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Welcome to This Week at the Capital, your detailed breakdown of the legislation that matters most to your business. The NC Chamber tracks the bills our advocacy team is monitoring, in accordance with our 2023 legislative agenda, describing where those bills are in the legislative process and whether we support or oppose them on your behalf.
Throughout the legislative session, bills of high importance to the business community are added under one of the three pillars of North Carolina Vision 2030, the NC Chamber Foundation’s strategic road map for our state’s future. These pillars include Education and Talent Supply, Competitive Business Climate, and Infrastructure and Growth. Votes and sponsorships on the legislation listed here will ultimately be considered for inclusion in How They Voted, our post-session legislative report card.
August 31, 2023 Edition
Education and Talent Supply
This bill provides a tool to increase the housing supply and boost homeowners’ property rights. It helps to mitigate barriers to access and affordability, as well as addresses current challenges and creates opportunities for a much-needed expanded workforce.
Why we’re supporting: Housing has been identified as a critical factor in the state’s workforce challenges. This bill would specifically address the housing shortages contributing to those challenges.
This bill intends to facilitate the issuance of drivers licenses to individuals who are scheduled to be released from incarceration.
Why we’re watching: This bill establishes procedures and adopts rules to facilitate issuing driver’s licenses to individuals scheduled to be released from incarceration, thereby assisting with re-entry and allowing for a better second chance to enter the workforce.
This bill is intended to remove barriers to employment due to court debt and to appropriate funds to implement a text reminder system for court dates.
Why we’re watching: This bill addresses one of the barriers to employment by reinstating suspended driver’s licenses to those who lost them solely for failure to appear in court, pay fines, penalties, or costs. Thereby, reducing employees’ ability to work.
This bill would require all middle and high school students to complete a career development plan that includes a self-assessment of the student’s aptitudes, skills, values, personality, and career interests. The plan must then offer exploration and identification of pathways for careers aligned with the student’s self-assessment that include the following for each career: identification of needed education, training, and certifications; information on the most cost-efficient path to entry; and opportunities within the school setting to explore and prepare for the career.
Why we’re supporting: The NC Chamber supports this bill as it would work to provide students with tools to identify a path to career that aligns with their skills and interests.
This bill would increase the child care subsidy market rates to the seventy-fifth percentile as recommended by the 2021 Child Care Market Rate Study for children in three-, four-, and five-star-rated child care centers and homes.
Why we’re supporting: The NC Chamber is working to identify and advance child care funding structures, policy reforms, and innovations that do not undermine safety and quality. This legislation is would help communities across the state be more competitive in offering increased access to child care.
This bill would extend the period of time that certain facilities can be held harmless when the Department of Health and Human Services resumes Environmental Rating Scale (ERS) assessments for licensed child care facilities. It also requires the North Carolina Child Care Commission to complete recommendations for star-rating system reform and report those recommendations to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services.
Why we’re supporting: The NC Chamber is working to identify and advance child care funding structures, policy reforms, and innovations that do not undermine safety and quality. This legislation is a key step in modernizing the regulatory environment around this critical infrastructure.
This bill would establish a three-year pilot project to implement the Tri-Share Child Care program, a program that creates a public/private partnership to share the cost of child care equally between employers, eligible employees, and the State to make high-quality child care affordable and accessible for working families, help employers retain and attract employees, and help stabilize child care businesses across the state.
Why we’re supporting: The NC Chamber is working to identify and advance child care funding structures, policy reforms, and innovations that do not undermine safety and quality. This legislation would pilot a program being launched in other states to determine if it is an innovative solution that can be scaled statewide.
This bill allows for a development that meets certain criteria for workforce housing development to be permitted in any zoning district and in any territorial area of a local government.
Why we’re supporting: Housing has been identified as a critical factor in the state’s workforce challenges. This bill would specifically address the housing shortages contributing to those challenges.
These companion bills provide in-state tuition to North Carolina high school students who historically have not been offered that opportunity because of their immigration status.
Why we’re supporting: Immigration has long been a limiting factor to our state’s workforce challenges and this bill is a positive step in achieving balanced reforms. The NC Chamber will score this vote for our annual How They Voted report.
A bill designed to provide flexibilities in child care to address the workforce shortage by recognizing the child development associate (CDA) credential in early childhood education.
Why we’re supporting: This bill paves the way for greater access to child care by providing flexibility to gaining a child development associate credential in early childhood education.
Competitive Business Climate
This bill would require that if a service company charges its customers for missing scheduled service appointments, the service company shall pay to customers the same amount if it fails to deliver service to a customer at a scheduled service appointment time.
Why we’re opposing: This would restrict provider’s ability to triage customers by level of service urgency, which requires them to have some flexibility in adjusting schedules.
