Last Week in Raleigh
Items reviewed in our weekly Advocacy meetings with the NC Chamber of Commerce:
SB447: Living Wage for NC Workers
This bill would mandate a phased minimum wage increase over five years in NC, resulting in a minimum wage of $15/hour by 2026, with automatic annual increases taking effect after this period tied to the cost of living. It would also mandate various other changes to wage requirements. The NC Chamber opposes this legislation. They believe this to be a burdensome mandate that would restrict NC employers in their ability to predictably manage their operations. They believe it would be a better strategy to align our talent development systems with the needs of our modern workforce to connect more North Carolinians with high-paying jobs. LATEST ACTION: SB447 was filed on March 31st, and was referred to the Senate Rules and Operations Committee on April 1st.
SB477: Victims' Fair Treatment Act
This bill would change NC laws regarding attribution of negligence in personal injury lawsuits, moving NC from a contributory negligence standard to a comparative negligence standard. Under the contributory negligence standard, the failure of an injured plaintiff to act prudently to avoid injury bars them from recovering damages, while the comparative negligence standard allows damages to be assessed based on an allocation of negligence among the parties involved. The NC Chamber opposes this bill as it would change NC's longstanding laws that have set our competitive legal climate apart from other of most other states. It would raise compliance costs for job creators and threaten businesses and individuals alike with higher insurance rates, damaging legal predictability and undermining the reestablishment of a top-10 business legal climate here in NC. LATEST ACTION: SB477 was filed on April 1st and referred to the Senate Rules & Operations Committee on April 5th.
HB331 / SB320: 2021 Unemployment Insurance Reform
These companion bills would make significant changes to unemployment insurance (UI) laws in NC, most notably by raising the maximum weekly state UI payment from $350 to $500 and expanding the maximum window of eligibility from 12 to 26 weeks. The NC Chamber recommends opposing these as they believe permanent changes to the state's UI system should be made with stakeholder input. If action is taken without that input, it could threaten the long-term integrity of the state's UI fund and create doubt about the ability to provide relief for out-of-work North Carolinians in the future. LATEST ACTION: HB 331 passed the House unanimously on March 25th and was been referred to the Senate Rules and Operations Committee on March 29th.
HB373 / SB228: Allow Employers to Offer EPO Benefit Plans
These companion bills would allow small and local businesses in NC the ability to offer exclusive provider benefit plans, or EPOs, as a health insurance option for their employees. The NC Chamber recommends support of these bills as they increase coverage choices for small businesses by adding EPOs as an option for providing health coverage go employees at potentially lower cost than competing options. LATEST ACTION: HB373 was filed on March 23rd and on 3/24 was referred to the House Health Committee. SB228 was referred to the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee on March 18th.
SB674: Carbon Tax
This bill would mandate tax on carbon emissions, taxing distributors on any carbon-based fuel product sold, used, or entered into the state for purposes of distribution o ruse within North Carolina. For calendar year 2022, this tax would be exerted at a rate of $20 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that would be emitted through combustion of the product. For calendar years after 2022 and until the tax reaches $50, the rate would increase $5 over the previous year's rate adjusted for the rate of inflation as defined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. After reaching $50, the tax amount would adjust only by this inflation percentage. The NC Chamber opposes this bill as the tax would substantially harm NC job creators and particularly the manufacturers that drive so much of our state's production. It would raise the costs of doing business and introduce an unnecessary tax burden that would hurt NC's economy as we pursue a successful relaunch. They recognize the importance of protecting human health and preserving the environment, and believe it can be done through more reasonable taxes and regulations than this one. LATEST ACTION: SB674 was filed on April 7th, and on April 8th was referred to the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.