September 13th Update
Last week was a short week at the General Assembly. We met on Wednesday with over 10 items on the agenda. Most items covered on the floor is our attempt to wrap up the business of session. With only a few more weeks of session, this will be the norm of our Raleigh time.
HB 685 Allows a consumer finance lender to recover from a borrower the actual cost of a fee imposed on the lender from an unaffiliated third-party for processing electronic payments and disbursing loan proceeds. Many consumer finance lenders will accept a debit card payment on a loan amount, and many will load loan proceeds onto a borrower's debit card. In these instances, the card company charges a fee for this service. Section 1 of the bill would allow the lender to recover the actual transaction charge imposed by the card company.
This bill provides that fees or charges paid by the seller for determining the existence of or to record a security interest in a consumer credit sale may be included in the amount financed but must be excluded from the finance charge. This bill has been enrolled and will be sent to the Governor's office for his approval or veto.
HB 890 - ABC Omnibus Legislation
HB 890 has 30 parts but the main takeaway from this bill is that it relaxes the current regulations/laws to make the sale of alcohol more readily available and convenient for those who sell it. The bill has been enrolled and will be sent to the Governor's office for his approval or veto.
Federal pandemic unemployment benefits ended this weekend. This means many out-of-work North Carolinians are receiving their last check. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that overall unemployment claims are down in the state, but there’s still a significant number of people depending on benefits. For the week of August 28, around 200,000 residents were receiving some kind of wage replacement.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation account for most of these claims. Those programs are now over, as is the additional $300 per week on standard benefits — significant because North Carolina has one of the lowest weekly unemployment payouts in the nation. The Director of the Budget & Tax Center at the North Carolina Justice Center is an economic and social justice advocacy group, and she says this money is going a long way to keep people out of poverty.
“Without it, many families are going to face challenges,” says the director. “We’re at a very precarious point in the recovery. And with the loss of income circulating in the economy, it’s going to be more challenging for businesses to hire.” In 95 percent of counties in the state, there are still more people looking for work than before the pandemic began.
North Carolina school districts will get $10 million they can use to find enough school cafeteria workers to feed students. The State Board of Education approved Thursday setting aside $10 million in federal COVID relief funds to provide bonuses to new and existing workers in school nutrition programs. School districts have been losing cafeteria workers to the private sector, leading to double-digit vacancy rates. “Staffing shortages in the school nutrition programs in the PSUs (public school units) are a serious problem,” the director of school nutrition and school operations at the state Department of Public Instruction, told the board. “Some PSUs are reporting shortages of 20 to 25%.”
State education leaders say the bonuses are especially needed in light of all that school nutrition workers have done to feed students during the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past 18 months, school nutrition staff have served more than 210 million meals to children. “The work of North Carolina’s school nutrition teams over the past year has been nothing short of remarkable,” the State Superintendent said in a news release. “Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, school nutrition personnel went above and beyond to provide meals to students, whether that was through extended hours or home deliveries.”
Although state lawmakers have quashed any hopes that anti-gerrymandering activists had of politicians giving up their control of political map-making in North Carolina this decade, they have promised similar levels of transparency as in 2019. That year, a court order had forced Republican lawmakers to engage in never-before-seen levels of transparency when redrawing maps that the court had just ruled unconstitutional. But even with that order long since moot, GOP leaders have said they want to voluntarily bring back many of the same rules for transparency in this year’s post-Census round of redistricting.
The first step starts on Wednesday, with the first of over a dozen public hearings around the state. The rest will be held through the end of this month.
All of the public hearings are scheduled on weekdays, many in the middle of the afternoon, which could preclude some people from attending. But even for those who can’t make it to a hearing, there are other ways to participate in the process. Interested people who can’t make any of the public hearings this month — or who do, but also want to weigh in again — can leave a written comment for lawmakers to consider, via the legislature’s website.
Lawmakers also decided to let any member of the public make an appointment to come in and draw proposed maps of their own on the redistricting computer at the General Assembly, with staff available to help navigate the software. The hearings themselves are open to anyone who wants to attend. People who want to speak have to sign up beforehand, either online or in person. The online signup page will close four hours before each meeting, lawmakers said, and the in-person signups will begin an hour before each hearing.
Please be on the lookout for redistricting hearings in our area. These events will provide information on how redistricting will affect Mecklenburg County. A redistricting hearing will take place on September 22 at Central Piedmont Community College, in Mecklenburg County at 3 p.m.