Under the Dome

Cities already planning local Sunday liquor rules as the ‘Brunch Bill’ becomes law

Guests eat brunch at Beasley's Chicken + Honey in downtown Raleigh last month.
Guests eat brunch at Beasley's Chicken + Honey in downtown Raleigh last month. newsobserver.com

The ink was barely dry after the governor signed the so-called brunch bill into law before the Carrboro Board of Aldermen called a special meeting for Monday to allow alcohol sales starting at 10 am. on Sundays.

The new law paves the way for restaurants to start selling Bloody Marys, mimosas and other drinks before noon, if city and county elected officials allow it. The expanded hours also apply to retail sales of alcohol.

Supporters celebrated the N.C. General Assembly’s decision with the #FreeTheMimosa hashtag on social media. Gov. Roy Cooper signed it into law Friday.

Currently, all restaurants and stores are banned from selling alcohol before noon on Sundays.

It was one of several victories during the legislative session for people who make – or consume – alcohol in North Carolina, although they also had some failures.

While the state-run ABC system didn’t change, there’s now a bit more competition in the North Carolina liquor market. Distilleries are now allowed to sell more bottles of their products at their own buildings, and for the first time they’ll be allowed to provide samples and tastings at stores and festivals.

The highest-profile loss for the industry came with the campaign called Raise The Cap, which was aimed at letting craft beer breweries make a larger amount of beer before being legally forced to sign up with a third-party distributor. Some mid-sized breweries wanted it, since those distribution contracts can be expensive, but lobbying from the distributors killed the bill.

Here are some of the other ideas that the N.C. General Assembly considered during more than five months in Raleigh, and where those ideas stood by the time state lawmakers adjourned early Friday morning. For even more, read our roundups of what happened on education, the environment, public safety, taxes, employee pay and benefits, elections, and conflicts between the branches of government.

Jobs incentives

The state budget that took effect Saturday includes a provision allowing larger incentive packages for companies that invest more than $4 billion in the state and create at least 5,000 jobs.

Those companies won’t be subject to the state’s current cap on incentive packages. The new program is aimed at luring a company considering bringing 8,000 new jobs to an undisclosed location in the state, House Speaker Tim Moore said.

The legislature also lifted a key incentives program’s cap on grants for the state’s poorer counties. The cap on grants remains for the state’s wealthier urban counties.

House Bill 2

House Bill 2, the controversial LGBT law known around the country as the “bathroom bill,” loomed over the first months of session as legislative leaders and Cooper sought a compromise to end the economic boycotts.

A deal was reached in March and faced opposition from both HB2 supporters and opponents. The replacement law repealed HB2 but prevents local governments from passing certain nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020. It also says that only state government can set policies for transgender access to public bathrooms and locker rooms – and there’s now no state guidance on the issue.

The deal was enough to end sports boycotts from the NCAA, ACC and NBA, but several other states have kept their bans on non-essential government travel to North Carolina.

In the wake of the original ACC and NCAA decisions to move championships out of North Carolina, a proposal emerged in the legislature to force UNC system universities to release records of any communications with the athletic organizations.

A bill requiring release of those records passed the House and Senate and is awaiting action from the governor.

While the chancellor of Duke University said he voted in favor of the boycotts, the chancellors of N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill refused to say how they voted.

Secession talk

Several failed suggestions for state constitutional amendments this year came with shades of 1861.

Republican Reps. Michael Speciale, Larry Pittman and George Cleveland suggested amending the state constitution to remove the section that bans secession. They proposed another change to the state constitution, which also failed, to remove the part that says North Carolinians owe allegiance to the federal government.

Then, after another unsuccessful constitutional-amendment suggestion from Speciale, Pittman and fellow Republican Rep. Carl Ford – to ban gay marriage, despite the Supreme Court having ruled that that's unconstitutional – Pittman criticized the federal government and compared Abraham Lincoln to Adolf Hitler.

Israel boycotts

An international movement called BDS – for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – seeks to hurt the Israeli economy through business boycotts and other measures. Supporters of the BDS movement cite Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and claim Israel has consistently violated international law.

The legislature voted to fight back on Israel’s behalf against the BDS movement, however, with a boycott and divestment movement of its own.

A new law bans the state’s $90 billion pension system – one of the largest investment funds in the world – from investing money into any company associated with the BDS movement. Those companies will also be banned from receiving any state government contracts.

Both Democrats and Republicans supported the bill, which criticized companies that “make discriminatory decisions on the basis of national origin.”

State cat

Once again, an effort to make the bobcat the official state cat did not advance very far.

In 2015, the House approved a bill that did not get a vote in the Senate – and was replaced with a hospital regulation bill. This year, a bill passed the House with a 107-5 vote only to get stuck in a Senate committee.

Rep. John Ager, a Buncombe County Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, pointed out during the committee meeting in April that the bobcat is found in all 100 North Carolina counties. But another Buncombe Democrat, Rep. Brian Turner, said that he's heard from people at Western Carolina University who want their mascot – the catamount – to be chosen for the honor.

“While I do appreciate that the bobcat is in 100 counties and is a fantastic animal, I do have reservations about not including the catamount in this legislation,” Turner said.

North Carolina doesn’t have a state cat, but it recognizes 12 other animals as state symbols. The official state marsupial is the Virginia opposum, and the official state freshwater trout is the Southern Appalachian strain of brook trout.