By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
October 2, 2105
RALEIGH – North Carolina lawmakers ended a more than eight month session shortly after 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday. It was the longest session in at least a decade. A Budget stalemate and extended negotiations on Medicaid reform and economic recruitment incentives were largely the reasons for its length. The General Assembly normally completes its work by early summer.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the session was exceedingly productive for social conservatives. “I have served as a registered lobbyist in the legislature for 16 years,” said Dr. Creech. “We have never had a year with so many advances as this one.”
“The Christian Action League’s role is a critical one. Without our presence I believe there would be a huge vacuum, but the real credit must go to lawmakers,” said Dr. Creech. “There is an excellent group of people in office right now and we deeply appreciate their commitment to many of the values we represent. We owe them a word of thanks and when they are back in their districts, I hope our folks will tell them that,” he added. ”
Some of the bigger wins include:
- A bill that allows magistrates and registers of deeds who hold a sincere religious objection to opt-out of the performance of same-sex wedding ceremonies. Before the passage of this legislation, these public officials were facing termination and even criminal prosecution for refusing to violate their consciences.
- Legislation that prohibits the use of taxpayer money going to groups like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions, as well as outlawing the sale of baby body parts garnered from an abortion.
- Extending the wait time for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours to ensure a woman is provided ample time to consider all of the alternatives.
- Significant increased funding for State Opportunity Scholarships and Special Education Scholarships, which make it easier for disabled children and those of lower income families to attend a non-public school.
Other important wins would include:
- A religious property tax exemption bill that closes loopholes in the tax laws allowing church property to be taxed when in construction and unoccupied. The measure specifically exempts church buildings under construction and the land on which they are being built from local property taxes if the structure is intended to be wholly and exclusively used by its owner for religious purposes upon completion.
- Legislation that removes the obstacles that have produced a nine year defacto moratorium on the death penalty. The new law jump-starts the death penalty in an effort to restore proper justice.
- A new law to stop the egregious practice of “revenge porn.” “Revenge porn” is the nonconsensual disclosure of explicit images for no legitimate purpose that causes immediate, devastating, and in many cases irreversible harm to a person’s life.
- The banning of “Palchol” – an alcohol product made available in a pouch, much like Kool-Aid, that becomes an alcoholic beverage with the addition of water.
- Legislation that will result in a statue of Billy Graham being placed inside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. and a House Resolution that petitions the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee of the United States Postal Service and the Postmaster General of the United States to issue a commemorative stamp honoring the evangelist.
- Two bills that toughen restrictions and penalties for chronic and habitual DWI offenders.
Dr. Creech also noted that some of the bills that were beaten back this year were victories nearly significant as the year’s advances. “There was still some dangerous legislation we had to deal with,” he said. “Our defensive game turned out well too.”
Here is some bad legislation that didn’t succeed:
- Two measures were filed that would have legalized sweepstakes gambling. One bill would have basically made sweepstakes gaming lawful by licensing, taxing and regulating it. The other would have taken a broader approach by establishing a nine member gaming commission to oversee the state lottery, charitable and for-profit bingo, as well as legalize, license and tax sweepstakes. Neither bill was taken up.
- The Senate’s version of the state’s budget provided for an expansion of lottery advertising by 50% and initiated “E-Instant Games,” which are essentially online scratch-off tickets. The proposal was rejected in the final draft of the state budget.
- A bill that would have provided for an expansion of grandparents’ visitation rights under existing law failed in a House Judiciary Committee. If the measure had succeeded and become law, it would have undermined parental rights.
- A bill that would have allowed for spirituous liquor tasting events at ABC stores, along with additional legislation that would have increased small brewery limits from 25,000 barrels annually to 100,000 without having to use a wholesaler, were never taken up. The first undermines the state’s ABC system of control by the promotion of liquor sales, while the second undermines the state’s three-tier system of alcohol control.
Dr. Creech said there were also defeats. “Certainly the losses seemingly pale in comparison to the success of this session,” he said, “but each one troubles me because it means that there is a hole in the wall – people are more vulnerable to sin and evil’s many hazards.”
Here are some of the losses:
- This year the 145 year old ban on Sunday hunting with a firearm was repealed. There were some modifications that were added that respect churches by prohibiting Sunday hunting from the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – times when most rural churches are meeting. Defeat of the bill was the objective. However, the modifications did minimize the loss.
- Legislation passed that allowed liquor distilleries to sell a commemorative bottle of their liquor products to customers that take a tour of their facilities. The legislation is the first time since the end of prohibition that liquor will be sold outside of an ABC store. It is also the first crack in the windshield of alcoholic beverage control that can ultimately spread to the privatization of liquor sales.
- Two Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills awaited action by the General Assembly. The bills, however, were not taken up, leaving North Carolinians vulnerable to infringements of their religious liberties.
The Christian Action League will provide more details in its 2015 Legislative Wrap-Up, which will be posted soon.
The North Carolina General Assembly is not scheduled to reconvene again until Monday, April 25, 2016.