Legislative Update for 01/18/21
January 18, 2021
The General Assembly kicked off the 2021-2022 biennial session on Wednesday, January 13th with opening day speeches, organizing and the approval of the rules that will be used throughout the session. Just like everything else in our world, this day was unlike previous first days as family and friends were not present and the usual celebratory mood was muted. The legislative complex is open to the public, but social distancing rules are in effect and temperature checks are required before entering the building. Masks are not required but were more common among legislators than in the spring and it appears that the leadership of both chambers are highly encouraging members to wear them.
Legislative Update for 09/04/20
September 4, 2020
The General Assembly dealt with its work quickly this week, passing the Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0 with bipartisan support and sending it to Governor Cooper. The $1 billion bill allocates federal funds for coronavirus response that must be spent by the end of the year. The centerpiece is the Extra Credit Grant Program, which will send $335 to households with at least one qualifying child (just one check per household regardless of the number of children).
2020 Final Legislative Report
August 28, 2020
After an extremely long “long session” in 2019 that slowly ebbed into 2020, the Legislature was scheduled to return on April 28th for their normal “short session,” although it was already an unusual legislative year with no new budget in place (the State is currently operating under the previous budget). By the time April rolled around, we were deep into our lockdown with many businesses still operating, but many allowing employees to stay home as much as possible. The Federal government had already approved the CARES Act which provided funding to each State for a variety of COVID-19 related expenses. In a rare show of bi-partisanship, the House and Senate agreed to the package of spending from the CARES Act and the Governor signed the bill quickly into law. They did not spend all of the Federal funds as they wanted to wait to see what the needs were as the situation progressed and wanted to come back later in the summer.
The rumor mill was very strong that they would wait until August to come back into session after they saw what the tax income would be for the State (since an extension was provided to file tax returns until July 15th). Everyone thought that it would be difficult for them to make decisions or even operate at the legislature at the time without the financial information from the tax returns. However, the Legislature did indeed return at the end of May to start the short session. The focus clearly was on needs related to COVID-19 and the various repercussions and statutes and rules that must be modified in our now socially distancing world. Very little legislation was moved that was active in the long session as bill after bill was placed in committee only to be stripped out and changed into a bill regarding funding, testing, healthcare changes, or other related issues.
Legislative Update for 06/15/20
June 15, 2020
The General Assembly continues to be in full swing as legislators work mainly to address pandemic-related needs of North Carolinians, as well as various other budget matters. As many predicted after a contentious floor debate in the House, Governor Cooper vetoed House Bill 536: Temporary Outdoor Restaurants for Outdoor Seating. This bill would have allowed private bars and clubs to reopen under specified conditions similar to restaurants currently, with outdoor seating capacity limited to the lesser of 50% of the establishment’s indoor capacity, or 100 customers.
Legislative Update for 06/10/20
June 10, 2020
Legislators were faced with the stark reality of the budget hole that they are looking at as a result of COVID-19 with the revised consensus revenue forecast, which predicted a total net drop in expected collections of $5 billion for the current budget biennium. Clearly difficult decisions will have to be made and instead of spending more time fighting the Governor on the budget, legislative leaders have moved way from a comprehensive one-year budget and adopted a strategy of “single shot budget bills.” These single-issue budget bills will pull down funds unappropriated last year and from various cash sources to fund state needs for the next fiscal year.
Legislative Update for 06/04/20
June 04, 2020
The General Assembly returned last week to continue its business for the 2020 short session. So far, several notable bills have moved through the legislature, including House Bill 536: Temporary Outdoor Restaurants for Outdoor Seating. This bill would allow private bars and clubs to reopen under specified conditions similar to restaurants currently, with outdoor seating capacity limited to the lesser of 50% of the establishment’s indoor capacity, or 100 customers.
Legislative Update for 05/29/20
May 29, 2020
The General Assembly has re-convened for the short session to continue to address needs of North Carolinians as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and to consider various other bills, as well as the state’s budget. Leaders have indicated that they hope to complete their business within four to six weeks, but recognize that this is subject to change due to the uncertain nature of the pandemic and the uncertainty around federal coronavirus funding.
Legislative Update for 05/06/20
May 06, 2020
The General Assembly returned to session last week, working quickly to pass legislation to respond to the pandemic. As protests took place in the streets urging the state to re-open, legislators met to consider various policy and spending proposals related to COVID-19. Precautions were taken during session, and the general public was not allowed in the legislative buildings, although more video of the proceedings was available.
