The short session of the General Assembly is in full swing
The North Carolina General Assembly began its first full week Monday with a slate of committee meetings and 18 bills already introduced.
The Legislature has accelerated plans to “pre-negotiate” the budget and be released by July 1. Still, important issues are on the to-do list, such as reports on access to health care and parental involvement in education.
Lawmakers swung the hammer in the short session just months after the longest session in state history ended in March. Both the Senate and the House would like to keep the short session short, especially after the long marathon session and for those campaigning for the general election in November.
“Members, it’s good to see everyone again,” said House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, opening the session last week. “I just feel like it hasn’t been that long since we were here, still in the long session. Now we are finally in the short session. My hope is as true as the word ‘long session’ was, I hope this time the word really is a short session as well. »
The Senate followed a similar plan, in and out in less than two minutes.
Monday, the senses. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, Norman Sanderson, R-Craven and Mike Woodard, D-Durham introduced Senate Bill 762, the North Carolina Farm Bill of 2022, which includes a measure to permanently phase out hemp controlled areas. substance list.
Significant bills that have been introduced in the House include Bill 1005. Republican Representatives Jamie Boles, Ted Davis, Allen McNeill and Carson Smith are the main sponsors of the bill which would lead to tougher criminal penalties, including prison terms of up to 15 years. years for certain offences.
House Bill 1014, sponsored by Rep. Ashton Wheeler Clemmons, D-Guilford, would allocate $10 million from the Opioid Reduction Reserve to create an institute at UNC-Greensboro that would prevent and treat opioid abuse.
Moore said the House should begin voting on bills the week of May 23.
He said House leaders were trying to pre-negotiate the budget with the Senate as much as they could to speed up the process — calling it “reverse engineering” — starting with a conference report and by solving it. Usually, the legislature starts with a House budget and a Senate budget and puts it all together. Then they end with a conference report, which represents a joint House-Senate compromise.
“If we can try to identify these issues now and fix them, that’s the president’s intention,” he said. “We’ve certainly been here enough last year and this year that I think we can make it a little more efficient process. We will ask members to speak with the Credit Chairs if you have a specific request on things you want to work on.
Appropriation chairs lead the House and Senate budget drafting committees.
Despite its brevity, the short session appears to be filled with important agenda items from both sides of the aisle. This comes as revised forecasts recently released by state government economists indicated that the state will have $6.2 billion in additional revenue through the end of the next fiscal year.
“Employment in the state had returned to pre-pandemic levels by the summer of 2021 and, as of March 2022, was already above our pre-pandemic forecast,” the revised Fiscal Research Division forecast said. of the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office of the State Budget.
“Nevertheless, consumer demand outpaced inflation as consumers continued to spend savings accumulated during the pandemic.”
Inflation jumped in March to reach its highest level since January 1982, at 8.5%.
“We will continue the Republican-led policies that have created a stable economic climate and balanced state budgets in North Carolina while avoiding efforts by state Democrats to replicate the misguided approach of the Biden administration,” he said. said Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. “The Biden administration’s disastrous economic policies have destroyed family budgets and introduced terms like ‘inflation’, ‘stagflation’ and ‘supply chain disruption’ into our daily conversations. Given that Democrats have made a recession more likely over the next 12-24 months, we will look to ensure the state has the resources to weather an economic downturn.
Berger said there would also be discussions about access to health care and parental involvement in education. He hopes to wrap up the short session as soon as possible, possibly by July 1.
Legislature Democrats share some of those priorities, but have a broader list of goals for the session.
“During the short session, House Democrats want to continue the work to expand opportunities for all North Carolinians,” Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham, said in a statement emailed to the Carolina Journal. . “We really want to expand broadband access both by investing in infrastructure and in digital literacy efforts to help all North Carolina residents and small businesses benefit. We want to keep trying to save rural healthcare by helping hospitals stay open, increasing the number of healthcare professionals in these areas, reducing healthcare costs and creating greater accessibility. for everyone.
Reives also said Democrats would like to fully fund the state’s public education systems so residents can take advantage of the many job opportunities.
Sports betting and medical marijuana are some of the issues that will likely be covered in the short session.
A comprehensive marijuana legalization and regulation bill was introduced in the Senate on Monday that would allow people age 21 and older to legally possess a small amount of the drug. Senate Bill 765 was introduced by Sen. Toby Fitch, D-Wilson.
At 69 pages, it’s more thorough than a similar 2021 cannabis legalization proposal, House Bill 617. This 19-page bill was introduced in 2021 with Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, as one of the four main sponsors and Rep. Amber Baker, D-Forsyth, as one of 13 co-sponsors.
HB617 was sent to the Rules and Operations Committee, where it was shelved for the 2021 session.
Lawmakers’ latest attempt to legalize cannabis is expected to meet a similar fate given strong opposition from Republican leaders in North Carolina.
North Carolina is one of six states where all use of marijuana is illegal, along with Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wyoming. This includes banning the use of medical marijuana.
The main focus of the latest cannabis proposal is the sale, possession and use of marijuana, although a section covers the legal use of industrial hemp.
People aged 21 and over could possess up to two ounces of marijuana.
Anyone possessing more than two ounces in a public place could be subject to a civil fine of up to $25.
However, anyone with more than a pound of marijuana could be convicted of a Class F felony and face a fine of up to $250,000.
It would be illegal for anyone to sell or supply marijuana products to anyone under the age of 21. It would be illegal to transport marijuana in an open container or for a driver or passengers to consume marijuana in a moving vehicle.
The bill includes agreements on how retail marijuana would be sold, including packaging warning labels about health effects, as well as marketing restrictions.
The bill contains language dealing with the use and manufacture of edible marijuana products.
It calls for a cannabis business loan fund to support retail marijuana sellers, while allowing financial institutions to provide financial services to those sellers.
The bill would allow anyone 21 or older to grow up to two mature marijuana plants and up to two immature marijuana plants “for personal use in their place of residence.”
Plants should be grown indoors and not visible to the public without the use of planes, binoculars or other optical aids.
Each mature and immature plant should have a legible tag that includes the owner’s name, driver’s license or ID number, and a note that the marijuana is grown for personal home use.
Anyone found guilty of violating these regulations could be subject to a Class 1 felony.
There is also a section on how law enforcement officers would enforce the provisions of the law.
The bill would create a state cannabis control commission that would oversee “a uniform system of control over the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption, and possession of marijuana in Carolina.” of the North, and would provide procedures to ensure the proper administration of marijuana laws”. under a uniform system across the state.
The commission would have an executive director, a board of directors, and employees from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
The commission’s authority would supersede any local ordinance or resolution regulating the retail sale of marijuana or marijuana products at retail, including licensing, inspections, manufacturing and testing.
There would also be a Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council.
The bill would contain a 21% state tax on all retail marijuana, retail marijuana products, marijuana accessories, and all non-retail marijuana and related products.
There would be exceptions to the tax, including on cannabis oil for treatment, as permitted by state law.
Local municipalities could apply up to 3% additional tax on marijuana products.