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State employee raises, anti-Semitism bill possible this year, NC House speaker says

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, speaks with reporters on the House floor of the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. Moore talked about a private meeting of House Republicans earlier Tuesday in which he said they spoke about potential state budget provisions to expand gambling in the state.
Gary D. Robertson
File - North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, speaks with reporters on the House floor of the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

State lawmakers are gearing up for the new legislative session next month, and House Speaker Tim Moore offered a preview Wednesday of what might be on the agenda.

Moore told reporters that there's a need to protect Jewish people with stronger anti-discrimination and hate crime laws. He cited a rise in threats and violence since the attack on Israel in October and the war that followed.

"The amount of crimes that are happening and increasing not just in North Carolina, but across the country, to folks in the Jewish faith — it's something we need to deal with," he said.

Moore said the legislation would likely mirror a bill that Sen. Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, filed last year. It would create a broader definition of anti-Semitism in state laws dealing with hate crimes, employment and housing discrimination.

The bill would use a definition approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2016. It includes holding Jewish people responsible for the actions of Israel and voicing skepticism about the Holocaust as examples of anti-Semitism.

Other government agencies have adopted that definition of anti-Semitism, but it's not without controversy. Last month, the definition was removed from proposed anti-Semitism legislation in Indiana over concerns that it would restrict criticism of the Israeli government. Critics argued that could restrict free speech.

Hanig's bill didn't get a hearing in the Senate when it was introduced last April, but the conflict in the Middle East has put a renewed focus on the issue.

Lawmakers to consider additional raises, tax cuts

Moore said much of this year's session will focus on the state budget, which he says could include additional raises for state employees and further tax cuts — depending on how the revenue forecast looks.

"I certainly hope we can look at pay raises for our teachers and our state employees," Moore said. "We've got some built in that will automatically happen (in the current budget law). And depending on where we are in terms of the budget, maybe we can do more. I just don't know yet."

Most state employees received a 4% raise this fiscal year, and an additional 3% raise is scheduled to take effect in July. But in years past, budget writers have added to the scheduled raise in the second year of the budget cycle.

Individual income tax rates are already scheduled to drop from 4.5% to 4.25% next year, but Moore said additional tax cuts are possible.

"We already have one of the most significant zero-tax brackets in North Carolina, the standard deduction, and I would like to see us increase that where that means more people pay zero taxes," Moore said, adding that he prefers that approach toa proposal from Attorney General Josh Stein, who's running for governor and wants to restore the earned income tax credit.

The House speaker, who will wrap up his time in the role this year after winning a primary for Congress, said he isn't yet sure if legislation for medical marijuana, gambling and Sunday liquor store sales will resurface in the short session.

"I think between gaming and marijuana, about every lobbyist in the whole lobbying community has been retained on one side or another at this point," he said.

Asked about other possible topics in the short session, Moore said, "I want to just make sure that we're doing all we can when it comes to illegal immigration, to make sure that North Carolina is not a haven in any way for this. I want to find ways to crack down on the amount of illicit drugs coming to the state that are killing people on a daily basis."

The short session begins on April 24.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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