Legislative Update for December 20, 2021
December 20, 2021
Redistricting court cases here are about as unpredictable as North Carolina’s weather, and that was on full display over the past few weeks. In our last report, we shared the news on the three-judge Superior Court panel’s decision to decline a request to delay the 2022 primaries. Since then, a panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed that decision. Their decision would have halted filing for the U.S. House and state legislative races on the very day that filing was set to begin. Later that day, the panel’s decision was overturned by the full 15-member appeals court, which voted to lift the stay on filing and hold a hearing on the motion. From there, challengers appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. This brings us to the latest order, which suspended candidate filing for the 2022 primary elections and ordered that the primaries be delayed until May 17th rather than the scheduled March 8th. This ruling goes a step further than the initial ruling, which would have halted filing for the U.S. House and legislative races, and shuts down all candidate filing and delays all state primary elections, including local races.
The Supreme Court has required the original three-judge panel to rule on the merits of the two ongoing redistricting lawsuits by January 11th, to be followed by an expedited appeals process if necessary. “In light of the great public interest in the subject matter of these cases, the importance of the issues to the constitutional jurisprudence of this state and the need for urgency in reaching a final resolution on the merits at the earliest possible opportunity, the court grants a preliminary injunction and temporarily stays the candidate-filing period for the 2022 elections for all offices until such time as a final judgment on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims, including any appeals, is entered and a remedy, if any is required, has been ordered,” the court said in its order.
According to the State Board of Elections, at least 1,400 candidates have already filed for federal, state, and local races. The order explains that anyone “who has already filed to run for public office in 2022 and whose filing has been accepted by the appropriate board of elections, will be deemed to have filed for the same office under the new election schedule for the May 2022 primary unless they provide timely notice of withdrawal of their candidacy to the board of elections during the newly-established filing period.” That is, unless a candidate’s eligibility is impacted by a court-order redraw of the maps or of certain districts. In that case, their previous candidate filing will not be counted. All candidates will have the option to withdraw their candidacy, and/or run for another office in which they are eligible, during the new filing period. Dates for a new candidate filing period have not been set.
This delayed schedule will most likely impact the General Assembly’s legislative schedule, as well. Now that the primary has been pushed back to the middle of May, it is likely that the legislative short session will not begin until late May or early June.
Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for December 9, 2021
December 9, 2021
Last week the General Assembly completed their business for this calendar year… or so they are telling us. The plan is to hold skeleton sessions until December 10th, and return on December 30th if needed to address any court action regarding the state’s new maps, or if there are any necessary technical corrections or vetoes to consider. This ends the second-longest session in state history. It’s the longest ever in calendar days, but in legislative days it falls a hair short of the state’s 2001 regular legislative session, in which business was conducted for 179 days. This session has had 165 legislative days. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for November 22, 2021
November 22, 2021
After years without a new comprehensive budget, our state officially has a new state budget! Gov. Cooper signed his first budget into law since taking office in 2017 after a roller coaster of negotiations. Although it did not expand Medicaid as the Governor had hoped, it does extend Medicaid benefits for low-income mothers for up to a year after a child is born, and it provides raises and bonuses to teachers and other state employees. “While I believe it is a budget of some missed opportunities and misguided policy, it is also a budget we desperately need at this unique time in the history of our state,” Gov. Cooper said.
The budget passed both chambers with strong bi-partisan support. Senate Bill 105, 2021 Appropriations Act, passed the House 104-10, with 40 Democrats voting in favor alongside all of their Republican colleagues. The budget passed the Senate 41-7, with 7 Democrats voting in support, as well. It’s been a long road to get this budget done and House budget writer Rep. Donny Lambeth compared it to “a fine wine that was months or years in the aging process.” Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for November 13, 2021
November 13, 2021
After a busy week at the legislature, the state has new maps! The once-a-decade redistricting process has resulted in new congressional and legislative maps based off of changes in population from the U.S. Census. Although the General Assembly approved them, that may not be the final word on these maps. Legal challenges to the fairness of these maps are already beginning. Civil rights groups filed suit before they were even voted on, saying the failure to use racial data reduced minority representation in Congress and the General Assembly. The court fight that is just beginning is sure to be watched closely by policymakers, advocates and potential candidates alike.