This bill would make a number of unwarranted changes to North Carolina statutes surrounding the validity of certain liens for medical charges in civil actions.
Why we’re opposing: House Bill 161 would inflate the amount of charges recoupable by injured parties when certain medical charges are at issue in civil actions, effectively resulting in the potential for phantom damages to be awarded to these parties.
This bill would prohibit pharmacy benefits managers from reimbursing pharmacies less than the national average cost of a drug or less than the pharmacy benefits manager would reimburse itself. They would also be prohibited from assessing certain fees and restricting the right of pharmacies to dispense specialty drugs.
Why we’re opposing: We have concerns about the wide ranging impact of this bill on the business community (large and small employers) and the many ways the bill either sets price floors, requires mandatory reimbursements, or takes away contracting flexibility from businesses. Many of the provisions in this bill have the serious potential to drive up health insurance and health care costs for businesses and their employees. And while it’s our understanding that it does not apply to self-funded plans, this bill applies to small group commercial insurance and would likely result in significant cost increases.
This bill would establish extended producer responsibility for certain producers of packaging materials. The bill would also ban the manufacturing and distribution of packaging materials containing certain substances.
Why we’re opposing: This bill would harm the regulatory environment for the manufacturing sector.
The bill and its companion bill would create a 21-day time limit for local governments to review sealed plans for commercial and multifamily building projects. Should the local government be unable to complete the review in 21 days, a builder and contact the NC Department of Insurance and have a qualified third party engineer review the plans.
Why we’re supporting: The NC Chamber strongly supports this bill as it would streamline the approval of major commercial and multifamily project, which will allow projects to be completed sooner and eliminate costly delays. Under the current process, some regions are taking as long as six months to review plans after they are submitted.
This bill is a bipartisan regulatory reform bill that modernizes decades-old regulations. The bill enables Hospital Service Corporations (HSC), like Blue Cross NC, to continue to serve its members and employers through smart investments in new capabilities, partnerships and services that will improve health outcomes and make health care more affordable and accessible.
Why we’re supporting: This bill works to improve the competitive business climate among health insurers which could generate more business and revenue in the state. Additionally, it addresses health care challenges employers face and builds upon the pro-business policies and reform lawmakers have created to make North Carolina the top state for business. The bill sponsors have done great work to address a lot of the concerns and misinformation about the proposal and we support this for what it has the ability to do for North Carolina patients. Additional investments also will be made in NC as a result of this bill.
This bill would enact a lemon law requiring manufacturers fix or replace appliances under warranty within 45 days.
Why we’re opposing: This bill would have harmed North Carolina’s regulatory climate for manufacturers by expanding liability and increasing the likelihood for frivolous lawsuits. This bill would also align North Carolina with California, the only other state in the country with a state Appliance Lemon Law. Our manufacturers already fall under federal rules related to warranties, and we believe this bill is unnecessary. This bill has since been withdrawn from committee.
The bill would reduce the 2T or “paper flow” rules from 120 gallons to 70 gallons of wastewater flow per bedroom, per day. This would substantially increase capacity in existing systems in North Carolina and end some sewer moratoriums in the state. The bill also includes Chamber-supported language from the 2023 Farm Act which changes the definition of Waters of North Carolina back to Waters of the United States.
Under this bill, the North Carolina Department of Transportation would also be exempt from stormwater projects with linear transportation projects.
Amends GS 58-50-61 definition of utilization review (a set of formal techniques designed to monitor the use of or evaluate the clinical necessity, appropriateness, efficacy or efficiency of health care services, procedures, providers, or facilities) so that the techniques also include prior authorization.
Why we’re opposing: Any reduction in the ability of health plans to appropriately manage utilization will have a significant upward impact on health care costs for consumers and employers.
This bill lowers the threshold for level funded health care plans from 20 employees down to 5 employee for businesses.
Why we’re supporting: At a time when healthcare costs are incredibly high, this bill provides additional options for small employers when purchasing health care. “Level funding plans” allow businesses to access health insurance at a lower cost by requiring that they carry extensive stoploss protection. If the cost of care is less than what the employer paid in, the employer retains a portion of the surplus. If the cost of care exceeds this, their stoploss coverage will be used.
This bill would change North Carolina laws regarding attribution of negligence in personal injury lawsuits, moving North Carolina from a contributory negligence standard to a comparative negligence standard. The contributory negligence standard is based on the notion that a plaintiff generally should be ineligible to recover damages from a situation caused or exacerbated by their own negligence, while the comparative negligence standard allows damages to be assessed based on an allocation of negligence among the parties involved.
