Legislature Ends 2009 Session
Special Report - August 12, 2009
Less than a week after approving a $19 billion state budget more than a month into the new fiscal year, the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned its 2009 Legislative Session yesterday. Small skeleton sessions in the House and Senate wrapped up the final business of a week filled with long and intense days that saw 62 measures acted on in just the final two days. If all the bills passed by the legislature are signed into law, 578 laws out of 2767 introduced bills will have been enacted during the six-month 2009 Regular Session of the General Assembly.
The big news each odd-numbered year is the passage of a constitutionally-mandated balanced budget. This difficult process was exacerbated this year by the current economic downturn that brought larger than expected decreases in tax revenue, creating a budget shortfall that some stated to be as much as $4 billion. Legislators plugged part of that hole using federal stimulus dollars, budget cuts, and an almost $1 billion tax increase. The tax package includes an increase of the state sales tax by 1 cent, making North Carolina’s sales tax the fourth highest in the country. Cigarettes, liquor, and beer will all be taxed at higher rates. Corporations, individuals making at least $60,000, and married couples making at least $100,000 will now pay an additional 2 or 3 percent surcharge tax on their tax bill at the end of the year.
Bills That Passed
After two years of failed efforts, the pro-homosexual lobby and legislative contingency managed to pass SB 526School Violence Prevention Act with a tie-breaking vote by North Carolina House Speaker Joe Hackney. This so-called “Bullying Bill” used bullying in schools as the mechanism by which to introduce special legal protections based on “alternative” sexual behaviors by inserting the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into state law for the first time. Sponsors refused to accept versions of the bill that did not include a clause enumerating specific characteristics of students that could motivate acts of bullying and harassment, including “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” A more general bill that was sponsored by over half the House members and would protect all children from all bullyingHB 776No Bullying Anyone at Public Schoolswas never considered by committee and died at crossover. Interestingly, HB 1261Protect Our Kids/Cyber Bullying Misdemeanor received a great deal of work in the Senate Judiciary II committee before finally being passed with language similar to the bullying bill, but noticeably lacking an enumerated list of possible victims.
Legislators also amended North Carolina’s Abstinence-Until-Marriage (AUM) sex education requirement for public schools by narrow approval of HB 88Healthy Youth Act. After going through numerous and wide-ranging variations, the final bill instituted an amended AUM program that requires more classroom discussion of all 18 contraceptives approved by the FDA and gives tremendous leeway to local school boards to expand on the program without parental input that was previously required.
The legislature’s failure to protect marriage continued this year as HB 1110Clarify/Alienation of Affection/Criminal Conversation was passed to narrow the ability of spouses to sue a third party who interferes with a marriage. While the final vote was not considered close, an amendment to preserve more of the existing law and limit the impact of the bill failed by a single vote in the Senate.
Passage of HB 494Superior Court Judge May Perform Marriage adds superior court judges to the limited list of religious representatives and government officials authorized to perform marriages in the state.
Bills That Did Not Pass
Any bills that had not received approval from their chamber of origin by the May 14 “crossover deadline” were not eligible for consideration during the remainder of session. However, some bills that survived crossover did not receive consideration in the second half of session and may be revived when the General Assembly reconvenes in May 2010 for the Short Session. One such bill is HB 1463Expand Access/Confidential Intermediaries, which sailed easily through the House, but stalled in a Senate committee over concerns that it would eliminate closed adoptions in North Carolina and breach the existing understanding of mothers who had chosen closed adoptions in the past and whose children are now adults searching for them. On the final full day of Senate session, the bill was removed from the floor calendar and scheduled for consideration on May 19, 2010.
SB 992Authorize Mayors to Solemnize Marriage barely survived crossover in May. However, the bill, which would add mayors as the only elected official other than a superior court judge who would be authorized to perform marriages in the state, never received a hearing in any of the House committees to which it was assigned.
The Senate rejected a number of House bills, including HB 442Parental Involvement in School Discipline, and HB 1289Lottery-No Check Cashing Sites/High Sch. Ads. HB 442 would have required school districts that still employ corporal punishment to allow parents to withhold consent for the measure to be used on their child. HB 1289 would have prohibited the sale of lottery tickets at businesses whose primary revenue comes from “the cashing of checks, drafts or money orders” and prohibited lottery advertising in connection with high school sports.
SB 1109Adjournment Resolution, which adjourned the legislative session on Tuesday and sets the parameters for eligible legislation during the 2010 Short Session, includes a provision allowing for the consideration of constitutional amendments. That means the Defense of Marriage Amendment will be introduced for a seventh year in a row in an attempt to allow the citizens of North Carolina the opportunity to vote on whether to include the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the state’s constitution. HB 361 and SB 272Defense of Marriage were both relegated to committees to die during the 2009 session.
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.