NCGA Week in Review

November 8, 2019

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The short adjournment for members of the North Carolina General Assembly is quickly coming to an end as legislators gear up to head back to Raleigh to continue their work of this year’s long session. While the items up for consideration when members return may be limited, lawmakers may still have their work cut out for them as a complete budget for the biennium, a form of Medicaid expansion, and funding for the Medicaid transformation are all issues that remain unresolved. It is still up in the air whether any, or all, of these unsettled issues will be up for debate next week. 

Both the House and the Senate will reconvene on Wednesday, November 13 at 12:00 noon. 

November Session

Lawmakers will soon be back at the legislative building as both the House and the Senate plan to meet again next week. While they may be back in Raleigh for a while, members will be limited in the types of matters that can be considered during this time. When the General Assembly reconvenes on Wednesday, the only eligible items for consideration laid out in SJR 694: Adjourn 2019 Regular Session to November will be bills related to redistricting litigation, the selection, appointment, or confirmation of gubernatorial nominations or appointments, and the adoption of conference reports for bills already in conference prior to the legislature’s October 31 adjournment. There are 10 bills currently in conference committee making them eligible for consideration when the General Assembly returns. The bills, as they were sent to conference committee, include: 

  • HB 200: 2019 Storm Recovery Act, would provide State match funding for disaster relief from Hurricane Dorian and other named storms as well as provide the contingent funding for the Rural Health Care Stabilization Fund.The House version of a similar bill contained storm resiliency funding, while this Senate version does not. 
  • HB 633: Strengthen Criminal Gang Laws, would increase the penalty of use of a firearm when a felony is committed, create a Class F felony for firearm possession during criminal gang activity, and create a new evidentiary rule allowing evidence of the commission of criminal gang activity and other crimes to be admissible during trail. 
  • SB 212: NC FAST/Early Child/Transformation/ACH Assess, would require the Division of Social Services (DSS), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to postpone the roll out of the case-management systems for NC FAST programs. The bill would also require the Division of Child Development and Early Education to establish competency standards and amends the requirements of the initial resident assessment conducted by adult care homes.
  • SB 217: Change Superior Ct & District Ct Numbers, would numerically realign superior court and district court districts with prosecutorial districts. 
  • SB 315: North Carolina Farm Act of 2019, would establish the North Carolina Hemp Commission under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to expire July 1, 2021, would ban smokable hemp beginning June 20, 2020, require a smokable hemp study committee, give left-turning farm equipment the right-of-way, expand outdoor advertising for bona fide farm proprieties by increasing the size of sign allowed and the area where the sign could be placed, add hunting, fishing, shooting sports and equestrian activities to the definition of agritourism, and would provide clarifying language to the Environmental Management Commission for permitting certain swine farm modifications.
  • SB 356: Surp. Proceeds; Cert. Seized Veh. Sales, would clarify that the State Surplus Property Agency must enter into two regional contracts for towing, storing, and seized vehicles and distributes a portion of the proceeds from the sale of State-owned property to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
  • SB 361: Healthy NC,would enact the Psychology Interjurisdictional Licensure Compact (PSYPACT), would allow marriage and family therapists to conduct involuntary commitment first-level exams, eliminate redundancy in adult care home inspections, establishes the Lupus Advisory Committee, modify step therapy protocols, authorize equal insurance coverage for oral chemotherapy drugs, require health insurance providers to cover and promote access to telehealth services, and create a task force to develop solutions on the problems facing North Carolinian’s access to healthcare.
  • SB 432: Birth Center & Pharm Benefits Mgr. Licensure, would establish licensing requirements for birth centers and create the NC Birth Center Commission. the bill would also require pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) to be licensed, establish rules for claim overpayments and PBM networks, and would increase the Commissioner’s ability to take enforcement action against PBMs.
  • SB 476: Compt-Based Assess. & Mental Hlth/Teen Viol., would direct the State Board of Education to recommend how to transition to a competency-based assessment and teaching model. The bill would also require public school units to adopt and implement a suicide risk referral protocol, a mental health training program, and a policy against teen dating and violence. 
  • SB 681: Rur Hlth Care/Loc. Sales Tax Flex/Util. Acct., would establish a revolving loan fund to provide low-interest loans for rural hospitals in financial crisis. The loan would be approved by the Local Government Commission (LGC) and the administered by UNC Health Care. The bill would also allow counties to levy an additional quarter-cent local sales tax for a purpose identified through the ballot question and would expand the counties eligible for Utility Account grants to the 87 most distressed counties under the tier system.

