Weekly Legislative Update


North Carolina South Carolina

North Carolina

By Betsy Bailey & Victor Barbour
May 15, 2024

Immigration Bill

Sheriffs would be required to temporarily hold inmates in jail that federal immigration agents believe are in the country illegally under a bill passed by the North Carolina Senate on Thursday. But unlike two previous versions of the bill successfully shot down by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto in the last five years, the measure stands a strong chance of becoming law thanks to GOP seat gains.

The Senate voted along party lines for the measure in a 28-16 vote. Now the legislation returns to the House, where Speaker Tim Moore said he supports the measure and that his chamber could vote on the Senate changes as soon as this week.

An affirmative House vote would send the measure to Cooper, who could veto it again. But a GOP supermajority in both chambers since last year means Cooper’s veto could be overridden and the bill enacted if Republicans stay united.

The bill, sponsored by several key House leaders, centers around the issue of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers. Those are requests for local law enforcement to notify federal immigration agents about an inmate believed to be in the country unlawfully and maintain custody.

State Republicans have said the need for the bill is apparent as several sheriffs across the state, particularly from Democratic urban counties, haven’t cooperated with immigration agents.

“Most sheriffs comply, but we have a few who don’t want to,” said Wilson County Republican Sen. Buck Newton on Thursday. “This has been going on for years and years and years that it’s reached the point of critical mass.”

Under the proposed changes, all sheriffs or jailers are required to hold inmates accused of serious crimes for up to 48 hours if a detainer is issued. It also mandates the involvement of judicial officials to order law enforcement to hold the inmate in question, according to the bill.

A Senate amendment to the bill would allow anyone to file a complaint with the state Attorney’s General Office if they believe a jail administrator is not complying with the law. The legislation would go into effect on July 1.

Senate Republicans used a parliamentary maneuver to table another amendment from Sen. Mujtaba Mohammed, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, that would allow a district attorney to file an objection to a detainer on behalf of a crime victim who seeks prosecution against an inmate in North Carolina. A district judge would have the ultimate say over whether a jail administrator would comply with a detainer request.

“You need to join me in supporting victims of crime and victims of domestic violence and prosecutors across our state by allowing them to seek justice by voting no,” Mohammed said.

Current state law already asks sheriffs or other law enforcement officials to check an inmate’s legal status if they are charged with serious crimes. If the jailer cannot determine someone’s legal status, a query should be sent to ICE.

Two previous iterations of the bill failed to become law in 2019 and 2022 when Cooper vetoed them and Democrats held enough seats to block an override veto.

In response to the legislation, the governor’s office said Wednesday that Cooper was concerned if the bill was constitutional and effective in making communities safer. It would take away authority from sheriffs for “purely political purposes,” spokesperson Jordan Monaghan said.

As with previous bill versions, advocates for Latino immigrants spoke against the mandate in Senate committees this week and during a lobbying day on Wednesday. They said the requirement would actually make communities less safe by instilling fear into immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, by discouraging them from reporting crimes or building trust with law enforcement.

At least six states broadly outlaw local agencies’ ability to restrict federal immigration law enforcement involvement, National Conference of State Legislatures policy analyst Jay Gideon said in an email. These prohibitions aim to strike down “sanctuary” policies that do not enforce local cooperation with federal immigration agents.

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp also signed a bill Wednesday requiring jailers to check inmates’ immigration status and criminalizes the failure to do so

Voter I.D.

North Carolina’s voter identification law is heading back to the courtroom on Monday. Opponents of the law say it discriminates against Black and Latino voters, while supporters say it will ensure the security of elections in North Carolina going forward.

The law went into effect in August 2023 after the North Carolina Supreme Court reopened a voter ID case earlier in 2023. Previous versions of the law endured years of previous challenges and failed twice.

Conservatives view the law as a major victory saying rules like voter ID are needed to improve voters’ faith that elections aren’t being rigged. The concerns skyrocketed among Republicans in recent years due to former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

According to WRAL state government reporter Will Doran, Democrats and voting rights activists believe the law will have unintended consequences.

“Democrats and voting rights activists have sued, saying they will discriminate against minority, college and low-income voters,” Doran said.

