NCGA Week in Review

October 13, 2017

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After wrapping up a third “special session” last week, legislators willlikely be back in town next week to consider Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto ofSB 656: Electoral Freedom Act of 2017. Meanwhile, a number of oversight committees met this week and municipalelections were held in 26 counties.

Former State Representative Tricia Cotham Joins McGuireWoods Consulting

McGuireWoods Consultingannouncedformer state Representative Tricia Cotham has joined the state governmentrelations practice as a vice president in the firm’s Charlotte office. Ms.Cotham spent the past 10 years serving constituents in House District 100,where she was a ranking member of the House Education and Healthcarecommittees, and will assist clients with legislative and regulatory issuesat both the state and local level.

From the Governor’s Office

Gov. Cooper took action on both of the bills that were sent to his desk atthe conclusion of last week’s special session.

On Monday, Gov. Cooper vetoedSB 656: Electoral Freedom Act of 2017, which proposes to ease ballot access requirements for third partycandidates and would eliminate judicial primaries in the 2018 electioncycle. Gov. Cooper’s concerns with the bill focus on the latter provision;in hisobjection message, the Governor states that the bill “takes away the right of the people tovote for the judges of their choices.” Legislators will likely return toRaleigh next week to consider the Governor’s veto; SB 656 passed with vetoproof majorities in both chambers last week.

Gov. Cooper signedSB 582: Budget & Agency Technical Correctionson Sunday. The bill makes a number of agency requests and technical changesto existing state laws, including:

  • Ordering the Attorney General’s Office not to delegate criminal appeal duties to local district attorneys.
  • Correcting a provision in the budget which would have resulted in pay cuts for long-serving principals.
  • Eliminates the sunset for the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund, which was set to expire in July 2020.

Interim Committee Meetings

Capital Improvements Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Capital Improvements met onWednesday to receive updates from the Office of State Budget and Management(OSBM) and the UNC General Administration on projects being funded by theConnect NC Bond. OSBM budget Analyst Mark Bondo presented anoverviewof the $2 billion bond package, which is funding projects in the Universityand Community College systems, state and local parks and the NC Zoo, theDepartment of Public Safety (DPS) and the Department of Agriculture andConsumer Services. Will Johnson, Associate VP for Finance and CapitalPlanning from the UNC General Administrationpresentedan update on the 21 bond projects in the university system, which include11 new STEM buildings, a western campus for the NC School of Science andMath, two new business school buildings and seven targeted buildingrenovations. The average cost per square foot for all 21 projects is $398,however, lawmakers questioned the variable costs between projects, andcalled for more standardization in construction.

Emergency Management Oversight

On Thursday, the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committeemet to discuss the state’s ability to respond to manmade and naturaldisasters. The committee discussed the state’s electricity grid andreceived presentations from Duke Energy, NC Cooperatives and Electricitieson their efforts to protect the state’s grid. Additionally, Section Chiefof the Division of Public Health, Chronic Disease and Injury Section Dr.Susan Kansagraupdatedthe committee on the opioid crisis. Three North Carolinians die from anopioid related overdose every day, however, Dr. Kansagra noted that thatstatistical trends show that number will soon increase to four. Lastly,Director of Emergency Management Michael Sprayberrypresentedto the committee on the Division of Emergency Management’s State EmergencyResponse Team’s disaster preparedness plans.

To view all documents from the committee’s meeting, clickhere.

Health and Human Services Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services meton Tuesday.

First, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohenprovided remarks to the committee, in which she highlighted the 25%increase in opioid related deaths in 2016 compared to the prior year.

Then, Deputy Secretary for Human Services Susan Perry-Manning, AssistantSecretary for Human Services Sam Gibbs and Deputy Secretary for Technologyand Operations Michael Becketts of DHHS presentedupdateson the implementation of three state laws designed to improve child welfarein NC: Implementation of the Federal Program Improvement Plan, NC FASTChild Welfare Case Management, and the Rylan’s Law/ Family-Child Protectionand Accountability Act.

Finally, Deputy Secretary for Medical Assistance Dave Richard presented anoverviewof the Department’s investigations into Cardinal Innovations HealthcareSolutions, the largest LME/MCO in the state after anauditin May reported extravagant spending at the executive level. In theirresponding statement, Cardinal reported that there are “factualinaccuracies” in the state’s reports and that the Board is working toaddress the state’s concerns.

To view all documents from Tuesday’s meeting, clickhere.

