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N.C. Legislative Wrap-Up for 2013

By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
August 2, 2013

NCGOVRALEIGH — As lawmakers headed home from the state capital at session’s end on July 26, the Christian Action League celebrated a long list of legislative successes.

“Looking back, this has been a phenomenal year — six months of sweeping measures that have changed the state’s legislative landscape in a number of areas,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the non-profit, non-denominational lobbying organization. “From pro-life measures to tax reform, human trafficking to the death penalty, even protections against Sharia Law, so much has been accomplished.”

One of the most hotly contested bills, S 353, Health and Safety Law Changes, is probably the most significant of the session as it will require that abortion clinics not operate under substandard conditions in detriment to women’s health, allow for conscience protection for healthcare workers, prevent taxpayers from funding elective abortions and prohibit abortion for sex selection. Dr. Creech also pointed to a pair of Human Trafficking laws that should help take the state off the nation’s top-10 list for sex trafficking.

Lawmakers put an end to the problematic Racial Justice Act to pave the way for capital punishment to begin again, and approved historic tax reform. They also made it clear that foreign law has no place in the state’s family courts.

As pleased as he was to see these bills pass, Dr. Creech said he was equally thankful that a number of proposals did not win approval. The CAL fought a Gaming Nights bill that would have increased gambling across the state and a measure that would have legalized and taxed video sweepstakes, in addition to a bid for hunting on Sunday.

“We never get all the bills we push for passed, nor are we able to stop every bad bill, but this year has been the best that I can remember during my tenure of 14 years,” Dr. Creech said. “We are grateful to God.”

Following is a list of bills that have been on the Christian Action League’s radar this session, with their current status:

DRUGS and ALCOHOL:

S-657 Stop Methamphetamine Production – This bill would make any drug containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine a Schedule III controlled substance. NOT PASSED

H-610 Modify Requirements of In-stand Beer Sales – This bill allows in-stand beer sales in venues with at least 3,000 seats during professional sports events. PASSED

H-532 No drinking in EMS and Law Enforcement vehicles – In addition to prohibiting alcohol use in these vehicles, the bill makes it a crime to drive one of these vehicles while alcohol remains in a person’s body. PASSED

H-536 Ignition Interlock Required/All DWIs – Just as the name implies, this bill would require anyone convicted of an impaired driving offense to have an interlock device installed on their car’s ignition before getting a limited driving privilege. NOT PASSED

AlcoholH-813 Ban Synthetic Cannabinoids (H-685) – This bill deals with the manufacture, possession, sale, use and delivery of “fake drugs,” substances that are substantially similar in chemical structure to a controlled substance and purported to act like that substance. PASSED

H-702 Tourism ABC Permits – This bill would create an end-run around current local option alcohol laws, usurping authority from local voters in determining whether alcohol should be sold in a specific community. NOT PASSED

H-781 Increase Small Brewery Limits – A bid to increase the small brewery limits from 25,000 barrels to 60,000, this bill would circumvent the state’s three-tier system of alcohol sales, allowing more breweries to bypass the role of the distributor. NOT PASSED

H-782 Fortified Malt Beverages Act – An attempt to keep “alcopops” out of the hands of teens, this bill would clarify the definition of a fortified malt beverage, ensure that these products are taxed properly and sold only in ABC stores. NOT PASSED

H-829 Sale of Growlers by Certain ABC Permittees – This bill would allow wine shops and anyone with an on-premise or off-premise malt beverage permit to sell malt beverages in re-sealable 64-ounce containers. PASSED

H-842 Study of Spirituous Liquor Sales-Distilleries – This plea to allow distilleries to sell their liquor onsite seems to pop up every session, another attempt to circumvent the Alcoholic Beverage Control system, which mandates that spirits be sold only in ABC stores. PASSED HOUSE – AWAITING ACTION IN THE SENATE

GAMBLING

H-516 Name/Address of Lottery Winner Confidential – As the name implies, this bill would allow lottery winners to retain anonymity. NOT PASSED

H-547 Tax & Regulate Sweepstakes – This bill would legitimize video sweepstakes gambling, the very thing lawmakers have been working to end over the past several years. The N.C. Supreme Court upheld the state’s sweepstakes ban in December 2012. NOT PASSED

H-809 Game Nights/Nonprofit Fundraisers – Under this bill, organizations could have casino nights, complete with gambling and alcohol, as long as the ultimate goal was to raise funds for a non-profit. NOT PASSED

H-844 Indian Tribal Recognition – This legislation, arguably would provide a uniform recognition for all state recognized Indian tribes, thereby inadvertently opening the door for a massive increase in casino gambling privileges ultimately being granted to tribes other than the Cherokee. NOT PASSED

SEXUALITY & SEX EDUCATION

S-132 Health Curriculum/Preterm Birth – This bill adds information about abortion and other avoidable causes of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies to the state’s sex-ed curriculum. PASSED

