NC legislators go home, while funding problems and HB2 remain
State lawmakers finished this legislative session as they headed home for the 4th of July. However, funding problems as well as the insufficient changes to House Bill 2 continue to damage North Carolina, both our economy and image.
It seems that some of the few notable moments of progress that were made was when the legislature couldn't pass some of its proposals. Hopefully, as elections come up North Carolina can begin to move forward once more.
The Republican leadership was unable to control its nervous twitch to cut taxes despite aching needs for expanded state services. Faced with complaints that previous tax cuts have favored the wealthy, lawmakers raised the state’s standard tax deduction by $1,000 for single filers and $2,000 for married couples. Most taxpayers will save a few dollars per week, a savings that’s likely to be eaten up by the expansion of the sales tax to include a range of services, including car repairs. This is the so-called middle-income tax cut that would be better called a mirage.
On coal ash disposal, the legislature agreed to cap leaky storage ponds at half of the state’s power plants and provide municipal drinking water to nearby residents who are on wells. That closure plan – which will go forward with no scientific assessment of the risks of leaving the coal ash in place – will save Duke Energy millions of dollars in cleanup costs. Seven remaining sites are slated for full excavation under previous legislation and court settlements involving three sites.
On the other big issue – an issue of the legislature’s creation, HB2 – lawmakers tweaked the law to allow workplace discrimination lawsuits to be filed in state courts but failed to repeal the anti-LGBT law that has cost the state millions of dollars in lost business and stained the state’s reputation.
Some of the best news out of this session was what the legislature couldn’t muster the votes to pass. A proposal for a constitutional amendment capping the state’s income tax at 5.5 percent failed as did an attempt to curtail wind farming in Eastern North Carolina.