The North Carolina General Assembly gaveled out its legislative session in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, bringing an end to eight months of work. Like most of the recent sessions in Raleigh, it was a wild one, including a budget bill that arrived 76 days late. But conservative legislators managed to squeeze in a little last-minute excitement Tuesday with a controversial bill that would have stripped local governments of several key powers.
Under the bill, city governments couldn’t have passed higher minimum-wage laws, established affordable-housing mandates, or instituted rules about landlord-tenant relations—and any existing ordnances would have been superseded. It appears the bill would have have superseded and blocked any rules against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation—sweeping restrictions on local authority that certainly seem at odds with the traditional Republican preference for local control. The last-minute legislation set off a wild scramble to figure out what was in the bill, what it meant, and whether it would pass. The bill was eventually set aside.
How did such a sweeping and controversial idea sneak through to the end of the session without getting any attention? Easily: As it turns out, the provisions only became public on Tuesday, and they weren’t in the bills that passed both houses of the legislature. Instead, they were added during conference committee, inserted into a drastically rewritten version of a bill designed to regulate the licensing of professional counselors. As The News & Observer drily noted, “Neither chamber’s original versions had any provisions regarding substantial changes to local government powers.”