H-694 Clarify Input on Repro/Character Ed – An effort to require abstinence until marriage as the expected standard for school-age children, this bill would also require parental signatures before certain instruction in reproductive health and safety and would call for character education throughout the curriculum. NOT PASSED

H-559 Teen Dating Violence Prevention – Students would be taught more about healthy relationships and the warning signs of dating violence and abusive behavior if this bill is passed. It would require school systems to implement dating violence and abuse policies. NOT PASSED

GenderS-658 UNC/Dormitory Rules – In response to UNC’s decision to allow so-called “gender neutral” housing, this bill would prohibit the University of North Carolina from assigning members of the opposite sex to the same room, suite or apartment unless they are siblings or legally married. NOT PASSED

H-647 Nondiscrimination in State/Teacher Employment – Promoted by Equality NC, this bill is aimed at adding special protections for homosexual, bisexual and transgender state employees and local boards of education employees. NOT PASSED

H-429 & S-544 Nondiscrimination in State Employment – This bill would give special protections to homosexual, bisexual and transgender individuals on the state payroll. It would expand the provisions of H-647. NOT PASSED

EDUCATION

H-944 Opportunity Scholarship Act – This bill would earmark $10 million to provide grants of up to $4,200 for some 2,000 low-income students (those who qualify for reduced price lunches) to be used at the school of the parents’ choosing. In subsequent school years, the criteria would expand to include families with an income of up to 133 percent of that allowed in the free lunch program. PASSED IN S-402 APPROPRIATIONS ACT OF 2013

H-230 & S-189 Amend Law Defining Home Schools – This legislation updates the definition of home schools to reflect how the schools operate today. It would allow for co-operatives and other schooling options. S-189 PASSED

H-144 Homeschool Education Income Tax Credit – This bill would grant home school families a tax credit of $1,250 per semester for each eligible child. NOT PASSED

H-269 Children W/Disabilities Scholarship Grants is a measure that establishes scholarship grants for children with disabilities, providing a means for them to attend any non-public school and to receive special education and related services in a non-public situation. PASSED

THE COURTS

H-522 Foreign Laws/Protect Constitutional Rights — H 522 bans courts from recognizing laws from other lands (example: Sharia Law) if those laws infringe on the rights residents have under the North Carolina or United States Constitutions. PASSED

S-473 Health Cost Transp/Speaker and PPT Standing – This legislation allows the Speaker of the House and the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, as agents of the state, to jointly have standing in court to intervene on behalf of the North Carolina General Assembly as a party in any judicial proceeding challenging a North Carolina statute or provision of the North Carolina Constitution. PASSED

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

TraffickingS-683 Safe Harbor/Victims of Human Trafficking – This measure creates a “safe harbor” (immunity) for minors sold into prostitution and an expunction of record under certain conditions for those over 18 who are convicted of prostitution, if it is indeed found to be sex trafficking. It would also toughen penalties for traffickers, pimps and johns and help victims receive restitution. PASSED

S-122 Sex Trafficking/Sex Offender Registration – This bill requires that the names of convicted human traffickers be added to the state’s sex offender registry. PASSED

H-221 Increase Penalties for Human Trafficking – Among other provisions, this bill would make trafficking a Class E felony. NOT PASSED

H-825 Minor can’t be prosecuted for prostitution – Similar to the Safe Harbor bill, this bill would prevent minors from being prosecuted for prostitution and would instead have them taken into temporary custody as abused juveniles and reported to the Department of Social Services. This legislation is no longer needed because it’s PROVISIONS WERE PASSED BY INCLUSION IN S 683

H-495 & S 453 Modify NC Human Trafficking Comm. Membership – This legislation modified the membership of the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission by authorizing the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and the Governor to appoint representatives from various groups to the Commission. PROVISIONS INCLUDED IN S 683 – PASSED

H-855 Human Trafficking – This bill would ensure that minors who are victims of human trafficking are treated as such and provided with restitution. The provision, immunity for minors and restitution for victims, was included in S-683 and were PASSED. But other provisions in the bill such as requiring human trafficking education in K-12 and a provision mandating the North Carolina Human Health and Services Department establish a centralized phone number for reporting suspected cases of human trafficking have NOT PASSED.

