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.
HB107 / SB114: DES COVID Modifications and Technical Changes
These are the companion bills we've been following that make modifications to unemployment insurance measures passed in 2020 COVID-19 relieve legislation. Among the changes would be to keep the base contribution rate for experience-rated employers at 1.9%, extend the deadline for federal COVID-19 unemployment relief until the end of 2021, and award businesses a tax credit for contributions made to the UI Fund payable under G.S. 96-9.92 and due for the calendar year 2020. LATEST ACTION: HB107 has been referred to the House Finance Committee. SB114 passed the General Assembly with unanimous support and was signed into law by Governor Cooper on Tuesday, March 30th.
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.
HB43: Protect North Carolina Workers Act
This bill would expand the number of NC employers required to participate in the federal E-Verify program for employment eligibility purposes when making new hires. Currently, businesses with 25 or more employees are required to use E-Verify; HB43 would expand this requirement to include all NC businesses with 5 more more employees. The NC Chamber recommends opposing this bill. Their position is that NC's current E-Verify law, which was negotiated with input from a broad array of stakeholders already has NC in alignment with federal E-Verify treatment. The changes in this bill would pile unwarranted compliance costs on small businesses across NC and damage the state's competitive business climate at a time when we should be doing everything in our power to support job creators and position ourselves as an attractive place for small businesses to invest and grow. LATEST ACTION: HB43 passed the first reading of the House Commerce Committee on February 3rd.