News & Updates From Senator Edwards
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From My Senate Desk
Last week was of more the brisk pace that I expected when I was elected to the Senate. With most of the statewide bills now behind us we have turned our attention to local bills- those which affect less than 15 counties, as well as constitutional amendments. These are bills that do not require the governor's signature, therefore they are not subject to a veto.

Following are some of the highlights from the most recent vigorous week. But first, I have included a couple of updates from the courts. It has been pointed out to me that while court action often proceeds legislative action, many of the rulings are not covered by media back at home- especially if they are ruled in favor of the legislature. I will work to provide such updates in the future. For now, here are two.

Federal Judge Upholds 2018 Cancelled Judicial Primary

Last year the legislature took action, which I supported, to eliminate primaries in the 2018 judicial elections. We took this action because we were in the process of studying judicial redistricting options and selection processes for judges. I serve on both the Senate Judicial Reform Committee and the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting. These are the committees initially tasked to study these issues then recommend solutions. It became obvious that our work would not conclude before the primary filing deadlines.

Until these districts and selection processes were finalized it would have created mass confusion, and likely lawsuits, had we allowed a primary election to take place ahead of passing finalized legislation. While the elimination of primaries for 2018 was not ideal, it was the best solution for the circumstances.  

Our actions were challenged in court and withstood a bumpy ride. First an injunction was ordered against the action by a U.S. District Court Judge. Later, that ruling was vacated by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs then filed an appeal. 

The result of that appeal was that US District Court Judge Catherine Eagles announced on June 19th that she would rule in favor of the Republican defendants in a lawsuit brought by Democrats regarding the cancellation of this year's judicial primaries. While the full decision is not yet available, Judge Eagles wanted to announce her decision early to allow judges to begin filing for seats this week. A one day trial was held this month. Democrats claimed that the elimination of primaries violated their First Amendment right to association.

US Supreme Court Rules That States Can Require Internet Retailers to Charge Sales Tax

On Thursday, The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of a state's ability to require online retailers to collect sales tax. This ruling reverses a 1967 ruling that stated a state could not force mail order companies to collect sales tax unless the store had a physical presence (i.e.,distribution center, store or headquarters) in the state where the buyer lives. This previous ruling cited that mail order purchases were minor compared to in-store purchases, a statement that is no longer a reflection of our generation's purchasing habit. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of the South Dakota law that required all but the smallest retailers (including Internet companies) to collect sales tax in the state.

Last year, ahead of this ruling, the NC Senate passed S81: Sales Tax Economic Nexus For Remote Sales. I supported this legislation and the NC House did not take up the matter.
This ruling helps level the playing field for NC merchants who bear the cost for brick and mortar to do business in NC. The extra tax revenue can have a substantial effect on our state. This tax collection can help give more money to our schools, boost our revenue surplus, and more. According to the US Census Bureau, E-commerce made up a total of 9.5% of all retail purchases across the US this past quarter. E-commerce is a huge market in NC and this decision by the Supreme Court will positively affect our state and level the playing field for our retailers. According to research done by the General Accounting office, collecting sales tax on e-commerce products could give states almost $13 billion a year in tax revenue. 

District 48 Local Bills
I was successful in getting three of my bills through committee, then passed by the Senate last week. These included voluntary deannexation of parcels by the City of Hendersonville, between the towns of Montreat and Black Mountain, and for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to maintain the authority to construct and maintain buildings on the property of A/B Technical College without approval of the NC Community College System.  

I expect to have two more bills make it to the Senate floor this week. I am working feverishly to see that all six are voted on by the House by the end of session. 

Legislature Votes to 
Override Vetoes

The Senate members (including me) voted to override Governor Roy Cooper's politically charged vetoes of Senate Bill 486 and Senate Bill 757. The Senate voted 31 to 14 to pass Senate Bill 486 and Senate Bill 757 and override Governor Cooper's vetoes. Senate Bill 486 works to protect elections from outside interference. This bill will strengthen election security efforts by implementing certain requirements to be upheld during elections. These requirements are supported by the bipartisan NC State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. Senate Bill 486 enables a few changes to elections laws, such as creating a Class 2 misdemeanor for anyone that is not an elections official that tries to obtain information from a voter registration form and authorizing police officials to hold offices simultaneously with other elective offices. Senate Bill 486 will be applied to elections following the passing of this bill into law. 

Senate Bill 757 enacts changes to Superior Court and District Court districts that will be phased in with 2018 elections and will become effective in 2019. The process of phasing in this bill will not conflict with the elective terms of current Superior Court or District Court judges. This bill will make changes to Superior Court districts in Mecklenburg, Pender, and New Hannover counties. Also, District Court districts in Mecklenburg and Wake counties will be changed. One new judgeship will be addedto the Superior Court for Mecklenburg County, and two new judgeships will be addedto the District Court for Wake County. Regarding Wake County's additional judgeships, one judgeship will be addedJanuary 1, 2019, and the second will be added January 1, 2021. 

Constitutional Amendment: The Right to Hunt and Fish

This Constitutional Amendment will be put in front of voters if the House passes it. This amendment, if passed by the voters, will insert language into our state's constitution that protects every citizen's right to hunt and fish. It would include the right to use traditional methods to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly to promote wildlife conservation and management and preserve the future of hunting and fishing.This bill passed the Senate 44-4.

Build NC Bond Act of 2018

This Act was passed by the legislature and on Wednesday was signed into law by Governor Cooper. This legislation, which I supported, authorizes the issuance of Build NC Bonds which are bonds in which the proceeds are only used for Division Needs Projects and Regional Impact Projects laid out in the Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) law.  These bonds have two requirements: 1) within 2% of 50% of the net proceeds from the bonds must be used for Division Needs Projects, 2) the remainder of the proceeds must be used for Regional Impact Projects.

These bonds will allow local areas the ability to quickly access funds for transportation needs and help improve infrastructure statewide.

On a Lighter Note
Because we would all feel better if we look for reasons to laugh...

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