This Week at the NCGA: Bills introduced to revamp economic development tiers, ban cashless businesses

This Week at the NCGA: Bills introduced to revamp economic development tiers, ban cashless businesses

February 5th, 2023

The first full week of business at the North Carolina General Assembly wrapped up on Thursday, albeit with just no vote sessions, bill introductions and a few committee meetings in the House and Senate.

Among the bills introduced between Jan. 25 and Feb. 3 include:
House Bill 13, co-sponsored by Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort), calls for a legislative study commission to examine revamping, finding substitutes, or even eliminating the use of the current tier system to determine eligibility for economic development grants.

Leaders across the state say the current system prevents rural counties on the edge of metropolitan areas that have successful economies like Currituck from accessing a number of grants and financial incentive programs.

HB20, entitled the Cash Commitment Act and co-sponsored by Kidwell and Rep. Ed Goodwin (R-Chowan), was filed in response to a number of businesses that went cashless during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It would require businesses to accept cash with a few caveats, reports Business North Carolina, with one of the bill’s primary sponsors noting that cash was once the only form of payment accepted in the country.

“We have strayed so far from this history that many NC retail businesses have moved to an almost cashless system,” said Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus). “Not only does this disregard federal law related to cash, but it more importantly discriminates against whole segments of North Carolina citizens with no access to bank cards of any sort, nor banks in general. These NC citizens are often represented in the rural counties of our state as well as the many neglected areas of our urban centers.”

Senate Bill 42, would create the Commercial Property Assessed Capital Expenditure and Resilience program administered by the State Energy Office, in a bill that “authorizes the establishment of a statewide commercial property assessed clean energy program that local governments may voluntarily join to allow free and willing owners of commercial, industrial, agricultural, nonprofit, and multifamily residential properties with five or more dwelling units to obtain low-cost, long-term financing for qualifying improvements, including energy efficiency, water conservation, renewable energy, and resilience projects”.

The C-PACE program would allow any local government unit to “participate by allowing direct financing between capital providers and property owners within its jurisdictional boundaries as the means to finance qualified projects. The direct financing shall be secured by placing a voluntary assessment and lien on the property”.

HB15, co-sponsored by Kidwell who is a co-chair of the powerful House Finance Committee, would “study the costs and benefits reasonably anticipated from excluding groceries from local sales taxes, including increased purchasing power for lower-income residents of the State and local revenue losses.”

If approved, the study commission would report its findings to the General Assembly in 2024.

H41 and S53, companion bills in the House and Senate entitled “Hotel Safety Issues”, is a second attempt to amend state law that applies to regulations people who stay in hotels or motels longer than 90 days.

Current law does not grants tenants in short-term accommodations who stay beyond 90 days similar protections from eviction as tenants of long-term rentals.

According to Sen. Hanig, the same bill was vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper on the advice of Attorney General Josh Stein.

The measure would “clarify that occupants of accommodations provided by hotels, motels and similar lodgings do not create a tenancy and are not subject to Chapter 42 of the General Statutes, and to clarify that these occupancies are governed by the statutes relating to inns, hotels, and other transient occupancies”.

The bill would also add recreational vehicle parks and campgrounds to the statute.

HB21, entitled the Energy Security Act of 2023, would require power companies to have 24-hour security surveillance systems at substations in response to an attack on a power facility in December in Moore County that knocked out power to tens of thousands for over a week.

S58, which is backed by Sen. Hanig and Sen. Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico), would increase jail time and fines for those convicted of attacking critical infrastructure.

HB48 rolls back six rules adopted in 2022 by the state’s Appraisal Board and subsequently approved by the state’s Rules Review Commission.

SB16, “Preserving Competition in Health Care Act”, would give the state’s attorney general more power to review, and potentially block, hospital mergers.

SB4 would exempt local, state and federal government retirees with at least 20 years from state income taxes on their retirement income.”

A similar bill, HB46, has been filed in the House. It does not specify a length of service for government employees, and has a provision adding the beneficiary of a military retiree as exempt.

SB15 would require hands-free use of all mobile devices while driving.

HB17, another bill co-sponsored by Kidwell, would amend the state Constitution to have State Board of Education members be elected rather than appointed, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction would become the board’s chair.

The amendment would have to be approved by the House and Senate by a three-fifths majority, and then North Carolina voters in a referendum.

The House Education K-12 Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday.

SB40, co-sponsored by Sen. Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck), would repeal the requirement to obtain a permit to purchase a pistol.

S66, filed by Sen. Sanderson is a placeholder bill for any legislation that would apply only to the entire First Senate District, including Carteret, Chowan, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Washington counties.

Related stories:
Essential housing, I-87, economic tier restructuring among top local priorities for 2023 General Assembly session

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