NCGA Week in Review

November 10, 2017

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This week in legislative oversight committees, legislators looked at topicsincluding virtual charter schools, judicial redistricting and updates fromstate agencies. Meanwhile, thousands of North Carolinians headed to thepolls to vote in municipal elections across the state.

Legislative Oversight Committees Meet

Capital Improvement Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Capital Improvements met onWednesday. First, the committee received apresentationfrom NC National Guard Major Kent Caldwell on the status of three projectsbeing funding by the Connect NC Bond. Then, Chief Financial Officer for theDepartment of Health and Human Services Rod Davisupdatedthe committee on the construction of the new Broughton Hospital, which wassupposed to open in fall of 2014, and has been delayed until September2018. Finally, Fiscal Analyst Daniel Saterpresentedto the committee on properties that are leased by the state. The statecurrently has 712 leased properties across the state, with a value totaling$30 billion.

Education Oversight

On Tuesday, the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee held theirfirst meeting of the interim.

The committee first heard anupdatefrom Chancellor of the NC School of Science and Math (NCSSM) Todd Robertson the school’s progress opening a western campus. The school will open inMorganton.

The committee then received updates from two virtual charter schools thathave been operating in NC as part of a four-year pilot program that isslated to expire at the end of the 2018-19 school year.NC Connections AcademyandNC Virtual Academypresented highlights to the committee, including parent, student, andteacher satisfaction rates, increased extracurricular activities, andindividual student successes. Both schools provide entirely onlinecurriculums, which allows an alternative pathway to education for studentsin special circumstances. Superintendent of Connections Academy NathanCurrie asked the committee to consider removing the pilot status of theseprograms, and to look at funding, as virtual charter schools receive lessfunding than traditional public and brick and mortar charter schools. NCVirtual Academy Head of School Joel Medley noted that the school is meetingall of the State Board of Education’s requirement for a ten-year charterrenewal.

Finally, the committee received anupdateon the transfer of the apprenticeship program from the Department ofCommerce to the State Board of Community Colleges, which was completed onNovember 1.

All documents from the meeting can be foundhere.

Energy Policy Commission

North Carolina is eligible to receive roughly $92 million from the $14.7billion settlement between Volkswagen and the US Environmental ProtectionAgency. On Wednesday, the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policyreceived information from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) aswell as stakeholders on the settlement. The funds from the settlement mustbe spent to remediate nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions, Director of theDivision of Air Quality Mike Abraczinskasoverviewedthe ten types of eligible projects the state may undertake.

The committee also heard several presentations on electric vehicles,including a look at developments in industry technology, infrastructureneeds to support electric vehicles and the impacts of electric vehicles onthe grid. Project Manager at Advanced Energy Lisa Pogernotedthat there are 7,416 electric vehicles currently registered in the stateand stated that an increase in charging stations in NC has led to increasedsales of electric vehicles in the state. Additionally, it waspresentedto the committee that increased charging infrastructure is necessary for NCto be a player in 21st century infrastructure as transportationbecomes more autonomous, electrified and shared. The committee alsodiscussed the impact of electric vehicles on the state’s grid, withpresentations fromDuke Energy,Dominion Power,NC Electric Membership Corporationand ElectriCities. Because most electric vehicle drivers charge their carswhen at home, and in the evening, electric companies discussed strategiesto reduce impact on the grid, including encouraging customers to chargelater at night in exchange for a reduced rate.

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

General Government Oversight

On Tuesday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Governmentmet to receive updates from a number of state agencies.

First, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) Secretary LarryHall, Assistant Secretary James Prosser, and Scholarship Coordinator AngelaHeilig, provided anupdateon the state’s Children of Wartime Veterans Scholarship program. DMVA isrequesting an additional $1.5 million annually to restore a room and boardallowance in certain classes of the scholarships.

The Committee then received an audit from State Auditor Beth Wood on thestate’s vehicle seizure program. In herpresentation, Auditor Wood said that contractors cannot account for 234 vehicles andrecommended that the Department of Administration:

  • Monitor contractor performance on a regular basis.
  • Determine to what extent the contractors are able to provide these services under current and future state contracts.

The presentation was met with some criticism from the committee. Rep. DavidLewis (R-Harnett) said that he questioned the thoughtfulness and accuracyof the audit. The committee will be reviewing the audit further at a futuremeeting.

To view all documents from the committee, follow thislink.

Information Technology Oversight

Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on InformationTechnology held their first meeting of the interim. The committee receivedan update from Department of Information Technology (DIT) Secretary EricBoyette, who noted the internal transitions DIT has undergone in recentyears, the Department’s focus on cyber security, and the state’s efforts toimplement enterprise resource planning in state agencies. Additionally,Chief Information Risk Officer Maria Thompson provided an update on theDepartment’s efforts to protect state data. DIT was awarded $2 million inthe 2017 budget to complete security assessments across state executiveagencies. Thompson told the committee that some agencies are at riskbecause they are under compliant with state security requirements.

To view documents from the committee, clickhere.

Judicial Redistricting

Roughly a month after the House approvedHB 717: Judicial Redistricting & Investment Act, the Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting Meetingheld their first meeting on Wednesday. During the meeting, senators debatedHB 717, which bill sponsor Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) says is necessary toclean up the states maps that have not been redrawn for more than 50 years.Opponents to the plan have called it partisan gerrymandering and say thatthe plans will not hold up in court if they are passed into law. The Senateis also expected to consider merit-based models of judicial selection,which would require an amendment to the state constitution.

Transportation Oversight

The Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee convened onThursday. During their meeting, legislators heard from several officials atthe Department of Transportation (DOT).

First, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner Torre Jessupupdatedthe committee on DMV reform efforts, including efforts to improve customerservice and the state’s compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.

Then, Highway Division 9 Engineer Pat Iveypresentedto the committee on projects in Highway Division 9, which includes Stokes,Forsyth, Davie, Davidson and Rowan Counties. Ivey informed the committeethat staffing is one of the greatest challenges for his Division becausethey cannot compete with salaries in the private sector.

The committee also heard from DOT Chief Operating Officer Bobby Lewis, whospoketo the committee about efforts within the Department to expedite projectdelivery and reduce the Department’s cash balance.

To review all committee documents, follow thislink.

Municipal Elections

On Tuesday, nearly 600,000 North Carolinians headed to the polls to vote inmunicipal elections across the state, which represents 16.74% voterturnout. To review the results of Tuesday’s municipal elections, includinga spotlight on the Charlotte elections from Tricia Cotham, who isheadquartered out of McGuireWoods’ Charlotte office, follow thislink.

A Look Ahead to Next Week

Next week, the following legislative meetings will be held:

Monday, November 13

2:00 PM House Select Committee on Disaster Relief

Tuesday, November 14

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC HealthChoice

Wednesday, November 15

9:30 AM Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform

Thursday, November 16

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety

Friday, November 17

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services,Subcommittee on Aging