This article appears in the August 2017 edition of North Carolina Lawyer. The N.C. General Assembly convenes again on Aug. 3, 2017.
The first five months of the 2017 legislative long session proceeded a bit more slowly than usual, but the action was fast and furious in June. Much of the early focus on Jones Street and in the Executive Mansion revolved around two highly controversial issues: the ongoing power struggle between Gov. Cooper and the Republican-dominated legislature and the repeal of House Bill 2.
Although the power struggle between the governor and Republican legislators continues to make its way through the courts, the March repeal of House Bill 2 cleared the way for consideration of other legislative priorities such as the budget.
Given these factors, the North Carolina Bar Association’s legislative agenda did not gain traction until spring. Throughout the process, the Bar Association’s lobbyists and volunteers worked closely with legislators, staff and other stakeholders to ensure that our bills were received favorably.
As a result, the team was successful in moving several pieces of legislation, some involving complex changes, even when most legislation was still stagnant. H343: Enforcement of DVPO on Appeal and H229: GSC Technical Corrections 2017, both containing NCBA-requested changes, had been enacted into law as of July 13.
Other NCBA-supported bills signed by the end of July were:
- S621: Business Contracts/Choice of Law and Forum (Business Law Section)
- S569: Uniform Power of Attorney Act (Estate Planning & Fiduciary Law Section)
- S450: Uniform Trust Decanting Act (Estate Planning & Fiduciary Law Section)
- H772: Amend NC International Arbitration/Conciliation Act (International Law & Practice Section)
Another bill that is important to the NCBA and likely to pass is S582: Agency Technical Corrections. Other NCBA legislation that is still alive for the 2018 short session includes S622: Business Corporation Act Revisions, S451: Joint Survivorship Clarifications, S419: Planning/Development Changes, H852: Real Property Technical Corrections, and H776: Adoption Law Changes.
The NCBA was also heavily involved this session in the fight to preserve legal aid funding. The state typically allows $1.7 million each year to be used to finance general services at three legal aid organizations. While this funding is often opposed in the Senate, this year the House removed the funding from the budget.
Despite our efforts, and those of many other organizations, to reinstate the provision during the budget process, it was not included in the final Conference Report.
Additionally, the Bar Association has closely monitored H717 which would revise judicial districts across the state. This bill was made public during the last week of session to the surprise of many, and numerous judges and the NCBA membership acted quickly to slow it down.
The General Assembly adjourned in the early morning hours of June 30 but will reconvene Aug. 3, Sept. 6 and before Nov. 15 to consider, among other things, veto overrides, local, judicial and legislative redistricting, Conference Committee reports, constitutional amendments, and appointment confirmations. Your legislative team will be walking the halls on Jones Street on your behalf, and we appreciate the opportunity to do so.
Michelle Frazier is an attorney specializing in government relations at Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP in Raleigh and proudly serves as contract lobbyist for the NCBA. She can be reached at 919-389-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.