Critics argue that the maps provide a disproportionate advantage to Republicans, who have the majority in both chambers and led the redistricting process. They argue that, under these maps, a nearly 50/50 partisan-split state will have Republicans holding 10-11 Congressional seats to Democrats’ 3-4 seats. According to experts, these new maps could also result in Senate Republicans picking up two seats for a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for October 19, 2021
October 19, 2021
Believe it or not, we are still in the legislative session that started in January, 2021. While budget negotiations continue, redistricting public comment has been going on around the State and very little other legislative work is being done. Please see below for a breakdown of what’s been happening on Jones Street.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger ironed out the remaining differences between the chambers and have announced that their consensus budget is ready to be sent to Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Leadership has been trying to keep the details of their agreement under lock and key, believing this will help promote more transparent and frank negotiations with the Governor. Speaker Moore did say that the package would have record spending for transportation, capital, and public education, as well as a tax cut package. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 09/27/21
September 27, 2021
While the corner offices negotiate the budget and public hearings are being held across the state for Redistricting, legislative activity on Jones Street has been a bit slow over the past few weeks. Although there hasn’t been much bill movement, there is still a flurry of activity happening behind the scenes between budget negotiations and work on major pieces of legislation that lawmakers hope to pass before session comes to a close, like the Senate’s rumored new version of the House’s energy bill. Please see below for a run-down of what has happened at the General Assembly over the past few weeks. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 09/09/21
September 9, 2021
We hope no one has made any vacation plans around the legislature’s latest budget timeline, because an agreed upon budget by mid-September is looking less and less likely. The negotiations, which are still ongoing between the corner offices and behind closed doors, have hit a wall. “There are a number of things that we’re talking about that we have not resolved. I don’t think we have to resolve all of those things in order to begin making progress. But at this point I would say we’re not making really much progress,” Senate leader Phil Berger said when asked about budget negotiations. Sen. Berger specifically noted that the chambers are going back and forth on the tax package, spending for the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund, and the amount of money in the rainy-day fund. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for August 27, 2021
August 27, 2021
After a long week of committee debate, amendments galore, and hours of fiery floor speeches on both Wednesday and Thursday last week, the House has passed their version of the budget, 72-41. Senate Bill 105, 2021 Appropriations Act, will now go over to the Senate where the bill will receive a nonconcurrence vote. From there, conferees from both chambers will be appointed and work on the final proposed budget will begin. Republican leadership has promised there will be trilateral negotiations in preparing the final version between the Republican-led House and Senate, and our Democratic Governor. This was in response to House Democrats, who were clear this week that they needed a seat at the table in crafting the budget if Republicans expect their support. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for July 29, 2021
July 29, 2021
We are now almost one month past the start of the fiscal year for North Carolina and not only do we not have a budget – we do not even have a draft budget proposal from the House! The past three weeks have included some bills moving but everyone seems to be waiting on the House budget and both chambers seem to be slowing down bills as a way to “encourage” the other chamber to follow their bidding. This week both the House and Senate are not meeting (the House did have a session on Monday night briefly) so that the budget writers can finish their work and so that some members can attend a popular right leaning conference out of State. The House is expected to provide a timeline and move their budget proposal through committees in August. Of course, that only starts the negotiations with the Senate and the Governor.