Justice & Public Safety Oversight

Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and PublicSafety met to discuss medical treatment in state prisons and county jails.Deputy Secretary for Administration of Adult Correction and JuvenileJustice Joe Praterpresentedan overview of inmate health care, including reorganization strategiesimplemented to meet what Prater called “the new day.” Prater emphasizedthat the inmate population is aging, more chronically and mentally ill, andhas been effected by the opioid epidemic, all of which drives health carecosts up, while resources remain stagnant. Eddie Caldwell, Executive VicePresident of the NC Sheriff’s Association, and Steve Lewis, ConstructionSection Chief, Health Service Regulation, DHHS,addressedhealth services in county jails, and noted how inmates are evaluated uponintake for mental and physical health needs.

Medicaid Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choicemet on Tuesday to hear Medicaidenrollmentandfinancialupdates from Deputy Secretary for Medical Assistance Dave Richard as wellas an update on the status of the state’s 1115 Waiver application, whichwas submitted to the federal government in June 2016. Medicaid enrollmenthas roughly tracked in line with forecasts and is 4% higher than last yearand Medicaid expenditures are 1.9% favorable to the authorized budget.Along with Richard, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohenoverviewedthe Department’sproposedmanaged care design, which Secretary Cohen’s administration released inAugust. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has not progressedNC’s waiver application.

To view all committee documents, clickhere.

State Lottery Oversight

Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the NC StateLottery met to review recentlegislative changesto the NC State Lottery and to hear anupdatefrom the Alice Garland from the NC Education Lottery. The committee alsoreviewed and acceptedproposed legislationto increase the allowable percentage of annual lottery revenues that may beused for advertising from 1% to 2%. According to Garland, net proceeds fromthe state lottery since inception in 2006 surpass $5.2 billion and earned$622.5 million for education in the 2017 fiscal year. Additionally, Garlandupdated the committee on the state’s implementation of Keno gaming systems,which goes live on October 19 and is expected to increase lottery proceedsby partnering with social establishments.

To review all committee documents, clickhere.

Municipal Election Results

Nonpartisan municipal elections were held across the state on Tuesday,here’s a look at the results in mayoral races:

Mayoral incumbents dominated the ballot in most municipalities:

  • With 53.32% of the vote Burlington Mayor Ian Baltutis, warded off two challengers.
  • Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer received 77.05% of the vote to defeat three challengers.
  • New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw secured 63.57% of the vote against two challengers.
  • Mayor of Greensboro Nancy Vaughan secured 61.41% of the vote in a race against two challengers.
  • Mayor of Erwin Patsy Carson ran unopposed, and secured 73.72% of the vote, there were 36 write-ins, including 34 for a local man named Michael Jackson.
  • Mayor of Mooresville Miles Atkins secured 74.08% of the vote in a four-way race.
  • Mayor of Roxboro Merilyn Newell secured 74.91% of the vote against one challenger.

There will likely be runoff elections next month. Understate law, runoff elections are required if no candidate receives a substantialplurality, 41% of the vote, or a second primary can be demanded by thetrailing candidate within nine days of the election, unless the leadingcandidate receives 50% or more of the vote:

  • In an open race for mayor of Hickory, Will Locke held a comfortable lead against his opponents with 33.18% of the vote, as Lou Wetmore will seek a recount of his second-place race with Hank Guess. Guess currently leads Wetmore by 23 votes. Locke and the official second-place finisher will head into a runoff on November 7.
  • In a four-way open race in Fayetteville, Mitch Colvin, who secured 45.03% of the vote, and current Mayor Nat Robertson, who finished with 31.6% of the vote, may head into a November runoff if it is requested by Robertson.
  • In a seven-way open race in Durham, Steve Schewel secured 51.21% of the vote and will head into a runoff election next month against Farad Ali, who secured 29.13% of the vote, if it is requested by Ali.
  • In Statesville, incumbent Costi Kutteh secured 37.98% of the vote in a five-way race and will face Michael Johnson, who followed with 34.14% of the vote.
  • In Raleigh, incumbent Nancy McFarlane secured 48.45% of the vote and will face challenger Charles Francis, who followed with 36.67% of the vote. Following Tuesday’s elections, Francis indicated that he is strongly considering asking for a runoff.

City council and town council seats were also on municipal ballots, as wellas a $206.7 million transportation bond in Raleigh, which passed with 72.1%of the vote.

To view municipal elections results by county, clickhere.