Pardon Our Dust
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The General Assembly met several times this week, holding session to discuss each chamber’s permanent rules. Both House and Senate committee chairs decided to use some of their meeting time to acclimate new members as they gear up for this year’s long session. Legislators filed several bills this week, multiple that would increase school calendar flexibility, and one to make ice cream North Carolina’s official frozen treat.
The General Assembly will re-convene on Monday, February 11th at 7:00pm.
House Committee Floaters
During the House chamber session Wednesday, Republican legislators voted to reinstitute committee floaters. This rule change gives four members of legislative leadership the ability to sit in on committee meetings and vote up or down bills and amendments. Republicans are confident the rule change will ensure committees are productive and face fewer delays when members are absent.
Establishing committee floaters did not come without some pushback. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson attempted to add several amendments to the House Permanent Rules, which would limit how conference committee reports can be used and strengthen the existing rule that requires new bill language be available by 9:00pm the night before it goes to committee. Republicans, opposed to Rep. Jackson’s amendments, quickly shot them down.
The four committee floaters this session will be House Rules Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett), Speaker Pro Tem Sarah Stevens (R-Surry), Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne), and Deputy Majority Leader Brenden Jones (R-Columbus).
During their meeting Thursday, the State Board of Elections considered possible changes to county election office rules and procedures on issuing photo IDs to registered voters. Voters who would like one of the free photo IDs would be required to fill out a form with their full name, date of birth, the last four digits of their Social Security number, their signature, and the current date. County election officials would then match the information on the form to the individual’s voter registration, take their picture, and issue the card. A voter who does not wish to provide their Social Security number would still be issued an ID.
The proposed rules on the Board’s agenda would allow for free replacements of the IDs requested only by phone, mail, or in person – not online. In addition, the State Board of Elections will also review draft procedures for colleges and universities to accept their student’s IDs at the polls.
The House filed two bills this week that would put new restrictions on abortion in North Carolina. HB22: Woman’s Right to Know Addition/Ashley’s Law would require doctors to tell a woman that morning-after pill abortions can be reversed halfway through. An observational study published last year showed that reversal did work in some cases, however, many other doctors argue this claim is not supported by science as there have not been any clinical studies done. A bill similar to HB22 was filed two years ago but did gain much traction in the House.
Lawmakers will also address HB28: Prohibit Abortions After 13 Weeks, which would ban abortions after 13 weeks following conception. Existing law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks into the gestation period. This bill would give North Carolina one of the earliest abortion bans in the United States.
House Republicans expect to see more bills restricting abortions filed soon, despite no anti-abortion bills reaching the floor for a vote last session. Increased national interest on the subject may force North Carolina legislators to bring bills like these up for debate.
State Board of Education Meeting
The State Board of Education held their monthly meeting this week
, with a full agenda. State Department of Public Instruction officials recommended the elimination of three state exams as part of their ongoing effort to reduce the amount of testing being given to public school students. More than 23,000 students take the N.C. Final Exams for science in fourth grade and social studies in fourth and fifth grade each year to assess how teachers are performing. If approved by the State Board of Education, these tests could be eliminated as soon as this school year.
The State Board of Education also discussed a draft of the “State of the Teaching Profession Report” which showed schools are struggling to find elementary teachers who teach core subjects, who specialize in students with disabilities, and who teach middle school math. The report notes that the state teacher rate of attrition has fallen about half a percentage point during the 2017-18 school year.
Upcoming Legislative Meetings
Monday, February 11th
2:00PM Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee
Tuesday, February 12th
8:30AM House: Appropriations, Transportation
10:00AM House: Health
2:00PM Senate: State and Local Government
Thursday, February 14th
1:00PM Legislative Commission on the Fair Treatment of College Student Athletes (2017)
Friday, February 15th
10:00AM North Carolina Courts Commission