North Carolina General Assembly — Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

June 5, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

We recently launched this new site and are still in the process of updating some of our archived content. Some details of this article may be incomplete, links may be broken, and other elements may not display properly yet. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

North Carolina continues to operate under Governor Cooper’s Safer At Home  order, or Phase 2 of reopening. During Phase 2, restaurants have been able to re-open for dine-in at 50% capacity. Personal care businesses such as barber shops, salons, and tattoo parlors have also re-opened at 50% capacity with social distancing and cleaning requirements. Gyms and bars remain closed during the Governor’s Phase 2 which will last through Friday, June 26 at the earliest. House Bill 536: Temp Outdoor Restaurants for Outdoor Seating which passed through the legislature last week, would allow any food establishment that serves food or drink to open and operate so long as they follow the 50% capacity for indoor dining outlined in the Governor’s order. The bill currently sits on the Governor’s desk, and if signed, would cut short his original phased re-opening of bars. Additionally, House Bill 594: Temp Open Gyms/Health Clubs/Fitness Ctrs which passed through Senate Commerce this week, would allow health clubs, fitness centers, and gyms to re-open sooner than expected. The bill now waits to be heard in Senate Rules Committee. 

As of Thursday morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 31, 966 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 468,302 completed tests, 960 deaths, 659 current hospitalizations, and all of the state’s 100 counties had seen confirmed coronavirus cases. As we all continue to feel the effects of the global pandemic and adjust to a new normal, we want to highlight a few ways our clients across North Carolina have worked to support residents and make this time a little easier for those throughout the state. Read more about what our clients are doing to help by clicking here.

For more information on COVID-19 in North Carolina, click here to visit the Department of Health and Human Services website, and be sure to stay up to date on the latest federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by clicking here.

Senate Rules 

The Senate Committee on Rules met three times this week to take up a number of bill ranging from appropriations, local government, and healthcare.

Appropriation Bills 

*All bills passed through the Senate Committee on Appropriations 

Senate Bill 801: Military Presence Stabilization Fund/Funding
Directs the Department of Commerce to transfer the sum of $2,000,000 in nonrecurring funds from the cash balance in the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for deposit in the Military Presence Stabilization Fund.

Senate Bill 806: Capital Appropriation – Western Carolina Univ
Sections 1 and 2 direct the State Controller to transfer $11,585,462 from the cash balance in the Repairs and Renovations Reserve and $4,914,538 from the Federal Insurance Contributions Act Fund. 

Senate Bill 836: State Operations/Increase Federal Funds Use
Increases the amount of funds appropriated from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for the continuity of State government by $300,000,000 to $370,000,000.

Senate Bill 811: Connect NC Park Facilities Operating Reserves
Reallocates $1,828,982 in recurring funds from the Pay Plan Reserve for the 2020-2021 fiscal year to the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to be used to fund up to 19 full-time equivalent positions and operational needs for State parks expanded or improved through Connect NC bonds. 

Senate Bill 812: Agricultural Sciences Center Funds
Provides $115,000 in recurring funds for an Executive Director position for the Center.

Senate Bill 814: NC Promise Tuition Plan Funds
Transfers $10,000,000 in nonrecurring funds from the cash balance in the Education Lottery Reserve Fund and 5,000,000 in nonrecurring to the Budget Code for UNC Board of Governors Institutional Programs. Sets tuition at $500 per semester for North Carolina residents and $2,500 per semester for nonresidents at Elizabeth City State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Western Carolina University.

Senate Bill 816: Funds for CC Enrollment Growth/FY 2020-2021
Appropriates $41,500,000 in nonrecurring funds for the 2020-2021 fiscal year from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to OSBM and directs OSBM to allocate those funds to the Community Colleges System Office for enrollment growth at North Carolina’s
community colleges.

House Bill 1063: Fund VIPER Tower Hardware Upgrades
Appropriates $19,800,530 in nonrecurring funds for the 2020-2021 fiscal year from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) and directs OSBM to allocate those funds to the Department of Public Safety to be used for VIPER tower hardware upgrades.

House Bill 1187: Raise the Age Funding
Transfers $10,440,000 in nonrecurring funds from the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Fund to the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice Division-Wide Operations Fund.

