With a state budget compromise nearing completion, the 2015 long legislative session will soon come to an end. Here are 10 highlights of the session on Jones Street so far this year:
Magistrates’ recusal: More than 30 of the state’s 670 magistrates have notified the state courts system that they want to opt out of performing all marriages. In June, the General Assembly overrode Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill allowing those state employees with “sincerely held religious objections” to same-sex marriage to opt out of performing all weddings.
Gun bill: In early August, McCrory signed legislation making it slightly easier for certain people to buy guns. But in its final form, the bill wasn’t nearly as controversial as it was in earlier drafts, which would have eliminated the state pistol purchase system and allowed legislators to carry weapons at the legislative complex in Raleigh.
Revenue surplus: State tax collections ended the fiscal year more than $445 million above original projections, meaning legislators had more money to work with in drafting the budget for the next two fiscal years.
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Continuing resolutions: Even with the extra money, the General Assembly has had to pass three such resolutions to keep government running in the absence of a state budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which began July 1. The third CR would expire Sept. 18 if lawmakers don’t pass a budget by then.
Legislators versus McCrory: More than a handful of House and Senate members have publicly criticized the governor, either on social media or in media interviews, since the start of the legislative session in January. The jabs have focused on the governor’s leadership style, his relationships with lawmakers and his attempts to influence the legislative process.
Executive turnover: Two of McCrory’s cabinet secretaries, Transportation Secretary Tony Tata and Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos, left state government this session.
Confederate plates: After the killing of nine black church members in South Carolina by a white supremacist, pressure mounted for North Carolina to discontinue its Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates. But legislators and McCrory also have heard from those who don’t want the state to discontinue the plates, and so far, nothing has happened.
Presidential primary: With North Carolina’s presidential primary apparently set for March 15, legislators still are discussing when to hold primaries for other statewide offices, including governor. Will they be held March 15 or in May?
Protester arrests: The Moral Monday protests of the Republican-led General Assembly have continued this session but not to the extent of the past couple of years. Several dozen people have been arrested at the Legislative Building this year, speaking out on issues such as voting-law changes, Medicaid expansion and minimum-wage laws.
Unemployment contacts: Lawmakers recently approved legislation requiring unemployed workers to show they are actively seeking new jobs by making five contacts per week with employers, up from two, in order to receive unemployment benefits. The bill is on McCrory’s desk as of this writing.
Patrick Gannon writes about state government and politics.