NCGA Week in Review

November 16, 2018

Pardon Our Dust

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The General Assembly will re-convene on Tuesday, November 27. It will be the fourth special session of this interim, Republicans will work on clarifying laws to accompany the passed Constitutional Amendments as well as any other legislation they see fit to pass before they lose their veto-proof supermajority. This session is considered a “lame-duck” session as outgoing members will be taking some of their last votes before the new legislature takes place.

We will not be sending out Week in Review next week in observance of Thanksgiving. The team at McGuireWoods Consulting wishes everyone a joyous and happy Thanksgiving. Week in Review will resume Friday, November 30.

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources met on Tuesday, November 13 to hear presentations on Hurricane Florence Recovery. Legislators were particularly concerned about the damage estimates to the agriculture industry across the state. NC Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler updated legislators on the latest damages to the industry, which he called “catastrophic.”

The latest estimate of damages has now risen to $1.1 billion across the state. At least $11 million of taxpayer money has been used to dispose of dead livestock and poultry killed by flooding.

In response to the needs of farmers, the NC Department of Agriculture has set up a program for assistance. The program is aimed to manage the incurred debt related to Hurricane Florence or any other recent disasters. The program is only eligible to farmers in the 53 declared disaster counties.

Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on Governmental Operations, Subcommittee on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

On Wednesday, November 14 the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, Subcommittee on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline met for a presentation regarding the deal between Governor Cooper and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline partners. During the committee, Republican legislators sought answers about the $50 million side agreement between Governor Cooper and the utilities responsible for building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A memorandum of understanding was developed as part of the migration process in North Carolina. The state is responsible for how those mitigation funds are administrated.  The project stretches between North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Republican legislators were not content with the lack of answers from the Governor and the state Department of Environmental Quality regarding the Governor’s memorandum. The memorandum states the builders of the pipeline are to give money which Governor Cooper would allocate for environmental mitigation, renewable energy, and economic development.

The committee made a motion to consider the hiring of an outside investigator. The committee is concerned that the agreement was illegal and the issuance of permits for the pipeline was conditional on the side agreement and payment. Legislators called for someone to look into the lack of transparency surrounding the ordeal. There is power within the committee to subpoena members of the Governor’s cabinet, but the chair of the committee, Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), did not want to the process to go there yet. Democratic members of the committee agreed that there should be clarity in the matter but do not believe that there was any wrongdoing from the Governor’s office. The committee will now begin the process of interviewing outside investigators.

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety

Over the past year, officials in North Carolina have been figuring out how to better protect state employees who work in prisons. Numerous employees have been fatally attacked over the past several months. Due to shortages in guards, prisons across the state have been left vulnerable. This has caused public safety concerns that have made their way to the General Assembly.

The committee heard from the Director of Prisons, advisors from adult and juvenile corrections, and the Director of NC Emergency Management to gain clarity on what is happening. The state has laid out an aggressive hiring plan which has contributed to the hire of 1,400 new correctional officers to combat inmate violence. In addition, the state has distributed funds for facilities to upgrade protective gear such as vests, tasers, and other technology to assist the shorthanded facilities.

Officials told legislators about new training programs that they are putting correctional officers through to combat the growing epidemic of gang violence within the prisons. The Department of Public Safety has been struggling with retention rates of correctional officers, leaving prisons across the state short staffed. With dangerous work conditions and low pay it has been difficult for facilities to keep workers. The legislators on the committee will look into best practices and possibly budget adjustments next session to help relieve correctional facilities across the state.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, November 19, 2018

10:00 a.m.      Child Fatality Task Force / Unintentional Death Prevention Committee 1027/1128 Legislative Building

10:00 a.m.      North Carolina Courts Commission, Subcommittee on Pretrial Release NC Judicial Center, 901 Corporate Center Drive, Raleigh

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

10:00 a.m.      Social Services Regional Supervision and Collaboration Working Group (2017) UNC School of Government – Room 2401