The North Carolina General Assembly passed its self-imposed “crossover” deadline last week — the date by which many bills must be approved by at least one house to remain eligible for final passage this session. While the crossover rule is more of a guideline than a hard and fast requirement and is regularly ignored by legislative leaders, one can, by surveying the aftermath, get a good indicator of the priorities of legislative leaders and where the session is headed.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this year’s deadline passed without consideration of a raft of excellent proposals that would have helped advance economic opportunity in our state. Here are 15 of those proposals that were lost in the crossover shuffle:
HB 46, Economic Security Act of 2019 — Sponsored by Representatives Fisher and Harrison, this bill was intended to increase the economic security of working North Carolinians. The bill would have increased the state minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, eliminated gender-based discrimination in pay, required employers to provide paid sick and family medical leave, attacked the state’s wage theft crisis, repealed collective bargaining restrictions for public employees, enacted a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and enacted a “ban the box” provision in order to assure that job applicants with criminal records get a better opportunity to enter the workforce.
HB 5/SB 3, Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap — With this proposal, lawmakers in both houses sought to expand Medicaid to close the coverage gap for the 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians who lack adequate access to health care due to their lack of health insurance coverage.
HB 968, Local Government Inflation-Adjusted Minimum Wage — Representatives Farmer-Butterfield and Smith sponsored this bill to provide an inflation-adjusted living wage for local government employees, in order to ensure that they can afford to continue their work in the public sector.
HB 762, Nutritional Assistance for Employment Deserts — Representatives Queen, Turner, Ager, and Gailliard sponsored this bill with the intention of increasing access to food assistance for struggling job seekers. The bill would have allowed for a waiver of the time limits associated with the SNAP able-bodied adult employment requirements. With such a change, able-bodied adults would be able to continue to receive food assistance despite work requirements if they live and are seeking employment in an economically-depressed locale where a lack of available jobs makes the state’s current three-month time limit to find work prohibitive.
HB 946, Free Lunch for Some Students/Stop Lunch Shame — With this bill, Representatives Brockman, and Horn sought to appropriate $5 million to pay for the portion of school lunch not covered by federal funds for those students who are eligible for reduced priced lunch. The bill also requires schools to direct any communications about meal debt to parents rather than children, and cease any behavior that identifies or stigmatizes children who cannot afford a school meal or owe a meal debt.
HB 947, Free Breakfast and Lunch in K-12 Public Schools — Representatives Brockman, Quick, and Autry introduced a similar bill to appropriate funds to provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to students of the public school system.
HB 319, In-State Tuition Equity — Representatives Meyer, Fisher, Harrison, and Brockman sponsored this bill with the intention of increasing educational and future employment opportunities for all North Carolina youth. The bill would have extended the in-state tuition rate for public colleges and universities to immigrant youth, regardless of immigration status, who attended North Carolina schools for at least two consecutive years or received a high school diploma from a North Carolina high school.
HB 713, Unemployment Insurance Changes/Restorations — Sponsored by Representatives Richardson, Gailliard, Insko, and Hawkins, this bill proposed to extend eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits to spouses of relocating military personnel and those who leave work because of a reasonable fear of injury or in cases of domestic violence, undue family hardship, health reasons, or spousal employment relocation. The bill sought to reduce the wait time for unemployment benefits, and eliminate the sliding scale duration of benefits in favor of a restoration of a longer duration of benefits, while eliminating the weekly cap on benefits.
HB 161, Small Business Development Fund Appropriation — Representative Floyd sought to appropriate $2.5 million dollars in nonrecurring funds to provide low-rate loans to historically underutilized businesses in North Carolina, to reduce the historical inequity in the availability of capital for women and people-of-color-owned small businesses. Please note, some provisions have been incorporated into other legislation.
HB 366, Raising Wages For NC Workers — Representatives Fisher, Farmer-Butterfield, Black, and Harrison sponsored this bill that would have increased the state minimum wage to $15 per hour over five years and indexed it to inflation going forward, ended the sub-minimum wage for persons with disabilities; phased out the sub-minimum wage for tipped employees over eight years and ended current minimum wage exemption for agricultural and domestic workers.
SB 629, Funding for Housing Trust Fund — This bill, sponsored by Senators deViere, Peterson, and Garrett, was among several bills that would have appropriated funds and resources toward addressing the increasingly complex issue of adequate access to affordable housing in North Carolina. A number of crucial and relevant issues that have not been addressed, including funding for affordability and the property tax even though some bills remain viable.
HB 692, Modify Homestead Circuit Breaker — Representative Alexander proposed changes to the state’s property tax relief program for older North Carolinians and North Carolinians with disabilities that would have removed the required tax repayment upon qualifying events.
SB 223, Caregiver Relief Act — Senators Robinson, Foushee, Garrett sought to amend state labor laws to provide relief for caregivers by extending the kinds of family relationships covered under the Family Medical Leave Act to include grandparents, grandchildren, step-relatives, in-laws, aunts and uncles.
SB234, Healthy Families & Workplaces/Paid Sick Days — Sponsored by Senators Robinson, Foushee, and Garrett, this bill would have provided for paid leave days for all workers in order to address the health needs of themselves and their families. The bill extended days off to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in order to allow them to interact with the police and court system, and to seek medical and mental health care.
HB 696, North Carolina Families First Act — Representatives Meyer, Batch, Clark, Majeed sought to establish a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program, which would make FMLI benefits available to working people to seek treatment/recover from a serious health condition, serve as a caregiver to a family member with a serious health condition, or to heal from childbirth or bond with a new child after birth, adoption or foster placement.
Heba Atwa is a Policy Advocate at the N.C. Budget & Tax Center.