LEGISLATIVE REPORT - February 20, 2019
The session is expected to ramp up this week as committees begin to move into regular business and floor votes begin. It may appear that session has started slowly based upon the number of committee meetings and the bills that have made it to the floor of one chamber of another, but the real activity is taking place in legislators offices and conference rooms around the legislative complex as proposed bills are being discussed, debated and negotiated. This is a critical time for lobbyists to get their bills filed by the “right” sponsor and to work out as many issues as possible before the bill is filed officially. Many deals are being made right now that will impact legislation as it moves through the process. Freshman legislators are also getting an education about the legislative process and trying to figure out how to maneuver in this strange new world! Here are some specific updates on topics of interest.
According to the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division and the Office of State Budget and Management, state government is on track to have a $150.8 million revenue surplus for the current fiscal year, about 0.6 percent more than the expected number in this year's state budget. "The current-year anticipated revenue surplus is mainly due to sales tax collections, which were helped by the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2018 ruling that required remote sellers to begin collecting sales tax on their sales in the state," fiscal analysts wrote in the memo. The forecast estimates revenue in fiscal year 2019-2020 will increase $733.2 million over the current year, and increase another $987.3 million in fiscal year 2020-2021.
The forecast calls for continued strong sales tax receipts thanks to tax collections on internet sales, while income tax receipts will remain strong, based on the "anticipation of employment gains continuing to place upward pressure on wages." Those gains will be offset temporarily by this year's corporate income tax cut, which dropped the rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent. Corporate tax receipts "will fall by 1.6 percent in the upcoming fiscal year and grow by 6.3 percent in the following year," the forecast says. House Speaker Tim Moore credits the surplus numbers to lower taxes creating a stronger economy. "Those calling for drastic change in our economic approach are calling for a change in these positive economic outlooks and budget surpluses," Moore said. "It is essential our state maintain financial flexibility and not return to days of higher taxes and wasteful spending and deficits."
A full joint appropriations committee is scheduled for Wednesday morning to hear a revenue forecast presentation from the legislature's economist, Barry Boardman.
February 14, marked one year since 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Several lawmakers called on this day for a variety of gun restrictions in this state. The omnibus gun bill they filed, called the Gun Violence Protection Act, includes provisions that would require background checks on all gun purchases, prohibit highcapacity magazines, ban bump stocks and raise the age to purchase an assault-style weapon from
18 to 21.
"It's sad we have to be here on Valentine's Day in remembrance of what happened a year ago in Parkland," said Rep. Marcia Morey, one of the sponsors of the bill. "It's not just Parkland. It's not just mass shootings. It happens in our communities every day."
"Gun violence is a public health crisis," said Rep. Christy Clark, D-Mecklenburg, a former state director for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Sponsors wore orange ribbons at a news conference to announce their bill, and members of Moms Demand Action carried a bouquet of 17 orange roses for the Parkland victims and held up note cards with the names and ages of the victims.
Sponsors are hopeful that public sentiment has changed among lawmakers and the public since the Parkland shooting and that some of their proposals will succeed this year, although previous gun control measures have failed to pass through the Republican-controlled General Assembly in recent years. Rep. Pricey Harrison said she has filed gun-related bills every session since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, but none have ever gotten a committee hearing.
Some Republican House members filed another gun omnibus bill that would actually loosen gun laws and allow access to guns in more places, among other provisions, calling for eliminating the requirement to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
This Legislative Report is a publication of Kochanek Law Group and is a member benefit of AANC. Any use or reproduction of this report is limited to AANC and its members.