Politics & Government

Second Chance Act and Lumbee Indian recognition bills pass in the NC Senate

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During crossover week in the North Carolina legislature, most bills that have a chance of passing need to make it through the House and Senate.

So on Wednesday, the day before the crossover deadline, the Senate passed a flurry of bills.

Some of the big ones were about education — including expanding who qualifies for private school vouchers and allowing the state’s two virtual charter schools, which have been low-performing, to enroll more students.

Other Senate bills that made the crossover cut, too:

Second Chance Act

SB 562: The Second Chance Act bill would automatically expunge the records of people who had charges dismissed or were found not guilty of nonviolent and nonsexual crimes. The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support after an amendment to take out language that would have included traffic violations.

Sen. Danny Britt Jr., a Republican who represents Robeson and Columbus counties, described it as a jobs bill. He said that it gives people a better chance when applying for jobs or renting an apartment. The expunction process would be a click of a button, he said, and would not burden clerks.

“What this is is a jobs bill to get these people back into society, where they should be,” Britt said.

Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., a Durham Democrat, said this would make sure that when someone is found not guilty or charges dismissed, “they aren’t burdened with a scarlet letter their whole lives.”

Lumbee Indian recognition

SB 218: This bill clarifies the state recognition of the Lumbee Indians, making them eligible for special programs and services for Native Americans.

Britt, the bill’s sponsor, said that about 60,000 Lumbee Indians reside in Robeson County, where he’s from. He said the bill does not grant federal recognition of Lumbee Indians, though he thinks they should be recognized by the federal government. Rather, it would allow them to receive money to be able to assist with education and health care costs. Britt said that Lumbee Tribal Chair Harvey Godwin Jr. and a tribe council member were the ones to request the bill.

Sen. Tom McInnis, a Republican, said there are also many of the tribe in Scotland County, which he represents. He said the bill would level the playing field.

“These folks fight a hard battle every day,” McInnis said.

Tamra Lowry, public relations representative of the Tuscarora Nation of North Carolina, explains how Lumbee and Tuscarora are different following an April 30, 2019 hearing before the Recognition Committee of the state's Commission of Indian Affairs.

Returned check fee

SB 529: In this bill, the fee for returned checks increases from $25 to $35.

Franklinville textile museum

SB 525: A feasibility study would look at making a state historic site or museum about textiles in the town of Franklinville.

The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and Office of Archives and History would assess the property and textile collection of the Randolph Heritage Conservancy to decide whether it could be used for teaching about the state’s textile production and industrial history.

Stanly construction agreement

SB 30: A contract extension for Stanly Community College and Stanly County to construct new buildings together, then the county will lease them to the community college.

For a full list of Senate action, visit ncleg.gov.

What’s next

The Senate will convene again on Thursday, but does not plan to vote on anything.

The end of crossover doesn’t mean that no more bills can be considered at all.

Bills that can be filed regardless of deadlines are redistricting bills, ratification of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, adjournment resolutions and bills introduced by House Committees on Appropriations, Finance or Rules.

The Senate is expected to release its proposed budget before the end of May.

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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers North Carolina state government and politics at The News & Observer. She previously covered Durham for 13 years, and has received six North Carolina Press Association awards, including a 2018 award for investigative reporting.

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