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The Short Session Could Have Been Worse 

It’s not easy to find a silver lining in the legislature’s dealings this year, but there were several terrible ideas that lawmakers either spiked or didn’t get around to enacting. Here are five bullets we dodged.

1. PUNISHING SANCTUARY CITIES

A jury-duty bill was gutted in the last week of the session and replaced with a proposal to pull state funding for schools and roads from municipalities that served as “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants, effectively punishing students and citizens if their towns and cities were seen as too welcoming to the unwelcome. The Senate passed the bill, but the session was adjourned without a vote in the House.

2. ASHEVILLE GERRYMANDERING

The same day the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the legislature’s gerrymandering of Wake County commission and school board districts, Senator Tom Apodaca tried to force through a bill to create single-member districts for the Asheville city council; currently, all members are elected at-large. In something of a surprise, this proposal was voted down by the House after Democrats and Republicans questioned the bill’s legality and whether or not it was right to vote for a bill that legislators from Asheville opposed.

3. INCOME TAX CAP

Senate Republicans tried to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to cap the state income tax at 5.5 percent, which would have tied the legislature’s hands whenever the next economic downturn came and likely exacerbated the gap between rich and poor. The cap never received a vote in the House.

4. ENVIRONMENTAL SHENANIGANS

A vehicle-emissions bill was gutted and replaced with language that would have eliminated and barred any regulations costing $100 million or more over five years, without taking into account the possible financial benefits (e.g., from public health savings) from that regulation. The bill would have “endanger[ed] future commonsense regulation to protect clean air and water because it only allows consideration of costs, not benefits or savings,” Wake County Commissioner John Burns told the INDY last month. Thankfully, it died.

5. ENSHRINED XENOPHOBIA

Four Republicans who represent counties where a total of two refugees have settled during the last decade introduced a bill aimed at making it easier for municipalities to reject refugees and harder for cities like Raleigh, which has taken in more than twenty-five hundred refugees during the same period, to give them a home. The bill would have allowed counties and municipalities to request a “moratorium” on refugees, while cities that want to welcome refugees would have had to hold a public hearing, adopt a resolution, and get approval from the director of the state’s Refugee Assistance Program. This one never got a committee hearing

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