Legislative Update for 10/11/19
After a drawn-out long session, it appears that the legislature is beginning to take steps towards adjournment. In a press conference last week, Senate Leader Phil Berger addressed the Senate’s plan for the remainder of session. Sen. Berger explained that we can expect to see numerous non-controversial mini budget provisions, such as funding for historic tax credits, DOT, Raise the Age implementation, Community Colleges, and rural broadband moving through the legislature now. Sen. Berger wishes to continue to work on a compromise with Senate Democrats to over-ride the Governor’s veto of the budget, but if he cannot work out a compromise or muster the votes to override the veto, he will continue to push single budget items through until no later than October 31st, at which point Sen. Berger plans to adjourn.
Legislative Update for 09/20/19
After a couple of contentious weeks at the legislature, both chambers have decided to take a break from Raleigh to return to normal business on Monday, September 30th. With the Senate out of town, the fate of the veto override is still up in the air, but we can expect both sides of the aisle to be better prepared when the vote is taken in the Senate. Per Senate rules, the Senate Rules chair must give the minority leader at least 24 hours’ notice that a vetoed bill may be considered by the Senate.
Legislative Update for 09/13/19
At an 8:30 a.m. session on Wednesday morning, the House voted to override the Governor’s veto of the state budget, as well as his veto of House Bill 555: Medicaid Transformation. The votes were 55-9 and 54-10 respectively, with nearly half of the membership absent. Most of the Democratic members were missing and argued loudly that they were told there would be no votes held that morning, which the Republican House leadership denies.
Legislative Update for 08/30/19
As the State budget stalemate stretches past day 50, the Republican leadership in the General Assembly has clearly shifted gears on strategy. A number of “mini budgets,” legislation dealing with small portions of the budget (some taken out word for word) dealing with employee pay raises, Medicaid funding, and other critical issues are moving through committees. These new versions of bills are almost entirely pieces of the budget bill pulled out and pasted into existing legislation, usually in conference reports that go to both the House and Senate floor to be voted on with no amendments allowed.
Legislative Update for 08/27/19
After nearly two months of trying to find the votes to override the Governor’s veto of the budget, it appears Republican leadership has changed their strategy. Last week and this week, Republican leadership has pushed House Bill 74, which was amended to be a bill that would refund taxpayers more than $660 million this fall, by giving those taxpayers refunds of $125 for individuals and $250 per couple (as long as the return paid that much in taxes for 2018). In an effort to get around a budget impasse, Republicans have also begun pushing legislation to the Governor’s desk containing mini-budget pieces which are particularly popular and will be difficult for the Governor to veto, such as State employee raises. On Thursday, the Governor called the push for House Bill 74 and the piecemeal budget bills “politics and gimmicks,” but did not say if he intended to veto the series of bills. Sen. McKissick commented on the matter and says he expects a veto from the Governor, and suggests that the refund legislation “seems more for political messaging.” These bills will be difficult for the Governor to veto from a political standpoint, and could potentially make it more difficult for Democrats to stick together to keep any vetoes from being over-ridden.
Legislative Update for 08/20/19
We find ourselves in a sort of legislative limbo with session still officially underway but very few committees meeting and just a handful of bills being finished up here or there. The Senate has been absent a great deal and the House has been stripping bills or putting several bills together to send to the Senate where their fate remains less than certain. It is a difficult position for groups wanting to get things done at the legislature as they refuse to move most bills pending while tinkering at the edges on bills that the House and Senate want to resolve. Seems they are all waiting on a budget resolution that is not happening.
Legislative Update for 08/05/19
It has been an eventful time at the General Assembly as legislators work to see their bills on the Governor’s desk before the end of session and as the debate over the budget continues. House Republicans have worked tirelessly to convince a handful of Democrats to break from the Governor and vote with them on the override. Republican leadership has pointed to increased funding in specific legislators’ districts as reasons for Democrats to support the override. House Speaker Tim Moore said that they are waiting until the time is right, and wants everyone to have time to consider their position before voting. It’s unlikely that we will see a vote on the override any time soon, as various members of the majority have plans to be away and Republicans will need all of their members, as well as eight from the minority, in order to successfully override Governor Cooper’s veto.
