Pardon Our Dust
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The North Carolina General Assembly remains adjourned for the year as members spend some time back home in their districts, gearing up for what is to come in 2020. Legislators will be back in Raleigh sooner rather than later as members of both the House and the Senate are scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday, January 14th. Until then, legislators are keeping busy as candidate filing for the next election opened on Monday. The Raleigh City Council, the State Board of Education, and the Department of Transportation Board all met this week to continue work while lawmakers have some time away from Raleigh.
Just in time for the start of the candidate filing period, the three-judge panel signed off on the newly redrawn district maps for North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House of Representatives seats. Lawmakers met shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday to redraw the maps. The same three-judge panel issued an injunction law month, prompting the redistricting process to begin. The injunction encouraged, but did not mandate, that lawmakers redraw the state’s House of Representatives districts prior to the 2020 election. The judges issued the injunction on the premise that the 2016 maps are likely to contain extreme partisan gerrymandering. The court strongly encouraged lawmakers to begin the Redistricting process sooner rather than later as the three-judge panel reserved the ability to delay the March 3, 2020 primaries until the new maps are redrawn to their satisfaction. While the court expressed concerns that the redrawn district maps were not a complete fix to the problems they found, in the end, the 2016 maps were replaced and that was what was most important to the panel. The judges’ decision on Monday opened up candidate filing for North Carolina’s U.S. House of Representatives seats. Candidate filing will remain open until December 20th.
Candidate filing for the 2020 election officially opened this week. Candidates seeking election to the state General Assembly, the office of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, U.S. congress, among a number of other elected public offices such as Insurance Commissioner and Commissioner of Agriculture, are able to file their candidacy until noon on December 20th. While all eyes are often on who is running in any given race, this year, much of the focus has been on who is not running as a handful of lawmakers have announced they would not be seeking reelection over the last few weeks.
To date, nine current members of the state Senate and 11 current members of the state House have either filed their candidacy for a different office or have announced that they will not be seeking reelection in 2020. In the House, the members include:
- Rep. Chaz Beasley (D-Mecklenburg) has filed his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor
- Rep. MaryAnn Black (D-Durham)
- Rep. Debra Conrad (R-Forsyth)
- Rep. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon) has filed his candidacy for a state Senate seat.
- Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell) has filed his candidacy for Labor Commissioner.
- Rep. John Fraley (R-Iredell)
- Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) has filed her candidacy for Governor.
- Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley (D-Wake) has filed her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.
- Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson)
- Rep. Michele Presnell (R-Yancey)
- Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven)
Over in the Senate, members include:
- Sen. John Alexander (R-Wake)
- Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow)
- Sen. Jim Davis (R-Graham)
- Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance)
- Sen. Rick Horner (R-Nash)
- Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) has been appointed to the Utilities Commission.
- Sen. Erica Smith (D-Beaufort) has filed her candidacy for U.S. Senate.
- Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) has filed her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.
- Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba) has filed his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor.
Candidates will first have to win their primary races on March 3, 2020 before making it to the November general election.
DOT Board Meeting
The North Carolina Department of Transportation held their last monthly board meetings of the year on December 4th and 5th. Secretary Trogden along with the other members of the board have continued to grind through what has been a tough year for the agency tasked with keeping North Carolina moving. Unexpected catastrophic storms, ongoing costly projects, and settlements pertaining the the Map Act put the Department in fiscal trouble. NC Attorney General Josh Stein gave opening remarks at the December 5th full board meeting. The Attorney General applauded the Department on their resiliancy and reassured them that the Department of Justice will be right their with them through the ups and downs. A.G. Stein went on to remind the board of all of the important role that they play in pushing innovation, mobility, and economic viability throughout the state.
Secretary Trogdon, has faced criticism from the General Assembly for what they saw as money mismanagement towards projects and recovery efforts. In an unprecedented move, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 356: DOT Cash and Accountability which effectively will bail out the Department by injecting cash to help them move forward and pay for storm recovery. Highlights of the bill include: the authorization of issuance and sale of $400 million in Build NC (an issuance of $100 million more than provided for in the Build NC Bond Act). No change in $3 billion limit on total amount of special indebtedness from the issuance of Build NC Bonds, directs the Department to transfer $100 million ($50 million by February 1, 2020 and $50 million by May 1, 2020) from Highway Trust Fund to Highway Fund as a loan, creates a Transportation Emergency Reserve to hold $125 million in funds for use by the Department for presidentially declared major disasters, with an initial funding of $64 million is from General Fund.
Governor Cooper signed the bill into law on November 18, 2019. The Department expects funding in early January.
Despite the tough fiscal year the Board of Transportation remains optimistic that the cash received from the General Assembly will put them back on the path of viability.Major projects such as Complete 540 and reopening highways to the Outer Banks have seen major progress over the last month. Secretary Trogdon has pledged that the Department will meet all of the cash reporting requirements mandated by the General Assembly and will continue to be transparent about where the money is being spent. The Secretary remained steadfast in his commitment that the Department will remain focused on doing the work of the people despite the challenges they are facing due to circumstances beyond their control. Board members still expressed concern that the money was just a band-aid to a problem that they will continue to have. With rising cost of projects and worsening storms many members faced the reality that it will only continue to get more expensive.
The 2020 North Carolina Transportation Summit will take place January 8-9 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The Secretary touted the summit as a valuable experience for stakeholders to come together and hear about national trends, innovation, and how DOT can be ahead of the change before it comes. For more information about the summit click here.