David McLennan, a politics and political analyst at Meredith College, said while the law allowed people to vote with little issues, it had unintended consequences.

“The people bringing the case say it’s not just the fact that people, you know, 99.9% of North Carolinians were able to vote using their IDs, but it was the people who chose not to go to the polls at all because they were concerned about voter ID,” McLennan said.

The case has the potential to block the state’s voter ID requirements before the November elections, though an appeal is likely regardless of which way the judge rules.

“This could be the kind of case [where] if the plaintiffs prevail, the law is halted for use in this year’s election,’ McLennan said, adding that defendants would likely appeal the decision. McLennan believes the case will eventually reach the United States Supreme Court.

The trial begins at 9 a.m. on Monday in Winston-Salem and is expected to last at least 10 days.

Daughtry Exit

In a surprise election twist, a candidate running for Congress is suspending her campaign as voters have already headed to the polls to cast their ballots in the May 14 Republican runoff.

Kelly Daughtry announced Thursday that she would no longer run to represent North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District. She endorsed her opponent, Brad Knott. She said in a written statement that she wanted to be transparent and honest with her team, supporters and voters, and that an endorsement of Knott from former President Donald Trump made it impossible for her to win the runoff.

“Brad Knott will be the Republican nominee on May 14th,” Daughtry said, in a written statement. “I extend my congratulations to him and wish him well. Brad has my full endorsement, and I want him to know that I am here to support him, not to oppose him. It is time we bring the Republican Party together.”

Knott thanked Daughtry, in a written statement, for her endorsement and commended her for her willingness to unite the Republican Party.

Daughtry’s announcement came after days of speculation that her campaign was on the fritz, which wasn’t helped by her lack of social media posts or events in the district. Her decision would seemingly leave her opponent, Knott, as the winner. But it’s not that easy, since ballots have already been printed and cast.

“I don’t recall anything like this in modern American politics, much less modern North Carolina politics,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University. “Ballots have been printed, ballots have been cast and if she happens to get the most votes she will still be the winner despite what she says.” But he added that Daughtry is sending a clear message to voters and they will likely take note.

If voters miss Daughtry’s announcement that she doesn’t want to serve, she could still walk away with the larger number of votes and be declared the winner. If Daughtry follows through and withdraws after winning, the Republican Party district executive committee would select the GOP nominee.

South Carolina

By Leslie B. Clark
May 15, 2024

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DC or SC?

DC or SCTensions always run high the last week of the legislative session, but they hit an entirely new low last week as the current legislative session ended. From tin foil hats to archaic rules being invoked, and even locking the House down and sending the highway patrol to bring members back to session as tempers flared. Relationships have been strained in the House for the last couple of years as the Freedom Caucus and the House Leadership and Republican Caucus members squabble daily, either on the House floor or via social media, or both. While considering the budget bill that had been returned from the Senate, the Freedom Caucus members offered over 50 amendments, one of which would allow gold and silver to be legal tender in South Carolina. This prompted Rep. Micah Casey to take the well to oppose the amendment while wearing a tin foil hat and responding to the amendment saying, “I want you to support this amendment because I want you to stop thinking too.” He went on to say, “I think this bill allows us to trade genie lamps in for parking tickets.” After much back and forth, the amendment was defeated, and the budget passed.

Not long after, there was an exchange between Freedom Caucus Chair Adam Morgan and Rep. Todd Rutherford, Black Caucus Chair, which got heated and Rep. Morgan refused to take any questions from Rep. Rutherford, which the rules allow. And from there, it really went downhill. When the House got to S. 915, which is a 274-page bill that combines health agencies, the shenanigans continued. A member of the Freedom Caucus, to kill the bill, invoked an archaic rule that would require the House Clerk to read the entire bill out loud. Once the reading began, most members left the Chamber, including a majority of the Freedom Caucus members. Before long, another member invoked Rule 3.9 which requires the Speaker of the House to request the Highway Patrol to take members into custody who are absent without leave and bring them back to Columbia. At which time all members are locked inside the Chamber until their work is done or the motion is rescinded. House members were sought and returned to the House Chamber, but it was not long before the motion was rescinded, and the members were able to get back on the calendar after wasting two valuable hours in the last days of the legislative session. D.C., kindergarten, chaos, and a zoo were the many descriptions used to describe the House this week.