MARRIAGE & PARENTING

FamilyS-518 Healthy Marriage Act – This legislation would extend the waiting period for divorce to two years, allows couples to live together during that time and requires them to attend courses, either together or separately with the hope of saving their marriage. NOT PASSED

H-149 Caylee’s Law/Report Missing Children – Named after Caylee Anthony, the Florida two-year-old who was missing for a month before authorities were notified, the measure creates the criminal offense of failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement and would make the parent or caregiver responsible guilty of a Class H felony punishment for child abuse if the child wound up seriously injured. It would also increase the penalties for intentionally concealing a child’s death or making a false report to law enforcement regarding a child’s disappearance. PASSED

H-711 Define Parental Rights Standard/Statutory Law – A very short but important bill, this would confirm that “the liberty of a parent to direct the upbringing, education and care of his or her child is a fundamental right.” PASSED HOUSE AS A STUDY BILL – AWAITING ACTION BY THE SENATE

S-627 Study Grandparent Visitation Rights – This bill would set up a 10-member committee to study grandparent visitation rights and child custody. NOT PASSED

S-675 Eliminate Exceptions/Med Treatment/Minors – An attempt to expand the medical treatment of a minor for which a parent or guardian must consent; this bill would result in increased recognition of parental rights by the state. NOT PASSED

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

S-306 Capital Punishment/Amendments – This legislation repeals the controversial Racial Justice Act while confirming the rights to appeal available to convicted murderers. It also codifies the N.C. Supreme Court decision that medical practitioners can take part in the administration of the death penalty without fear of being censured by their professional organizations. PASSED

TAX REFORM

H-998 Tax Simplification and Reduction Act – The first major alterations to the state tax code in some seven decades; the package of changes replaces the three-tier personal income tax system with a flat tax of 5.8 percent in 2014, with the rate to decrease to 5.75 percent in future years. It raises standard deductions to $7,500 for singles, $12,000 for heads of households and $15,000 for married couples. PASSED

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

ReligiousFreedomS-370 Respect for Student Prayer – This legislation would clarify student rights to pray in school, prohibit prayer officially sanctioned by schools (in accordance with rulings by the US Supreme Court regarding the Constitution) and requires school employees to show respect for student led prayer, as well as allow for the adoption of a respectful posture. PASSED SENATE, AWAITING FURTHER ACTION BY THE HOUSE

S-719 Student’s Organizations/Rights & Recognition – This simple and short bill would clarify that student organizations may determine the organization’s core functions and resolve any disputes. This would prevent colleges from demanding — in the name of non-discrimination — that organizations allow students opposed to their cause or values to take leadership positions within them. PASSED SENATE, AWAITING FURTHER ACTION BY THE HOUSE

H-494 Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013 – This House Joint Resolution was an effort to support the Rowan County Board of Commissioners in their use of pre-meeting invocations. The board is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, which wants to stop sectarian prayers. NOT PASSED – BILL LANGUAGE CAUSED CONSIDERABLE CONTROVERSY – NOT LIKELY TO REVIVE – ESSENTIALLY DEAD

H-730 Insurance and Health Care Conscience Protection Act – A response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, this bill would modify certain laws pertaining to abortion and contraceptive health insurance coverage so that health care providers could not be forced to take part in procedures that result in abortion. Most of the PROVISIONS WERE INCLUDED AND PASSED IN S 353.

H-735 Protect Religious Student Groups – Very similar to S-719, this bill would clarify that student organizations have the right to determine their own internal affairs, selecting leaders and members and defining their doctrines, etc. PASSED HOUSE – AWAITING ACTION BY THE SENATE

H-751 N.C. Religious Freedom Restoration – Similar to federal legislation, this bill is an attempt to ensure that the free exercise of religion is not burdened unless the state has a compelling reason to do so.  NOT PASSED

SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE

SanctityofLifeS-353 Health and Safety Law Changes – This landmark legislation requires that abortion clinics not operate under substandard conditions and protect a women’s health, allows for conscience protection for healthcare workers, prevents taxpayers from funding elective abortions and prohibits abortion for the purpose of sex selection. PASSED

S-691 Unlawful to Assist Another to Commit Suicide -Just as its name implies, this bill would make it illegal to help someone kill himself by providing the means, participating in the act or helping him plan the event. NOT PASSED

H-716 Clarify Law/Prohibit Sex Selective Abortion – This bill fines a doctor at least $10,000 for performing or trying to perform an abortion “with knowledge or an objective reason to know” that the child’s gender is a significant factor in the pregnant woman’s seeking the abortion. PROVISIONS PASSED – INCLUDED IN S 353

S-308 Amend Woman’s Right to Know Act – Among other provisions, this bill requires that doctors performing abortions remain on the premises and available to the patient until she leaves. It would also require the doctor to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. SOME PROVISIONS PASSED AFTER BEING INCLUDED IN S 353.

S-117 Lily’s Law – Legislation named for an Alamance County infant who was shot in utero, born alive and later died, Lily’s Law would codify the common law that makes it murder when a child is injured in the womb, born and later dies from the injury. – PASSED

NOTE: S 402 Appropriations Act of 2013 included a provision allocating $250,000 to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship (CPCF), as well as $375,000 for maternity homes across the state. PASSED

SUNDAY HUNTING

S-224 & H-360 Sunday Hunting on Private Land – This bill would allow hunting on Sunday on land owned by the hunter or on land for which the hunter has written permission to hunt. It would overturn the state’s 144-year-old ban on hunting on the Lord’s Day. NOT PASSED