News: Quick Takes

House approves bill to bolster rainy day fund

 

RALEIGH — The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill aimed at beefing up the state’s rainy day fund.

“It takes North Carolina from frankly one of the weaker savings regiments of any state to what the Pew Center believes will be one of the strongest,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, the sponsor of the bill and the House’s senior budget writer. The Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center provides research and information on government issues.

The bill (House Bill 7) requires the state to annually set aside in its rainy day fund 15 percent of its estimated growth in tax revenue. It specifies the saving account can be used only to cover a decline in the General Fund from one fiscal year to the next, to cover the difference between a fiscal year’s base budget needs and projected revenue, to pay costs imposed by a court or administrative order, or to provide relief and assistance from an emergency.

A two-thirds majority vote would be needed to spend money from the rainy day fund if the money needed from the fund exceeded 7.5 percent of the previous year’s General Fund budget. Otherwise, a majority vote would be sufficient.

Rep. Billy Richardson, D-Cumberland, argued against the bill, saying one General Assembly could not bind a future General Assembly.

“This is not worth the paper it’s written on,” Richardson said. “This is politics over substantive law.”

Donald Bryson, Americans for Prosperity state director, praised the bill.

“North Carolina will be faced with economic downturns and natural disasters in the future,” Bryson said. He applauded the lawmakers who are making the “difficult but fiscally responsible” decision to build a substantial reserve fund.

The bill passed, 110-3, after an amendment was approved to ensure the revenue didn’t include money used by the Highway Fund or Highway Trust Fund. It now goes to the Senate.

Meanwhile, Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake,  and Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, have filed bills implementing Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed compromise on House Bill 2. The bills (House Bill 107 and Senate Bill 93) would repeal House Bill 2 and increase penalties for certain crimes — such as rape, peeping into a room, and taking indecent liberties — occurring in a changing facility or place of public accommodations, by six months.

It would also require a 30-day notice to the public and the General Assembly before a city council could adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance that goes beyond state law.

Other bills filed in the General Assembly include:

  • A proposed constitutional amendment limiting the governor and lieutenant governor to two terms in a lifetime (House Bill 105), introduced by Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham. Now, the governor and lieutenant governor have a two-consecutive term limit. Jones said he filed the bill because he believes in term limits and no one should serve more than two terms as governor. He said he thought the same limit should apply to lieutenant governor.
  • A bill making all elections in North Carolina partisan (S.B. 94), introduced by Sen. Ronald Rabin, R-Harnett.
  • A bill allowing any person residing in the jurisdiction of a city, county, or law enforcement agency to have the right to bring a court claim against such an entity for not complying with state immigration laws (H.B. 113), introduced by Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow.