This week the Senate Judiciary Committee considered regulations for the operation of … fully autonomous motor vehicles on the public highways of North Carolina. Within five years, the state will have on the streets and highways motor vehicles equipped with an automated driving system that will not at any time require an occupant to perform any portion of the dynamic driving system is engaged, the bill reads. Senators wondered about the safety of a 12-year child put into a car that is programmed to take here to school. The regulations also address responsibility if the vehicle is involved in a crash … and who changes a flat tire … and many other issues. The bill exempts owners from a required driver’s license if they are not operating the vehicle. Sen. Paul Lowe of Winston-Salem summed up what other committee members were thinking
Are we in the age of the Jetsons? Representatives from General Motors were present to answer questions from the Senators.
The $23 billion budget was sent to Governor Cooper who will sign it or veto it or let it become law without his signature. The deadline is Sunday, July 2. In either case, the budget is on track to become law as the Legislature has a veto-proof majority. A partisan move by the Senate to cut half the legal staff – some 123 lawyers – from the budget of Attorney General Josh Stein could prompt Gov. Roy Cooper to use the veto stamp.
The budget is a success for the hosiery and textile industry supporters of the Textile Technology Center and the Manufacturing Solutions Center. Both centers received full funding for their operating and training budget. Language in the budget codifies the MSC practice of investing earned income for growth of the center. (A provision added for the Textile Center four years ago). And franchise tax was removed from purchases of new manufacturing equipment. Also manufacturing equipment does not have to be recertified by safety inspectors if moved or sold.
The budget overall is friendly to business with adjustments to regulatory requirements and lower income taxes. TRENDS will provide details in the budget in the weeks and months ahead.
The General Assembly in North Carolina has made some significant changes in laws governing possession of firearms and where they can be carried. It is legal for guns to be carried into restaurants, on college campuses, in bars and places of entertainment. They also can be brought into the workplace with permission of management. Businesses are allowed to prevent guns in the workplace and should post notices to that effect in personnel offices, etc.
Paul T. O’Day, president and Counsel for the American Fiber Manufacturers Assn has died. He had headed the AFMA since 1984 and led the initial implementation of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA). He also was the lead negotiator in textiles and clothing for the NAFTA agreement. During his 34 years he participated in several leading U.S. Trade agreements involving textiles.
Re-districting of House and Senate districts looms as an issue that could bring the Legislature back into session later this year. Twice the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that 28 districts were created by illegal gerrymandering that packed racial minorities into districts. The map must be re-drawn, the court ruled. But the date for re-redistricting was not specified. It could be in 2017 and require a special election.
In this political environment there are a number of reasons why lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly are ready to leave Raleigh. Bills involving less control over gun sales, environmental proposals to loosen protection for rivers and streams, pay increases for only some teachers and state employees…all have prompted a grumpy response from a lot of voters.
This week longtime observers in the General Assembly, including lobbyists, are hearing that leaders have set an adjournment date of June 30…or before. They are told that budget subcommittee conferees must have their recommendations for the top chairs by early next week. Two days later, the drafts go to the corners offices—Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore who will have the final say. A floor vote in the full House and Senate would be on the calendar somewhere around June 20.
That background noise in the Legislative building could be the rehearsal for the fat lady who sings when the clock stops and the adjournment gavel comes down.
Dan St. Louis, manager, reports the Manufacturing Solutions Center has received a contract from the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America to test specific yarns and direct the prototyping of a product using the yarn. This is the first project assigned to the North Carolina consortium that has applied to be a national Fabric Discovery Center. The Textile Technology Center and N.C. State University and the MSC have pursued the project with support from key leaders in the N.C. General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper. AFFOA was created at MIT to push revolutionary research and development for products used by the U.S. Military.
The budget document in both the House and Senate versions includes important language that puts in the State Code the ability for the Manufacturing Solutions Center to use earned income for purchases without going through the State Purchasing and Contracts bureaucracy. As a result, the center can use non-state money from fees to acquire equipment for training and research and testing. Similar language for the Textile Technology Center was approved four years ago.
The leaders in the N.C. House started rolling our their version of a 2017-18 fiscal year spending plan. And as expected, the House budget writers took a different approach to taxes and spending, adding their own priorities.
The House version eliminates taxes on manufacturing machinery, a priority for the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council over the past six years. Last year Sen. Bob Rucho, a Senate Finance chair, killed the provision, but he no longer serves in the Senate. Prospects are better this year when House and Senate conferees hammer out compromises over the next few weeks. It is estimated the action will save manufacturers $25 million a year. For entrepreneurial start-up companies, the saving is significant.
This week House appropriations chairs begin to craft their versions of a $23 billion spending plan. They expect to hear from unhappy teachers and also state retirees who had wanted an increase in their pensions. The House will its own ideas about taxes. Both Chambers are concerned about unfunded liabilities for the retirement and health insurance for state employees. A provision in the Senate draft would end health insurance for retired state employees who are added to the payroll after June 30, 2018.