The committee also passed House Bill 471: Exempt Direct Primary Care from DOI Regs and  House Bill 158: Waive Road Test Requirement. House Bill 471 would clarify that direct primary care, a method of providing health care where the patient pays a monthly or annual fee to a primary care provider that covers all or most primary care services, would be exempt from Department of Insurance regulation. The bill passed through both the House and the Senate this week. House Bill 158 would temporarily waive the road test requirement for level two provisional licenses. The bill passed the Senate and now sits in the House Committee on Rules. 

Prison Safety 

The Senate Select Committee on Prison Safety met Tuesday, June 2 to hear an update from NC Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee. Prisons across North Carolina have faced a shortage of correctional staff, and COVID-19 has further affected the effort to recruit and maintain qualified staff. Commissioner Ishee told the committee that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) has tested 1,825 staff with 15 staff testing positive for COVID-19. 13 of the 15 staff that tested positive worked directly in prison facilities across the state. Prisons across the state have been issued PPE such as 2-ply cloth masks in order to combat the spread between staff and inmates.

Due to the pandemic, there is now a 30% vacancy rate in prisons across the state. In order to control the spread, DPS has taken measures such as controlling the movement of the inmate population by grouping them in cohorts that eat and work out together in the same area of the facility. Additionally, DPS has transitioned 270 offenders to supervised release and implemented credits for time served. Since the beginning of the pandemic the prison population in North Carolina has been reduced from 34,000 to 31,000. 

Senate Redistricting and Elections

The Senate Committee on Redistricting and Elections met this week to discuss House Bill 1169: Bipartisan Elections Act of 2020. The bill provides funding for local election boards and adjusts current law to accommodate for the COVID-19 pandemic. Absentee ballots typically make up 5% of the ballots cast in North Carolina. Due to COIVD-19, the number of absentee ballot requests are expected to rise. The bill would appropriate dollars from the CARES Act to county boards of elections in order to expand options for voters to receive absentee ballot request forms, procure proper equipment, security upgrades, hire additional poll workers and create an online portal for ballot submissions. The bill also includes a provision allowing those who fill out mail-in ballots to have only one witness to sign the ballot envelope instead of two. The bill now awaits to be heard in the Senate Committee on Appropriations. 

House Rules 

During the House Committee on Rules this week, committee members voted favorable on House Resolution 1230: Extend State of Emergency Rules/Modifications. The resolution, which was adopted April 28, 2020, made temporary changes to the House Permanent Rules. The temporary changes expired May 31. The House made modifications in their rules due to COVID-19. Highlights of the bill include 30-minute windows for voting to practice social distancing, re-opening of the galleries to the public, removing the requirement that a member must be in the chamber to vote, reinstating press access to the chamber, and reinstating the normal schedule for co-sponsoring of bills. 

The committee also took up and passed House Bill 1189: Driver Education COVID-19 Response which would cut down the amount of required hours of driver’s education from 30 to 15, and allow the DMV to issue a temporary license for a 90-day period while they are not conducting road tests. The committee also passed House Bill 1199: Graduating Sr. Numeric Grade a local bill which would give Union County Public Schools the authority to allow graduating high school seniors the choice of allowing their spring 2020 course grades to appear as numeric grades or pass/withdrawal on their official transcripts. Committee members showed interest in adding their counties and making the bill statewide. Currently, only ninth through eleventh graders are are granted the option.

City Curfews

As protests against police brutality have taken center stage across the country, a number of mayors across North Carolina have implemented curfews. Here is a list of cities across the state that have declared States of Emergency and/or curfews:

City of Asheville

Order and declaration
In effect until modified or rescinded by Mayor

City of Raleigh

Order and declaration
In effect until modified or rescinded by Mayor

Town of Spring Lake

Order and declaration
In effect until modified or rescinded by Mayor

City of Fayetteville

Order and declaration
In effect until modified or rescinded by Mayor

City of Greensboro

Order and declaration
8PM- 6AM
In effect until modified or rescinded by Mayor

City of High Point

Order and declaration
In effect until modified or rescinded by Mayor

City of Wilmington

Order and declaration
In effect until modified or rescinded by Mayor

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, June 8

1:00PM: Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee

2:00PM: House: Session Convenes

2:00PM: Senate: Session Convenes 

4:00PM: House  Committee on Rules, Calendars, and Operations

4:30: Senate Committee on Rules, Calendars, and Operations

Wednesday, June 10

10:00 AM: House Committee on Health