by Brian Clarey and Jordan Green
The Guilford and Forsyth County delegations in the North Carolina legislature comprise just 16 individuals — five senators out of 50, 11 representatives out of 43 — a small percentage to represent the third-largest population center in the state.
Some were incredibly active — Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) put her name on 322 bills this session. Some were incredibly effective, such as Rep. John Faircloth (R-Guilford), who saw about half of his 107 bills make it through to the Senate and eight of them already passed into law.
The power trickled down from Senate President Phil Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham) and those close to him: Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), the latter of whose 75 bills fared well in the process, and Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford), who only signed on to the 19 bills she sponsored and rarely worked with her Guilford and Forsyth counterparts.
Others seemed left out in the cold.
Sen. Joyce Kraweic (R-Forsyth) seemed to have trouble connecting with her party’s leadership — of her 96 bills, most were referred to the Rules Committee, where such things often go to quietly die. Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) and his counterpart in Guilford, Sen. Gladys Robinson (D), filed few bills — 46 and 40, respectively — almost all relegated to committee. Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) and Rep. Julia Howard (R-Forsyth) have been around the House the longest, with nine terms and 15 terms respectively, yet were among the least active, with fewer than 40 bills apiece. Relative newcomers Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) and Rep. Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth) had more success by reaching across party lines to file legislation with their Republican counterparts.
The process is still moving forward. Of all the legislation proposed and debated this term, just 21 have been signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, with eight more awaiting either his signature or veto, which has been use four times so far this term.
It’s a confusing process — sometimes, it seems, deliberately so. But the overwhelming impression from the data is that it’s hard to get a law passed. And that’s probably a good thing.
Committee assignments: Senate president pro tem; chair, Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations; chair, Legislative Services Commission
- Senate Resolution 680 — Honor Mark Binker, Former Capitol Reporter
Berger was the sole sponsor of this bill — just one of two he worked on this year — that honored former News & Record and WRAL reporter Mark Binker, who died suddenly in April at the age of 43. Don’t let the small number of bills filed by Berger fool you: As president pro tem of the Senate, he’s the most powerful lawmaker in the state, and no legislation comes up for a vote on the Senate floor without his approval. Status: Passed Senate by unanimous vote and adopted.
SEN. TRUDY WADE
(R-GUILFORD), DISTRICT 27
About the district: Wade’s district begins in the northeast corner of Guilford County and wraps around Greensboro, circumventing central High Point and picking up a few Greensboro precincts in the northwest.
Committee assignments: Co-chair, Appropriations on Agriculture, Natural and Economic Resources; co-chair, Commerce and Insurance; Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources; Finance; Rules; Select Committee on Elections; Select Committee on Nominations
- SB 136 — Restore Partisan Elections, Superior & District Court (with Krawiec)
It does exactly what it says — makes judicial races in superior and district courts partisan, meaning a primary election will decide which Democrat goes against which Republican. Superior court elections were switched to nonpartisan contests in 1996; district court made the change in 2001. Status: Passed the House and Senate. Vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper. Veto overridden by both chambers, and ratified as law.
- SB 343 — Legal Notices/Newsprint Employees
Wade, who has had a troubled relationship with the legitimate media, takes dead aim on city dailies and community weeklies with this bill, which waives a requirement for county governments to post their legal notices in paid-circulation newspapers, redefining the types of papers that can accept the ads. Four counties — Buncombe, Durham, Forsyth and Guilford — would be allowed to post their legal notices on the county website in lieu of paid print publication. Status: Passed Senate by vote of 30 to 19. Received a favorable recommendation from House Rules Committee and referred to House Finance Committee.
- SB 480 — Protection From Government Overreach Act
The bill caps all single-project spending by city councils, county commissions, school boards or any other government agency at $100 million, after which the projects would need legislative approval. It includes a neat little clause in Section 3: “An agency authorized to implement and enforce state and federal environmental laws may not adopt a permanent rule for the protection of the environment or natural resources that imposes a more restrictive standard, limitation, or requirement than those imposed by federal law.” Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
SEN. GLADYS ROBINSON
(D-GUILFORD), DISTRICT 28
About the district: Robinson’s minority-majority district covers about two-thirds of Greensboro and extends into central High Point.