The other big topic, of course, is COVID. There seems to be debate about all aspects of the virus, including vaccinations, mask wearing and schools and businesses operating. Many Hospitals have announced this week that they will require all of their healthcare workforce to be vaccinated and many private colleges are making attendance dependent on being fully vaccinated. The Legislature does not favor required vaccinations or mask wearing so the battle between the Governor and the Department of Health and Human Services and the Legislative Leadership continues. Many schools are trying to make difficult decisions about mask requirements both for vaccinated and unvaccinated students and although the Governor is encouraging mask wearing for those 12 and under who are not eligible for vaccinations, it is clear that some schools will not require masks this Fall. Of course, the directions from the CDC and DHHS seem to be ever changing in light of increased cases so this will be out of date before we send out the report! Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 07/01/21
July 1, 2021
Budget season is in full swing! Republican Senators held a press conference last week to announce their long-awaited budget proposal. Senate Leader Phil Berger explained that their proposal can be summed up in two ways: cutting taxes and constructing the state’s post-pandemic future. In typical Senate speed they revealed their budget and moved it quickly through committees and onto the Senate floor where it was approved by a vote of 32 to 17. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 06/16/21
June 16, 2021
The weeks after the crossover deadline moved slowly as the House and Senate continued their behind the scenes battle about how much the State should spend (not the details, just the number). Things were going nowhere as the House was not moving Senate bills and the Senate was not moving House bills until the House made the bold move to go ahead with the budget process on their own. Speaker Moore made it clear that, with or without the Senate’s proposed budget, the House would begin the budget process and would vote on a budget this session. This announcement seemed to get things moving again and the chambers resolved the final budget spending level so that the Senate can continue their proposed budget. We expect the Senate budget to be rolled out the week of June 21st and the House to roll out their proposal in July. Of course, the Governor still has a veto stamp, that he has shown he is more than willing to use, but probably wondered if he would even have a chance to use it with the Republicans battling themselves. Here are some of the other stories from the last two weeks. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 05/29/21
May 29, 2021
It has been a quiet two weeks at the General Assembly following many busy weeks at the legislative building for Crossover. With the gas shortage last week and the budget impasse this week, legislators had very light weeks with very few votes or even committee meetings. We now head into the long Memorial Day weekend, one which is especially loved by politicians of all stripes, as we celebrate the men and women in the armed services and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our country. Although it has been a difficult year and a half, many are welcoming getting back to some sense of normalcy and enjoying the long weekend. We hope that you enjoy yours! Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 05/21/21
May 21, 2021
Crossover 2021 has officially passed. This is the deadline for policy-related bills to cross from one chamber to the next in order to remain at play this session. The deadline always results in a flurry of activity and late nights at the building in the weeks leading up to Crossover, and this year was no exception. In the past two weeks, House Rules heard 195 bills in seven lengthy meetings. The House clerk estimated that the House heard approximately 180 bills, not counting all the bills that were keeping the Senate busy this week. Although it’s more of an uphill battle now for policy-related bills to be passed this biennium if they didn’t make the deadline, it’s not altogether unheard of and as we know strange things can happen at the General Assembly! Sometimes bill language from a “dead” bill can make its way into another piece of legislation that passed before the deadline or is otherwise exempt. That is why this time of year, it is especially important to keep a lookout for amendments and Proposed Committee Substitutes (PCS), because you never know what may end up in a bill! Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 05/12/21
May 12, 2021
With Crossover this Thursday, the General Assembly has been hard at work moving as many bills from one chamber to the next in order to keep them in play for this biennium. Last week was full of long voting sessions and late-night Rules Committee meetings, and we expect a lot of the same for this week leading into Crossover. It is a dangerous time as bills move quickly and with very little notice and public comment is restricted.
House Bill 805, Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder
House Speaker Tim Moore and other Republican legislators are backing a bill that would make rioting a felony if it causes significant property damage or injures someone. Under this bill, those who willfully engage in such acts could face felony charges and be held in jail for up to 48 hours. Upon conviction, they could be sentenced to two years in prison. Property owners would also have the opportunity to sue rioters for damages under this legislation. “We are a nation of laws, not a nation of mob rule,” the Speaker said when presenting his bill in committee. “Regardless of the political spectrum one comes from, we all have to be able to say that’s not right. That’s not the way folks should conduct themselves.” Opponents of the bill believe this bill could have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and is unreasonably harsh. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 05/05/21
May 5, 2021
Last week was exciting for North Carolina, with the huge announcement of Apple choosing North Carolina for its $1 billion-plus East Coast campus and engineering hub. The 1-million-sq-ft. building in the Research Triangle Park will employ over 3,000 people in areas related to machine learning, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and other cutting-edge industries. The jobs are expected to have a minimum starting salary of $133,520. Over time, the company expects the average minimum salary to be $187,001.
State political leaders on both sides of the aisle celebrated this opportunity for the state, and the great bipartisan effort it took to seal the deal and attract such businesses to the state. Gov. Roy Cooper, Senate Leader Phil Berger, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, House Speaker Tim Moore and House Democratic Leader Robert Reives issued a joint statement:
“Innovation has long been North Carolina’s calling card and Apple’s decision to build this new campus in the Research Triangle showcases the importance of our state’s favorable business climate, world-class universities, our tech-ready workforce, and the welcoming and diverse communities that make so many people want to call North Carolina home. This announcement will benefit communities across our state and we are proud to work together to continue to grow our economy and bring transformational industries and good paying jobs to North Carolina.” Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 04/30/21
April 30, 2021
A disagreement over Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans resulted in the longest-serving member of the North Carolina House being stripped of her chairmanship on the House Finance Committee last week. Speaker Tim Moore removed Representative Julia Howard from her position, saying in a statement that Representative Howard was removed because she failed to move the measure “expeditiously” through the Finance committee as desired by the House Republican Caucus. “While we respect different viewpoints, committee chairs must be willing to put personal agendas aside and move forward with the will of the caucus,” Moore, Speaker Pro Tempore Sarah Stevens and Majority Leader John Bell said in the statement.