Why we’re opposing: This bill would change a longstanding aspect of North Carolina law that contributes to a well-established interplay of checks and balances on our civil liability system. This system of checks and balances helps promote the fair and reasonable treatment of both plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury cases and sets our competitive legal climate apart from those of most other states. Components of this system also ensure that “contributory negligence” does not bar a plaintiff’s recovery in just cases, like when a defendant is found to have engaged in willful or wanton misconduct. Moving away from the contributory negligence standard would raise litigation costs on job creators, and threaten businesses and individuals alike with higher liability insurance rates, damaging legal predictability and undermining the reestablishment of a top-10 business legal climate here in North Carolina. One noted 1991 study concluded that any state abandoning contributory negligence should expect to see significant liability cost increases across their tort systems. Last year, the NC Chamber, NC Chamber Legal Institute, and a coalition of aligned organizations sent a joint letter to members of the N.C. Senate urging them to protect North Carolina’s balanced civil liability system by opposing a similar bill (SB 477 2021).
Allows the Secretary of Environmental Quality to order the responsible party to pay the public water system costs incurred in removing, correcting, or abating any adverse effects upon the water supply due to the contamination for which the person is responsible when he/she determines that the concentration of any PFAS in a public water system, including any raw water intake, regardless of the system’s raw water source, including surface water, public well, or pumped groundwater storage, has exceeded a permissible concentration level (as specified). Defines responsible party as a PFAS manufacturer whose discharge or release of PFAS into the environment has caused or contributed to the presence of PFAS in a public water system.
Why we’re opposing: This bill would harm North Carolina’s liability climate by expanding liability on manufacturers.
This bill, among many other technical changes, makes a significant change to the pass-through-entity eligibility rules to allow tiered partnerships (where the partnership has partnerships as partners) to take the same tax benefit as other partnerships, individuals, estates, and trusts.
Why we’re supporting: This enhances a competitive tax climate.
This bill would make numerous changes to laws impacting consumer legal funding contracts in North Carolina. It legalizes and provides a regulatory framework for consumer legal funding contracts and would permit consumer legal funding companies to pay non-recourse loans to an individual who is experiencing financial hardship during litigation. The bill establishes rate caps and charge maximums on these types of loans, while also expressly requiring that these types of loans be subject to disclosure and discovery during a case.
Why we’re monitoring: We opposed the bill last year (SB 357 2021) due to our concern that third-party litigation funding would increase the number of or prolong frivolous lawsuits. We have been engaged in negotiations to ensure that the bill filed this year would include several needed changes in order for us to remain neutral on the legislation. While we tend to not support anything that prolongs the litigation process or creates friction while settling a case, we believe the framework presented in this bill will lead to a balanced understanding of consumer legal funding and its impact on litigation in North Carolina.
This data-privacy bill would specifically enumerate consumer rights to access, deletion, portability, and to opt out. It also includes a 45-day period to comply with a consumer request with additional time allowed if requested. The bill provides for Attorney General enforcement of the chapter and a fine of $7,500 per violation. Thankfully, and of note, this bill does not include a private right of action like previous bills we’ve seen on this topic.
Why we’re monitoring: The business community continues to monitor proposals that would regulate consumer privacy in North Carolina. A growing number of states have data-privacy laws and the patchwork effect of this makes it confusing and cumbersome for businesses to remain in compliance. There are a number of exemptions in this proposal and we are working to figure out the exact impact of this sweeping change.
This bill would amend employment security laws to establish short-time compensation in North Carolina.
Why we’re opposing: This bill does not protect the integrity and solvency of our state’s unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund. It will place unnecessary burdens on job creators who pay the taxes that support the UI Trust Fund.
The 2023 Farm Act has a number of provisions impacting the agricultural, forestry, and business community this year. The NC Chamber and partners of the agribusiness community are backing section 15 of the bill, Clarify Definition of Wetlands. The Bill would re-couple the definition of waters restricted to “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). Since 1996, the definition of “Waters of North Carolina” has been tied to the Federal Definition, or Waters of the United States. In 2019, under a triennial review process traditionally focused on grammatical errors and technical and clarifying changes, the NC Environmental Management Commission changed the definition of Waters and de-coupled it from WOTUS to a a broad, all-encompassing definition of “Waters of North Carolina” that can apply to any waters not regulated by the federal government, including stormwater runoff, irrigation, cattle, stock, and farm ponds, roadside and farm ditches, and imperial streams. This change led to the EMC unlawfully attempting to regulate waters not regulated by WOTUS.
Why we’re supporting: Landowners and job creators now face costly regulatory, permitting, consulting, and mitigation requirements, and this clarifying change maintains that state regulatory jurisdiction for waters does not exceed the federal government. Additionally, housing is an issue that impacts business operations and the workforce, and this bill would ensure that developers who may impact “Waters of the State” only have to go through the federal permitting process.
Ultimately, the current definition of waters restricts the available land property owners can use for business or personal use, and the NC Chamber supports the 2023 Farm act for this reason.
