NCGA Week in Review

February 1, 2019

Pardon Our Dust

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The General Assembly re-convened this week on Wednesday, January 30th at noon. The start of the long session is expected to be slow, as legislators settle into committees and set the agenda for the year. Multiple bills were filed within the first week including a Medicaid expansion bill, a bill banning female genital mutilation, and a proposed school construction bond coming out of the Senate. 

The General Assembly will re-convene on Monday, February 4th. The Senate is expected to vote on one bill while the House will hold a no-vote session. 

Medicaid Expansion

On Wednesday, House and Senate Democrats filed identical bills, HB 5: Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap and SB 3: Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap, to expand North Carolina’s Medicaid program. Should either piece of Legislation be enacted, an additional between 500,000 and 670,000 North Carolinians will be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

North Carolina remains one of 12 states that has not yet expanded its Medicaid program. As of June 2018, about 21 percent of the state population, some 2.14 million people, are enrolled in the program. The program has also been operating under budget in recent years.

Republican leadership has expressed concerns about Medicaid expansion, specifically about the federal government being able to pay its percentage of additional administrative costs. Representative Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) plans to reintroduce his own expansion bill, “Carolina Cares,” that includes a work requirement for recipients to receive their benefits.

Senate minority leader Dan Blue (D-Wake), Governor Roy Cooper, and many other Democratic legislators remain optimistic in their Medicaid expansion efforts. While program expansion is a top priority for these lawmakers, they hope that it does not negatively influence budget negotiations that will take place later this session.

School Construction Bonds

Republican legislators have already made school construction and repair a priority this session. SB 5: Building North Carolina’s Future, filed yesterday, would increase contribution to the State Capital Infrastructure Fund to 4.5% of tax revenue, and would allow K-12 schools to use the money towards construction. This pay-as-you-go proposal comes as an alternative to the $1.9 billion bond proposed by Democrats and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).

Senator Harry Brown (R-Onslow), one of the primary sponsors of Senate Bill 5, says that the Speaker Moore’s Bond proposal would end up costing the state $1.2 billion in interest over 30 years, while SB5 would start two years sooner and generate more money. Critics are curious about how legislators plan to ensure enough money remains in the budget to carry out this proposal and how the money will be allocated to school districts. 

Both Sen. Brown and Speaker Moore remained confident about school construction funding in their respective press conferences on Wednesday. Sen. Brown assured the press that the state has built up enough money to support the Senate’s school construction plans.

House and Senate Schedule Plans

During their first meeting of the session, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) announced a change in the House’s weekly schedule. Members and observers can expect Monday afternoon Rules Committee meetings, followed by a nighttime session. Tuesdays will be dedicated to committee meetings, while Wednesdays and Thursdays will have session and floor votes. The House Rules Committee proposed permanent rules that would set aside two weeks of vacation for members when no voting will take place.

The Senate Rules Committee met Thursday morning to review SB 7: Bipartisan Ethics Appointments, which will appoint the members to the State Ethics Commission. The bill passed favorably through Senate Rules and heads to the Senate floor for a vote on Monday. 

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, February 4th

7:00PM House: Session Convenes

7:00PM Senate: Session Convenes

Tuesday, February 5th

10:00AM House: Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House