The public feud revolved around House Bill 334, Temporarily Align PPP Treatment to Federal Treatment. Representative Howard has publicly opposed the bill, criticizing the Speaker and other members for supporting the legislation, which would give additional state tax breaks to businesses that took PPP loans to sustain their businesses and keep their workers employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with Representative Howard’s dissatisfaction with the proposed changes to state tax law, she also believed the bill represented an ethical conflict for some members whose businesses would stand to gain from the passage of this bill. “I told the boys in the (Republican) caucus meeting, ‘I am concerned that you should not be filing bills if you took the money,’” said Representative Howard in a conversation with The News & Observer of Raleigh.
Many members on both sides of the aisle own businesses that received a PPP loan over the past year. Speaker Moore defended their actions, explaining that the General Assembly’s ethics rules allow for them to engage in legislative action on the issue because the bill would equally apply to all PPP loan recipients. “The caucus saw this as tax relief for small businesses,” he said, adding that voting for it “is no different than voting on … child tax credits if you have children.” The bill passed the House, 112-1, with Representative Howard being the only “no” vote. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 04/23/21
April 23, 2021
The legislature didn’t skip a beat getting back to work after returning from their “spring break.” Many committees had packed-full agendas, full of mostly noncontroversial bills and also local bills. One notable bill that quickly swept through the House was House Bill 334, Temporarily Align Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Treatment to Federal Treatment. Typically, loans are considered taxable income, but this bill would align North Carolina with 47 other states and the federal government by providing businesses a tax deduction for expenses they paid using forgiven PPP loans. This program was a part of the CARES Act last year and was aimed at helping struggling businesses continue to keep their employees on the payroll. The bill passed the House with a nearly unanimous vote of 111-2. Republican Reps. George Cleveland and Julia Howard were the only no votes. In an unusual twist, the long time Chair of the House Finance Committee, Rep. Julia Howard, publicly criticized the Speaker and other Republican Leadership in the House for supporting the bill if their businesses received PPP Loans. This despite a determination that it was not a conflict of interest and that many issues may impact legislators and their businesses, but as long as not targeted to them specifically generally there is no conflict. It will be interesting to see how this conflict plays out. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 04/12/21
April 12, 2021
On the General Assembly’s last week before Spring Break (March 29 – April 2), legislators ran a busy schedule of committee meetings and sent numerous bills off to the Governor to sign into law. Most of the bills heard that week had bipartisan support; however, some did not. House Bill 264, Emergency Powers Accountability Act, passed through the House this week with a vote completely along party lines, with 69 Republicans voting in favor and 50 Democrats voting against. The bill would require the Governor to seek concurrence from other elected officials on the Council of State to continue a state of emergency beyond seven days, and again every 30 days following. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 04/01/21
April 1, 2021
Gov. Cooper has proposed a $27.3 billion spending plan for North Carolina’s budget this biennium. The budget includes 10% raises over two years for teachers, increased education funding, and putting a $4.7 billion general obligation bond on voters’ ballots this fall. This bond would provide funds to public schools, the UNC system, the community college system, health and safety projects throughout state government, and parks, zoos, museums, and state historic sites. Notably, the contentious issue that has held up past budgets, Medicaid expansion, has not been included in the budget proposal. The Governor expressed an interest in that matter being heard, but said that it can be taken up at any point in session. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 03/23/21
March 23, 2021
Senate Redistricting and Elections Chairmen, Senators Daniel, Hise, and Newton, have filed an election bill that would address absentee ballot deadlines and other election procedures. Absentee ballot deadlines have been highly contested since the State Board of Elections’ policy change last fall. The State Board of Elections made the change to address U.S. Postal Service delays and the record-breaking number of absentee voters due to the pandemic. This change was made merely days before the 2020 election and resulted in ballots being accepted 12 days after the election if they were postmarked by Election Day. Senate Bill 326, Election Integrity Act, would prevent the collection of any absentee ballots after 5 p.m. on Election Day or the date of the primary, regardless of when the voter mailed the ballot. Along with changes to the absentee deadline, the bill would also provide $5 million to fund photo identification for anyone who needs it, and would prevent Boards of Elections from collecting money from outside sources to pay for temporary employees. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 03/16/21