Legislative Update for 07/23/19
There was plenty of talk about the budget last week at the General Assembly, but a bit less action. Since Governor Cooper vetoed the budget, he and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly have not appeared to come closer to a compromise. Cooper held a press conference to announce his version of a compromise, which legislative leaders said was actually a move away from common ground. A vote to over-ride the veto hung over the General Assembly all last week, but never materialized, which is surely a sign that they do not have the votes. Three weeks into the new fiscal year and we seem no closer to resolving the stalemate.
Medicaid expansion continues to be a major sticking point. A House committee passed a version of expansion with work requirements and premiums, but the Senate continues to assert the votes are not there for expansion in their chamber.
Legislative Update for 07/03/19
The big news in Raleigh last week was the state budget. The week began with a bit of negotiating and a lot of posturing by legislative leaders and Governor Cooper. By the week’s end, the General Assembly had sent its budget to the Governor, and he had vetoed it, calling it an “astonishing failure of common sense and common decency.”
As expected, the major hang up with the budget is that it does not include Medicaid expansion, something Governor Cooper has made a priority. Republican leaders did include language in the budget encouraging a special session to discuss Medicaid and access to health care. House leaders have revived discussion about a vote for Carolina Cares, Rep. Donny Lambeth’s Medicaid expansion bill that included work requirements. But Senate leadership has made it clear there are not the votes in that chamber for any kind of Medicaid expansion.
Legislative Update for 06/25/19
What a strange session it has been so far! Legislators have been telling lobbyists to wait until the budget is finished to get their bills through committee and have also advised most groups to try to bring consensus bills to the table. Now suddenly, without the budget being completed, legislators are now saying that they are wrapping up and the bills better move soon or will have to wait until the short session. That means that the hundreds of bills in both the Senate Rules Committee and the House Rules Committee need to be assigned to a committee and heard, debated, possibly amended and then sent back to the Rules Committee again before going to the House or Senate floor. There is a scramble now to get bills moved and heard as quickly as possible so we have gone from medium gear to supersonic speed in a short period of time!
Legislative Update for 06/11/19
As the House and Senate negotiate the budget, only a handful of bills have been able to move through the legislative process with most still in Rules. Notably, the House did take up their veto override vote on Senate Bill 359, the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act.” The Republican-controlled chambers moved to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the controversial bill last month. The Senate successfully voted to override the Governor’s decision, but the House vote failed to reach the 60 percent majority vote needed to complete the override. The chambers, which both held Republican supermajorities last session, had overridden many of Gov. Cooper’s vetoes for the past two years with ease. With Democrats gaining seats and breaking the supermajorities last election, it is clear that Gov. Cooper’s vetoes will be much more difficult to be overridden now.
Legislative Update for 05/29/19
The legislature has continued business at a slower pace following the heavy schedules for both chambers during Crossover and the release of the House’s proposed budget. With the House having passed its version of the budget, the Senate has been spending most of their time crafting theirs. Senate leadership held a press conference Tuesday morning laying out the broad outlines of their plan (see below). The Senate is expected to vote on their budget by the end of the week, and once the Senate approves their version, negotiations between the chambers will begin in earnest. All involved understand, of course, that Gov. Cooper is likely to veto the plan if it does not include a plan to expand Medicaid and other priorities his office has detailed. With enough Democratic votes to sustain a veto, Republicans will be hoping to include spending and provisions that entice Democratic support. This may be difficult as only one House member voted for the budget, so expect the final product to include provisions that are popular enough with the public to make voting against the budget politically problematic.
Legislative Update for 05/14/19
Last Thursday was the General Assembly’s crossover deadline, the date by which bills without a financial element must move from one chamber to another in order to stay alive for the session. Usually, this is a week filled with late nights and craziness, but this session they actually planned ahead and moved bills quickly the week before so it was surprisingly calm. The House wrapped up its work on Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday, meaning most lawmakers weren’t even in town for the actual deadline. A total of 1,687 total bills have been introduced this session, including more than 1,000 House bills and nearly 700 in the Senate. Most bills that had been heard in committee made it to the floor for a vote, and many remaining bills have a budget or finance component, exempting them from crossover. And some bills that may not have made the deadline, may be revived later in session with the addition of a fiscal element or by being added to another measure. Now that crossover has passed, the budget will take center stage again. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, indicated that the goal is for the Senate to complete the budget by the end of the month, which would likely mean floor votes on the week after Memorial Day. According to Brown, budget subcommittees are already working on the pieces of the budget.