It is unclear whether or not the current language included in these ten bills will be what actually comes before the legislature once they are back in session.

Election Results

Voters across the country and throughout North Carolina made their way to the polls this week to cast their ballots in a number of local general elections. In Charlotte, Mayor Vi Lyles officially won her reelection campaign after receiving a strong show of support in the primary race last month. With 77% of the vote, Mayor Lyles became the first Charlotte mayor since 2011 to be elected to serve a second term. Also on the ballot for Charlotte voters this week was a potential sales tax increase. The proposed tax increase would have raised the Mecklenburg County sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5% and would have divided the revenue between educational and cultural programs as well as parks around the area. However, the increased sales tax measure failed with 57% of voters voting against the proposal. 

In Durham, incumbent Mayor Steve Schewel was reelected for a second term as mayor after receiving over 83% of the vote. Mayor Schewel ran on a platform centered around reducing gun violence, providing more affordable housing options around the city, and expanding the public transportation network. Also on the ballot for Durham voters was a $95 million affordable housing bond. Voters approved the measure with 76% of the vote. The bond will be the largest affordable housing bond in state history, adding to the $65 million that has already been allocated through federal funding. The bond aims to provide 1,600 permanently affordable units in gentrified communities and will focus on providing a path to either rentership or ownership for residents who make 60% or less of the median area income. 

On the coast, voters in Wilmington cast their ballots in what turned out to be close races across the board. Wilmington’s longest serving mayor, Mayor Bill Saffo, who has been mayor since 2007, won reelection, beating his challenger by 630 votes. The last seat on the Wilmington City Council was also a close race with the winner decided by a mere 6 votes. Incumbent councilman Neil Anderson won reelection over challenger Paul Lawler. A new face may be joining the new city council as Kevin Spears achieved 14.4% of the vote. However, the results are not yet final as the New Hanover County Board of Elections has until November 15 to certify the results. Due to the closeness of the races, there have already been early calls for a recount.

For more information about all of the elections that took place across North Carolina this week, visit the State Board of Elections page here

Congressional Redistricting 

While the majority of legislators had a break from being in Raleigh this week after last Thursday’s adjournment, an interim committee met to work on the court-suggested redraw of the state’s congressional districts. The Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting is made up of 18 members from both the House and the Senate, including: 

  • Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell)
  • Sen. Ralph Hise (R-McDowell)
  • Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett)
  • Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake)
  • Sen. Ben Clark (D-Cumberland)
  • Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Avery)
  • Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Buncombe)
  • Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson)
  • Sen. Toby Fitch (D-Edgecombe)
  • Rep. Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland)
  • Rep. Edward Goodwin (R-Bertie)
  • Rep. Kelly Hastings (R-Cleveland)
  • Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus)
  • Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir)
  • Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham)
  • Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston)
  • Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan)
  • Rep. Shelly Willingham (D-Edgecombe)

The select committee was appointed following an injunction that was issued by a panel of judges last week. The injunction encouraged, but did not mandate, that lawmakers redraw the state’s 13 U.S. House of Representatives districts prior to next year’s elections. The judges found that the maps are likely to contain extreme partisan gerrymandering. If the maps are not redrawn to the satisfaction of the court by the March 3, 2020 primary, the three judge panel has the ability to delay the primaries until the new maps are complete. The injunction shows that the plaintiffs in the case are likely to prevail, giving lawmakers a head start on the redistricting process before they run out of time. While the court has not set a specific timeline or deadline for the maps to be redrawn, legislators aim to have the maps complete before the candidate filing deadline at the end of December. 

Legislators on the committee spent three days this week working with legislative staff to draw maps. Some lawmakers chose to draw maps from scratch using the most recent census data available, others chose to start with various versions of a base map, making incremental changes along the way. The committee will wrap up their work for the week Friday afternoon to reconvene again on Tuesday, the first day on which the committee has the potential to discuss any of the maps that have been drawn so far. 

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Wednesday, November 13

12:00PM House: Session Convenes

12:00PM Senate: Session Convenes