Old North State Report – June 20, 2023
MOBILE SPORTS BETTING BILL SIGNED INTO LAW
North Carolina has legalized mobile sports betting, but players will not be able to place bets until 2024.
Governor Roy Cooper approved House Bill 347 on Wednesday, legalizing mobile sports betting throughout the state, in front of dozens of supporters of sports betting and representatives from North Carolina teams at Charlotte's Spectrum Center, the NBA's Hornets' home court.
The NC Lottery Commission now has the responsibility of putting the law into action. The Commission's job is to accept applications from mobile sports betting operators and distribute 12 licenses. The $1 million licenses are renewable every five years. Adults in North Carolina are permitted by law to wager on amateur, professional, electronic, and Olympic sports. The Commission has until one year after Cooper's signing to implement sports betting live in the state, and mobile betting cannot begin in the state before January 8, 2024.
Eight sports venues throughout the state, including the Spectrum Center, are allowed to offer in-person sports betting under the legislation. The two Triangle locations that will be permitted to have sports books are WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary and PNC Arena in Raleigh.
The state's renowned sports organizations enthusiastically backed the legislation. Governor Cooper said, "This legislation will help these professional teams to grow even more and to thrive." The new law is estimated to eventually create $100 million in annual increased revenue.
BIPARTISAN BOARD OF ELECTIONS BILL INTRODUCED
Senate Republicans unveiled a plan on Monday to create a bipartisan state and local elections board in North Carolina.
By dividing the appointments between the majority and minority legislative leaders, Senate Bill 749, also known as “No Partisan Advantage in Elections,” reorganizes the North Carolina State Board of Elections. The bill modifies the current structure by creating mandatory bipartisan boards at the state and county levels.
There would be four appointments from the majority party and four from the minority party on the State Board of Elections. All appointments would originate from the legislature, with the allocation being as follows:
Two members appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate.
Two members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Two members appointed by the minority leader of the Senate.
Two members appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives.
Similar procedures would be used to appoint local election boards, but each legislative leader would only be responsible for one appointment as opposed to two. Local boards would have four rather than eight members.
Leaders in the Senate also unveiled Senate Bill 747 last week to address election integrity. Promoting bipartisan compromise is the goal of the bill, and board of elections decisions must be reached in a bipartisan manner.
A local board's decision would need to be approved by at least three of the board's four members. For a decision to be made on the state board, there must be agreement among at least five of the eight members.
Gridlock might result if bipartisanship is unsuccessful. There is currently no procedure for making decisions in gridlock situations.
In the event that the board is unable to decide on the appointment of an executive director or chair within 30 days, the General Assembly will be in charge of making the selection. The chair must be chosen from the four current board members and does not possess the authority to break ties.
Senate Bills 747 and 749 were heard on Wednesday and Thursday by the Senate Committee on Redistricting and Elections. These bills appear to be ready to be voted on by the Senate next week.
BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD RESTRUCTURED WITH GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE
Non-profit Blue Cross NC is now permitted to conduct business more like a for-profit insurance provider. House Bill 346, which allows the state's largest health insurer to establish a holding company that would operate outside the scope of state insurance regulations, was signed by Governor Roy Cooper over the weekend.
The state's largest insurance companies, Blue Cross and Delta Dental, are now allowed to transfer assets, including money and real estate, from their existing hospital service companies to new shell companies headed by the same executive management.
In accordance with the law, the holding company must also make investments in businesses that support accessibility or "contribute to the health needs of North Carolina residents." Additionally, it restricts the insurer's ability to transfer more than 25% of its "admitted assets" to the holding company.
Under the new law, the Insurance Commissioner would be required to approve charter amendments authorizing a reorganization within 30 days of their submission, unless they conflict with state regulations governing nonprofit corporations. There will be no public record of the information Blue Cross provides to the Insurance Commissioner as part of the restructuring.
The holding company is also required to submit annual audited financial statements to Causey's office, disclose the salaries of its highest-paid executives, and provide information on its "strategic investment activities."
ESG LEGISLATION SENT TO GOVERNOR
A ban on the use of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria from being a factor in state investment decisions has been approved by the North Carolina legislature.
The primary sponsor, Senator Dave Craven (R-Randolph), reasoned that the bill "ensures that our pension fund is solvent" by requiring the state to put money before social or environmental concerns.
Effective as soon as it becomes law, House Bill 750 would mandate that the State Treasurer only consider elements that are predicted to have a significant impact on an investment's financial risk or return. Dale Folwell, State Treasurer and 2024 Republican Gubernatorial candidate, supports the bill.
After the House passed the bill in May with veto-proof margins, the Senate voted along party lines on Tuesday with a vote of 29-18. It now goes to Governor Roy Cooper, who has the option of signing it, vetoing it, or allowing it to become law without his signature.
ENERGY FUEL PROHIBITIONS BILL GOES TO GOVERNOR
House Bill 130 would make it unlawful for local governments to adopt ordinances that restrict the expansion of specific energy services based on the type of fuel used. The bill was passed by the Senate last week after it was amended to include language outlining the procedure to be followed when decommissioning future utility-scale solar energy projects after they have permanently ceased operation. The specifications would be made by state regulators and would have to cover how the project would be discontinued and the site would be restored. Additionally, local laws that would forbid the installation, sale, or purchase of appliances like stoves, ovens, or heaters are prohibited by the bill.
On Tuesday, following a vote in the House of 74-36 to concur in the Senate amendments, Governor Roy Cooper will now consider the bill, which runs counter to efforts in some other states to reduce natural gas use and switch to electricity.
TOUGHER PENALTIES FOR ENERGY FACILITY ATTACKS
Under a bill that received final approval by the General Assembly on Thursday, those who damage utility infrastructure would face harsher penalties. Senate Bill 58 was passed in response to the shooting attack on Moore County's electrical substations in December, which caused days of total darkness throughout the county. The bill now goes to the Governor for consideration.
The proposed law would make attacking an energy facility a new felony offense. Those convicted of the offense could get up to eight years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Even more prison time would be imposed for attacks that resulted in fatalities. Additionally, trespassing on electrical and other energy infrastructure would be made a felony.
The suspects in the Moore County attack would not be subject to the new penalties, which would go into effect in December.