Legislative Update for 05/08/19
Last week was extremely intense as up to 17 committee meetings happened each day with 30-50 bills being considered in those committees. As members and lobbyists tried to get their bills through one chamber before the cross-over deadline, we heard some similar phrases. Many bills clearly had problems that legislators promised to work on when the bill arrived in the Senate or House but their fate is unclear. Whether the other chamber will be willing to take up these issues will depend on whether legislators on the other side are willing to move the bill and fight for it.
Last week, the House also finalized and approved their budget proposal, which we have summarized later in this legislative report. The budget moved quickly through the process and although there were a lot of amendments proposed, the main controversy was the Democrats efforts to include Medicaid Expansion in the budget, which was defeated by the majority Republicans. The budget now goes to the Senate and they will create their own version of the budget before the House and Senate work out their differences.
Legislative Update for 04/26/19
This week has felt like the calm before the storm or maybe the eye of a hurricane! The House and Senate were both out on “spring break” for the first part of the week and then the House came in on Thursday and started releasing their budget proposal. The House Appropriation subcommittees are meeting this week and the House is expected to debate and amend the budget in the House Appropriations Committee and the full House next week and send over to the Senate. The Senate has been working behind the scenes on their budget proposal so we expect their version to roll out soon.
The other big news and deadline approaching is the May 9th cross-over deadline and committee meetings are already being noticed for next week as work moves into high gear to get legislation approved in one chamber or the other. This is a scary time of year for lobbyists as legislation that is not correct or has not been thoroughly vetted gets moved so that “the bill can get to the other side” with a promise to “fix it later.” We will be on high alert as legislation will move very quickly over the next two weeks. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 04/19/19
Well, it has been quite an interesting couple of weeks. We have been under an avalanche of bills that have been filed over the last few weeks, many of them making major policy changes. Meanwhile, committees are meeting with a renewed level of intensity as they try to move bills before the impending cross-over deadline of May 9th, which requires bills to move out of one chamber or the other to remain eligible for consideration the rest of the session. Of course, during all this the House budget writers have been meeting behind closed doors to put their budget proposal together so that it can be released next week, which will start a whole new level of pressure and debate about priorities for the State.
Legislative Update for 04/16/19
The General Assembly had a busy legislative week, with the Senate marking its bill filing deadline on Wednesday, April 3rd. The Senate has filed a total of 676 bills this session, and the House has filed a total of 626 bills, with its bill filing deadlines coming up on April 16th and April 23rd. Things are likely to get even busier as crossover, the date by which legislation must pass from the originating chamber to the other chamber, approaches. The 2019 crossover deadline is May 9th.
On May 1st teachers are planning a large rally at the General Assembly and since that is coming up soon, education bills have been popping up at the General Assembly. One such bill, House Bill 377, would reduce the number of tests given to students and passed the House by a vote of 110 to 2. The bill would eliminate state end-of-grade (EOG) tests in grades 3-8 in reading and math with shorter tests given throughout the year. It would also eliminate the state end-of-course (EOC) exams for biology, English and math for high school students.
Legislative Update for 04/09/19
It’s been a busy time at the General Assembly as hundreds of bills were rushed to be filed to meet the Senate’s bill filing deadline on April 2nd. The House will have a few more weeks to prepare for their bill filing deadline on Tuesday, April 16th (bills not related to the budget). Once both chambers’ deadlines have passed, legislators will turn their attention to meeting the May 9th crossover date, by which time bills must be passed by the chamber in which it was introduced in order to remain eligible for the remainder of the 2-year session, unless the bill has a fiscal impact on the State.
Legislative Update for 03/27/19
The budget process continues to inch forward. Last week House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger announced that top legislative leaders have agreed that expenditures for the year starting July 1st will be just over $24 billion. That amount represents a roughly 3.5 percent increase over this year’s budget, but less that the amount proposed by Governor Cooper. As legislative opposition to Treasurer Folwell’s proposed changes to the State Health Plan continues to heat up, Folwell has made changes to boost payments to rural hospitals. The State Health Plan has agreed to increase by $52 million the annual reimbursement rates for many rural hospitals. Folwell said the adjustments would increase payments to rural providers by 20 percent from the original proposal, “while still saving taxpayers almost $258 million and plan members almost $57 million.” Discussion about Medicaid expansion also continued last week, with a new poll showing strong support for the idea. A poll conducted by well-known Republican consultant, Paul Shumaker found that 72 percent of voters’ support Medicaid expansion. The poll also found that support remained above 70 percent even after messages supporting and opposing expansion were given to respondents.