Committee assignments: Healthcare; Education/Higher Education; Finance; Health and Human Services; Appropriations on Health and Human Services; Appropriations/Base Budget; Select Committee on Nominations
Bills: 40 (including 13 as primary sponsor)
- SB 83 — Raise Awareness of Lupus
It’s tough to be a Democrat in the NC Senate these days. For example, Sen. Robinson could not get a bill passed to recognize May as Lupus Month. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
- SB 173 — Housing Juveniles Under 18 in County Facility (with Lowe)
With a few exceptions, this one keeps children away from adults in county jails, requiring a separate facility for minors. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
- SB 198 — Study Efficacy of Film Credit Versus Grant (with Lowe)
A generous tax credit for the film industry was replaced with a grant system in 2014, resulting in far fewer productions in the state. The study would compare return on investment for the two approaches. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
- SB 259 — Restore Master’s Degree Pay for All Teachers
Brings back the “M” salary schedule for graduate degrees, with a bonus for PhD, stricken from state law in 2013. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
- SB 554 — Fair Redistricting/Postmark & Absentee Ballots
Ensures that absentee ballots received the day after an election that have been properly postmarked will get counted, and establishes a committee on fair redistricting. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
SEN. JOYCE KRAWIEC
(R-FORSYTH, YADKIN), DISTRICT 31
About the district: D-31 covers the suburban/rural doughnut of Forsyth County, including parts of Lewisville, Clemmons and Kernersville, along with affluent, Republican-leaning neighborhoods like Buena Vista on the west side and portions of Ardmore and areas around Baptist Hospital in the southwest. The district also covers the entirety of Yadkin County.
Committee assignments: Co-chair, Appropriations on Health and Human Services; co-chair, Health Care; Education/Higher Education; Finance; Transportation
Bills: 96 (including 48 as primary sponsor)
- SB 530 — Protect Government Whistleblowers
Carves out an exemption from North Carolina public records law for emails and other communications by government workers about improper activities of any government agency to a regulatory body, and ensures immunity from civil liability for whistleblower report made in good faith by a government employee to a regulatory body. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
- SB 425 — Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Act
Would ban the “Dilation and Evacuation” method of abortions, which is typicallyused in the second trimester of pregnancy. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
- SB 190 — Haley Hayes Newborn Screening Bill (with Lambeth)
Adds a screening for Pompe disease — “a rare, heritable disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness” — to the state’s newborn screening program, while appropriating $2.7 million to purchase lab equipment and increasing the fee for the newborn screening program from $44 to $55 to offset the cost of the new test. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
- SB 313 — Increase Small Brewery Limits
Increases the number of barrels a small brewer can self-distribute from less than 25,000 to 103,091 barrels. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
SEN. PAUL LOWE JR.
(D-FORSYTH), DISTRICT 32
About the district: D-32 covers almost all of Winston-Salem, with the exception of a carve-out of affluent, Republican-leaning neighborhoods like Buena Vista along the Country Club Road corridor, as well as with more liberal-leaning areas of Ardmore in the city’s southwest quadrant. The district trails Business 40 to the east and picks up the heart of Kernersville.
Committee assignments: Appropriations on Health and Human Services; Appropriations/Base Budget; Health Care; Judiciary; Rules and Operations of the Senate
Bills: 46 (including 22 as primary sponsor)
- SB 146 — Juvenile Reinvestment Act
Would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction so that 16- and 17-year-olds are no longer tried as adults, with limited exceptions. New York recently raised the age of jurisdiction, making North Carolina the only state in the union that currently tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee. (A similar bill passed the House by a vote of 104-8, and is also being considered by the Senate Rules Committee.)
- SB 646 — Universal Voter Registration
Provides for automatic voter registration at driver’s license offices, public agencies, and community colleges and universities. Status: Referred to Senate Rules Committee.
- SB 358 — Film & Entertainment Grant Fund Appropriation
Appropriates $55 million for film and television production incentives. Status: Referred to Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee.
- SB 197 — Adopt Bobcat as State Cat
An act “to bring about awareness of this magnificent and beneficial animal,” which preys on rabbits and mice, and is most active at dawn and dusk. Status: The House version of the bill passed by a vote of 107 to 5, and has been referred to Senate Rules Committee.