been a more fitting metaphor for the priorities and racial views of the NCGOP?

#FREETHEMIMOSA

There was at least one bit of positive news resulting from a bill passed last week: on Wednesday, Raleigh became the second Triangle municipality to take up the opportunity allowed by the “Brunch Bill,” passing an ordinance to permit alcohol sales starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays, effective immediately. Given the news coming from both Washington and Raleigh lately, this couldn’t come at a better time.

A few other bits of good news from last week:

  • In a rare defeat for a bill on the floor, the House blocked a measure (House Bill 581) that would have taken control over billboard zoning from cities and counties, and allowed billboard companies to essentially place billboards anywhere and make them look however they want. The bill had come to the floor twice previously, also a rare occurrence, and both times been sent back to committee for further tweaking. After weeks of trying, powerful bill sponsor David Lewis (R-Harnett) must have realized he just wasn’t going to get the votes, no matter how much he changed the bill.

  • Somehow nearly every House member agreed to establish the state’s first independent redistricting panel. It happened on an amendment to a bill forcing Asheville City Council to redraw its districts. Rep. Brian Turner (D-Asheville) offered the amendment so that council members themselves would not be allowed to draw their own districts. When Republicans realized the precedent they had set, they rolled it back the next day. But Democrats won’t forget the concept Republicans agreed to before their partisan blinders kicked in.

EARTH, WIND & GARBAGE JUICE

This session, the Senate was worse than any villain in the old Captain Planetcartoon.

  • They took one bill (House Bill 374) that the House passed unanimously, and added an amendment to loosen coal ash regulations. When that version went back to the House for concurrence, it sat on the calendar all day on the final day of session, until it was referred back to the Rules Committee late that night. It could come up again next spring or potentially even sooner.

  • The Senate loaded another widely supported bill (House Bill 56) with a repeal of the Outer Banks plastic bag ban. The House voted overwhelmingly to not concur, sending the bill to conference to work out the differences.

  • The Senate could get its way on that one, as it largely did on a painstakingly negotiated solar energy bill. For about two years, lawmakers brought Duke Energy and other power companies together with renewable energy groups and other stakeholders to work out a deal to boost the availability and affordability of solar. House Bill 589passed the House nearly unanimously before Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown decided to kill the bill by adding a three-year wind energy moratorium onto it. Brown has claimed for years that wind turbines threaten military jets, contrary to the military’s own assessments. When the moratorium-laden version returned to the House, the House voted to not concur, sending it to conference. Instead of three years, an 18-month moratorium remained in the final negotiated bill, which passed just before session adjourned. Most Democrats voted against it, including every one from Wake. If Gov. Cooper vetoes the bill, the House may have the votes to sustain his veto, as it passed only 66-41 in that chamber, fewer than the 72 votes needed if all members are present. Since the bill passed, two companies who have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop in-progress coastal wind projects have threatened to pull out of the state completely, jeopardizing hundred of jobs and millions of dollars of business and tax revenue.

Both chambers were responsible for passing House Bill 576, the “garbage juice” bill which would allow landfills to dispose of their liquid runoff (“leachate”) by spraying it into the air with an aerosolizer that one Democratic senator likened to a snowblower. Gov. Cooper vetoed the bill last Friday, but unless at least four Democrats who voted in favor can be persuaded to back the governor, the veto will likely be overridden.