Legislative Update for 03/20/19
The past week featured a number of high-profile news stories emanating from the NC political world, while legislative progress was slow by comparison. With the exception of a bill to delay implementation of the State’s new Voter ID law (which was introduced in the Senate, passed by both chambers and signed into law in a four-day span), most other notable issues were marked by news of movement (or lack thereof) as opposed to visible progress. A bill to allow small business associations to create health insurance plans was passed by the Senate but is expected to move slowly in the House. An amendment to that bill offered by a Democratic Freshman that would have expanded Medicaid was defeated, which is not surprising. What surprised many is, according to a little-noticed rule, the amendment’s defeat will pre-empt any further consideration of that topic for the rest of session. Senate leadership could vote to waive the rule; however, they are not currently inclined to do so and used the drama to blame Democrats for “killing debate” on the issue.
Legislative Update for 03/05/19
Last week kicked off with Governor Cooper’s State of the State address to the General Assembly, where he reinforced familiar themes, including Medicaid expansion, increased spending on education and rural broadband. Cooper also called for more cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.
Despite the calls for harmony, some of the most contentious policy battles continued to heat up. A group of legislators, including Rep. Gale Adcock, a nurse practitioner, introduced the SAVE Act, which would remove the requirement for physician supervision from advanced practice nurses (APRNs) like nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and certified nurse anesthetists.
As expected, another group of legislators – Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell), Rep. Julia Howard, (R-Davie), Rep. Bill Brisson (R-Bladen) and Rep. Gale Adcock (D-Wake) – introduced legislation to halt State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s changes to the State Health Plan. The changes, which Folwell says would save the Plan millions, include tying providers rates to Medicare rates. Providers and hospitals claim that the changes would close hospitals and impact access for state employees. The new bill would create a commission to study potential changes to the State Health Plan, while prohibiting any changes to the current status quo while the study is being conducted.
Legislative Update for 02/27/19
The big news around Raleigh last week was the long-awaited State Board of Elections hearing on the controversy surrounding the election in the 9th Congressional District. After months of investigation into fraud and four days of testimony, Republican Mark Harris announced that he believed a new election should take place. The Board unanimously ordered the new election, with a timeframe to be decided later. This will not be the end of the matter though as criminal investigations are on-going and new information was released during the hearing about what the campaign and the candidate did or did not know about the absentee ballot program.
There were some fireworks at the General Assembly as well, as health care shifted to a new focus– the State Health Plan. Treasurer Folwell and the North Carolina Healthcare Association testified before the House Health Committee on Folwell’s plan to save more than $300 million annually from the State Health Plan by cutting provider reimbursement rates.
Legislative Update for 02/20/19
The session is expected to ramp up this week as committees begin to move into regular business and floor votes begin. It may appear that session has started slowly based upon the number of committee meetings and the bills that have made it to the floor of one chamber of another, but the real activity is taking place in legislators offices and conference rooms around the legislative complex as proposed bills are being discussed, debated and negotiated. This is a critical time for lobbyists to get their bills filed by the “right” sponsor and to work out as many issues as possible before the bill is filed officially. Many deals are being made right now that will impact legislation as it moves through the process. Freshman legislators are also getting an education about the legislative process and trying to figure out how to maneuver in this strange new world!
Legislative Update for 02/12/19
The 2019 Long Session is continuing its slow start despite a steady stream of newly introduced bills and important health policy developments. On the health front, Medicaid continues to take center stage. Gov. Roy Cooper has been pushing expansion, but some Senate leaders remain opposed to the idea, citing concerns that costs would ultimately be shifted from the federal government to the state. Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, has indicated he plans to reintroduce his “Carolina Cares” bill. “Carolina Cares” would expand Medicaid in exchange for work requirements for some recipients to access benefits. At the same time, North Carolina’s shift to Medicaid managed care continues to move forward. Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the five managed care groups that will receive Medicaid contracts. The managed care companies will be paid a per person, monthly rate to cover all of an individuals’ needs.
Legislative Update for 02/04/19
This year’s long session has begun, but we can expect a slow start. Both Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said Wednesday that General Assembly action would be minimal this week and next. The House held skeletal sessions Thursday and expect to do the same on Monday and Tuesday, with the possibility of some committee meetings next week and a vote on the chamber’s permanent rules on either Wednesday or Thursday.