This bill provides a small, needed change to the Chamber-backed Remote Online Notarization bill passed last year. The bill expands the use of remote online notarization to the execution of a death beneficiary change, eliminating a common barrier for citizens trying to ensure their wishes are respected upon their death.
Why we’re supporting: This bill would make it easier, more convenient, and more secure for citizens to take the critical step of designating or changing who will receive account payouts following their death.
The bill would reduce the 2T or “paper flow” rules at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality from 120 gallons to 70 gallons of wastewater flow per bedroom, per day. Currently they are at 120 gallons per day per bedroom and have been in place since the 1950s. The science shows average flow for new construction is at 45 gallons per day per bedroom, and this was a negotiated compromise with stakeholders to add capacity to existing and new wastewater system hookups.
Why we’re supporting: With the low-flow water saving appliances and other water reduction technology in new construction and manufacturing this is a needed, 0-cost way to nearly double wastewater capacity and end some sewer moratoriums in areas of the state.
This bill enacts needed reforms to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality stormwater program permits. It includes Chamber-backed reforms such as: shot clocks starting on day of submittal, shorter shot clocks with deemed approved provisions, permit fee reimbursements for late permits, and a study on the use of artificial intelligence for permit completeness reviews among others.
Why we’re supporting: Some parts of our state are experiencing six- to nine-month delays for stormwater express permits, and this much-needed reform will add accountability and efficiency to the program.
The NC Chamber is involved in substantial rulemaking reform of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) in 150B and fully supports this bill. While often unnoticed and a very complicated area of law, the APA has massive consequences on how regulations are imposed on job creators. The Chamber is proud to represent your interests and protect the predictability of rulemaking on job creators.
Why we’re supporting: This is the most substantial APA rulemaking reform of the decade, and is greatly needed to increase regulatory certainty and reduce the number of unlawful and frivolous regulations that rulemaking commissions are attempting to enact on the regulated community.
This bill enacts needed reforms to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality stormwater program permits and includes Chamber-backed reforms, such as shot clocks starting on day of submittal, shot clocks pausing when the agency asks for additional information, shorter shot clocks with approved provisions, and permit fee reimbursements for late permits.
The bill also requires the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission to develop a new Fast-Track Permitting program for stormwater. This is similar to the Fast-Track Sewer Permitting program, which requires that a project is correctly designed and certified by a design professional. Inspections would not be allowed under the fast track program.
Why we’re supporting: Some parts of our state are experiencing six- to nine-month delays for stormwater express permits, and this muchneeded reform will add accountability and efficiency to the program.
Infrastructure and Growth Leadership
This bill would limit North Carolina counties and municipalities’ ability to prohibit consumer choice over energy services based upon the type and source of energy to be delivered.
Why we’re supporting: Job creators, particularly those that pay commercial and industrial energy rates, must have flexibility in the management of their energy services to keep costs affordable and predictable. This bill ensures that employers in North Carolina will be able to choose energy sources – including natural gas, propane, and renewable natural gas sources – that enable them to maintain an optimal energy strategy, best suited to their specific power, heating,
and cost requirements.
This bill would allow local governments to raise property taxes to overbuild government-owned broadband infrastructure and compete directly with private providers.
Why we’re opposing: This bill would harm North Carolina’s business and regulatory climate by repealing the 2013 Chamber-supported level playing field statute.
The NC TEN Commission, a group of stakeholders led by Senator Vickie Sawyer, met at the end of 2022 to vote on which transportation revenue items should be considered by legislators during the 2023 session. The conversation centered around four areas of revenue changes: registration fees, user fees, sales taxes, and technology fees. Stakeholders broke into groups, discussed each of these buckets and then proposed action steps.
This legislation is the result of that work and would enact a number of policy changes to diversify transportation infrastructure funding, including raising the fee for EVs and establishing a fee for hybrid vehicles, removing the Highway Use Tax cap, creates a fee on prearranged transportation and ride shares, and raises the cap on public-private partnerships across the state.
Why we’re supporting: Creating a modernized transportation funding structure is a key priority as we work to keep our residents and visitors safe, improve our quality of life, and meet the demands of a growing state.
The bill would allow for a credit worthy locality to receive a grant anticipation note from the Department of Transportation to pursue private lending in order to accelerate local projects already identified as a State Transportation Improvement (STI) project. The money would then be paid back to the locality when the project comes back up on the STI.
Why we’re monitoring: We are interested in the novel way this bill attempts to allow for local governments to finance new transportation projects. However, given our strong support for the State’s Strategic Transportation Investment Prioritization and our unwavering support for making data-based decisions about transportation investment, we continue to review the bill in an effort to make it stronger. We applaud lawmakers for thinking creatively about transportation financing.