On Tuesday the NC Senate passed SB 360, “Prohibit Collusive Settlements by the AG,” on a party-line vote. This bill would require the Attorney General to get approval from the leaders of the two chambers of the General Assembly for settlements in cases where those leaders “have intervened or are otherwise named parties.” Republicans have advanced the bill in response to settlements prior to the 2020 election that overrode election rules they had set in the General Assembly.
On Thursday SB 671, which expands North Carolina’s private school voucher program, passed out of committee. The bill would both increase the value of vouchers from $4,200 to $5,900 yearly and lift the eligibility ceiling from $72,000 a year for a family of four to $84,000.
On Wednesday the NC House Education committee approved a bill that would no longer require teachers taking a personal day to pay part of the cost of hiring a substitute, as long as they provide a reason for taking the day. HB 362 would eliminate the $50 teachers currently have to pay to cover the partial cost of a substitute but would require them to pay $100 if they take a personal day without providing a reason.
On Wednesday the NC House passed a bill that would eliminate End of Course tests, replacing them with the ACT or SAT. HB 486 calls for the replacement of these tests beginning in the 2023-24 school year and for the hiring of a contractor to evaluate the national standardized tests against the NC curriculum to recommend a good replacement. The bill also calls for the replacement of WorkKeys tests taken by students in career and technical education but did not specify what specific credential would replace these tests.
On Tuesday the NC House Education Committee advanced a bill that would require public school job applicants to undergo criminal background checks and fingerprinting. HB 240 would also require people seeking teacher licensure to be fingerprinted and complete background checks. Unless their prospective or current employers choose to cover the costs, these procedures would be paid for by the applicants themselves.
Economic and Housing Policy
On Wednesday the House unanimously passed a bill that would require companies to notify customers of renewing contracts, get “affirmative consent” before charging customers for an automatic renewal, and provide an easy cancellation mechanism. HB 103 would not apply to insurers and banks, among several other types of companies.
Women’s Rights and LGBTQ Rights
A bill originally intended to close a domestic violence loophole in NC law passed the NC House Judiciary Committee Wednesday after undergoing significant changes. While HB 33 was originally written simply to remove existing language specifying that an unmarried couple must be of the “opposite sex” for one of them to seek a protective order against the other, significant additional language was added that advocacy groups say would make accessing a protective order harder for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. In response to the changes, Alison Dahle, D-Wake, took her name off the bill, which she had previously sponsored.
On Wednesday lawmakers amended a bill that would have raised the minimum age of marriage in North Carolina from 14 to 18, instead electing to keep the minimum age in place but limit marriages of people under 18 to those no more than 4 years older. SB 35 would have updated NC’s minimum age limit for marriage from what is currently the lowest age limit in the country. Another effort to update NC’s marriage laws by eliminating an archaic law that allows people to sue their spouse’s lover for adultery did not pass the House Judiciary committee after pressure from conservative groups.
Legislation under consideration in the General Assembly would require that police body camera footage be released within 48 hours if requested, unless law enforcement petitions a judge to hold a hearing about whether the video should be released. The companion bills, SB 510 and HB 698, seek to change a 2016 law that makes such footage private except by court order, and even then only to people in the footage or their personal representative. Democratic lawmakers spoke at a press conference about the urgent need for this law, citing the recent Elizabeth City police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. Brown’s family was only allowed to see 20 seconds of footage of his shooting. While the Senate bill was filed in early April, the companion House bill was filed Tuesday and passed its first reading Wednesday.
On Wednesday a bill advanced in the NC Senate that would make public employees’ disciplinary records public. SB 355 would apply to teachers, police, and UNC System employees, and would reveal information that had previously been kept private such as reasons for an employee’s demotion.