March 16, 2021
After a drawn-out debate and several bills filed, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and leaders of the Republican-led House and Senate have reached an agreement on a bill that will allow schools to reopen for daily, in-person instruction. The bill quickly passed through both chambers and was signed into law by the Governor last week, and has been commended by both sides of the aisle as a great bipartisan effort to help our state’s students. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 03/09/21
March 9, 2021
The latest COVID-19 bill is on its way to the Governor after unanimously passing both chambers this week. House Bill 196 is a $1.7 billion-dollar package, spending federal COVID-19 money and making some COVID-related policy changes like extending virtual options for services like notarization. It includes $600 million for COVID-19 testing and related needs, as well as $390 million for K-12 and higher education as they look towards safely reopening. Although the bill passed with unanimous support, there were some procedural concerns expressed by members, as well as some who said the bill should do more. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 03/01/21
March 1, 2021
This week, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that several COVID-19 restrictions would be eased. The Governor made the announcement as the state’s number of new cases continued to drop since the start of the year. “We’re sticking with the science and the data,” Cooper said, “and that is what has told us to ease these restrictions the way we have.” Executive Order 195 went in to effect on Friday at 5 p.m. and will last until March 26th. The Republican General Assembly is taking credit for these changes as several bills to ease restriction are moving through the process with a great deal of support. Read the full report here.
Legislative Update for 02/22/21
February 22, 2021
The House passed Senate Bill 37 this week, requiring schools to open following Plan A for special needs students and either Plan A or B for all students. Plan A only requires masks, while Plan B calls for masks and social distancing. The bill still provides for an online option for students throughout the state as well. There has been some controversy with this bill, largely partisan in nature, concerning older students returning with minimal social distancing. House Democrats have responded to these concerns with their own bill, House Bill 112. This bill would allow for school districts to open with Plan A or B for elementary students, and allow middle and high school students to return solely under Plan B. Senate Bill 37 has already passed both chambers however, with three Senate Democrats voting in support and eight House Democrats voting in favor, the bill passing the final House vote with a 77-42 veto-proof margin. While the bill is on its way to the Governor, its fate is unknown. Gov. Cooper said earlier this week that he would not sign the bill unless Republicans agreed to make some changes. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Governor will veto the bill. He may allow the bill to become law without his signature.
Legislative Update for 02/15/21
February 15, 2021
The state’s recently released revenue forecast shows that North Carolina has fared relatively well economically throughout the pandemic. The two-year forecast’s expected revenue collections surpass the expectations of May 2020’s forecast by $4.1 billion. The forecast explains this surplus was heavily impacted by an increase in sales tax collections and delayed tax payments; it also suggests that the economic state of North Carolina will continue to improve over the coming years. However, there are still segments of the state’s workforce who are underemployed or unemployed due to this pandemic. Gov. Cooper responded in a statement that “while state revenue is strong, people across our state are still hurting and we must use these funds to help them recover from this pandemic.”
Legislative Update for 02/09/21
February 9, 2021
The General Assembly got down to business this week, and as promised, legislators prioritized getting their first round of COVID-19 relief funding off to the Governor’s desk. Other bills began to gain traction at the legislature this week, including a bill to reopen schools and a bill to give bar owners a reprieve on their ABC permits.
Legislative Update for 02/01/21
February 1, 2021
Legislators returned to Raleigh on January 27th to officially get started with the 2021 “long” session. Wednesday marked the first day bills were allowed to be filed in either chambers, and thus far a total of 35 bills have been filed in the House and 28 in the Senate. During the previous biennium session, the chambers saw 1,236 and 873 bills filed, respectively. This session’s bills are beginning to be referred to policy committees as well, another sign things are truly getting underway. Despite the uptick in action, don’t expect too many floor votes on bills just yet. Speaker Moore doesn’t expect to hold any voting sessions until Wednesday and Thursday of next week. On those days, leadership anticipates mostly taking up time-sensitive, priority legislation, such as a COVID-19 technical funding bill.
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.