Work Zone Driver’s License Training Legislation Headed to the Governor

Work Zone Drivers License Training Votes
Last week, the House, with just a few hours before final adjournment, concurred in the Senate amendments to the Operation Work Zone Awareness legislation by a vote of 85-0. This bill, H.5023, will require the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to establish a construction work zone safety training program. In addition, the DMV must require all persons obtaining an initial driver’s license, and who are required to complete a driver’s education course, to receive construction work zone safety training during the current eight-hour driver training course. Carolinas AGC staff is working closely with the DMV and the driving training schools to develop the one-hour construction work zone training video that will be used by the DMV to comply with the law once enacted. The bill was enrolled for ratification, and we will be working to have the Governor sign it into law. A huge THANK YOU to Rep. Gary Brewer for sponsoring this particularly important legislation on behalf of our members.

House Amends Budget, Conference Committee Appointed

The House offered several amendments to the budget that was sent back to them from the Senate. Included in those amendments was changing the amount of funding for bridges from $200 million to $100 million and “putting a dollar on the line for CTC’s,” both of which will allow these areas of the budget to be discussed further when the budget conferees meet in June. The House appointed Reps. Bannister, Lowe, and Stavrinakis and the Senate appointed Sens. Peeler, Bennett, and Setzler to represent their respective bodies on the budget conference committee. The Conference Committee will consider the budget bill, H. 5100 and the Capital Reserve Fund bill, H. 5101.

Conference Committee Appointed for Abandoned Buildings Tax Credit Bill

S.1021, this week the House concurred in the Senate amendments to the Abandoned Buildings Tax Credit bill with less than an hour before the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill increases the amount of the maximum tax credit that may be earned in a tax year from $500,000 to $700,000 and extends the tax credit that is set to expire in 2025 to 2035. The limitation applies to each unit or parcel deemed to be an abandoned building site. The bill was enrolled for ratification and will be sent to the Governor for approval.

PIP Legislation Headed to Conference Committee

Last week, the House refused to concur in the Senate amendments to S.314, which kicks the bill over to a Conference Committee. This is legislation that eliminates the approval of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority and the Commission on Higher Education to establish Permanent Improvement Projects (PIP). The bill would also amend threshold amounts to provide regulatory relief from the multiple approvals required before a college or university can build a project. The following conferees were appointed Sens. Harvey Peeler, Scott Tally, and Nikki Setzler and Reps. Ballentine, Cobb-Hunter, and Taylor.

Residential Builders Licensing Law Dies in Senate

Last week, the Homebuilders Association practice act died in the Senate after being objected to by three Senators. H.4086 had several amendments added in the subcommittee and in full committee. The section of the bill that received the most discussion was the definition of Residential Builder. The Homebuilders Association amended the definition in the bill when filed by striking the limit on the number of floors (three) and units (16) residential builders would be able to “construct, repair, improve, or reimprove” in a multi-family dwelling. In other words, expanding their scope of practice. They said the reason for the change is they cannot find enough small commercial contractors to perform the work. Like the subcommittee, the full committee opposed the change, suggesting that homebuilders would need to obtain a commercial construction license to perform work outside the limits of their license.

EV Special Committee Request

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Emergency Modification Requests – Special Committee

At their meeting on February 27, 2024, the South Carolina Building Codes Council called for a Special committee to be formed to hear and provide a recommendation to the Council for the disposition of the electric vehicle charging station emergency modification requests presented at the hearing.

The council staff are calling on interested parties who wish to participate in the special committee. process to contact the Council at contact.bcc@llr.sc.gov no later than May 16 with the following:

  • A written request to participate on the special committee to provide input and address the emergency modification requests.
  • Your organization or affiliation.
  • Written authorization to represent your organization or affiliation, if you are not an officer, president, chairperson, general partner, or chief executive officer.
  • Your qualifications to speak on the technical aspects of the modification requests.

The Council will consider the nominations for the committee at their meeting on May 21, 2024. To the modification request form click here: 2021 SC Building Code & 2021 SC Fire Code – EV Charging Stations.