North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

December 4, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

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This week, Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina expects to receive its first round of COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December. The state is anticipating an initial round of 85,000 vaccines which will be distributed to a limited number of hospitals. Gov. Cooper along with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen told reporters that the initial of supply of vaccines will go to a limited number of hospitals to distribute to workers in COVID-19 wards, emergency rooms, and who are at high-risk for exposure to the virus.

Next, the state plans to distribute the vaccine to residents and workers in long-term care facilities, and adults who have two or more chronic illnesses. The state does not plan on distributing vaccinations for children until clinical trials are completed. North Carolina remains paused in Phase 3 of re-opening. 

As of Thursday morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 377,231 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 5,408,434 completed tests, 5,406 deaths, and 2,101 current hospitalizations. 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.

Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee 

The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee met Tuesday, December 1 to discuss their committee report draft and receive an update from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) on the complexities that schools are facing during the pandemic. The committee, chaired by outgoing Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union), approved their draft report, which includes recommendations to improve digital learning, broadband expansion, and increased college and career pathways. The report did not include any funding or dollar amounts, as legislators wait to see where the state stands financially going into the new year.

Dr. David Stegall, Deputy Superintendent of Innovation at DPI, along with Freebird McKinney, Director of Legislative and Community Affairs at the NC State Board of Education (SBE) presented the committee with the realities school districts across the state are facing. On average, 36% of K-12 students are learning virtually, while 59% have opted for face-to-face instruction. 82% of Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are operating under a combination of Plan A and Plan B, which allows students to choose face-to-face instruction or remote instruction. 18% of LEAs across the state are still operating under Plan C, with all students learning remotely. According to data from DPI, 81% of students are regularly attending their virtual classes, while 89% of students are regularly attending in-person instruction. 

Committee members were particular displeased with the percentage of students who were counted as not regularly attending. DPI defines regular attendance as being present four out of five days a week. DPI estimates that 19% of virtual learning students miss two or more days a week. Officials say that a number of factors have contributed to the high absenteeism number, including lack of consistent internet access, unstable home environments, health reasons, and students who have chosen to get jobs to help support their families.

Dr. Stegall told members of the committee that DPI expects a lower graduation rate, increased learning gaps, and that more students will repeat their current grade level. Legislators acknowledged that the pandemic has been hard, but voiced disappointment in the data that was being presented to them. Additionally, the committee was concerned to learn that many COVID funds meant for Personal Protective Equipment, sanitation, and technology have yet to be disbursed. DPI told members that it was waiting for additional SBE approval that would allow for more flexibility on how the funds could be spent before the end of the year. 

Senate Select Committee on Prison Safety

The Senate Select Committee on Prison Safety met Monday, November 30. The committee heard a presentation from the Program Evaluation Division (PED) on reorganizing the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, recommendations  for the use of Naloxone is correctional facilities, and a COVID-19 update from Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. 

Prison safety and employee retention has been a problem in facilities across the state. Over the years, the General Assembly has tried to implement legislation to protect prison workers, increase pay, and decrease substance abuse by inmates. Now the system faces new challenges due to the pandemic. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been forced to close three prisons across the state in the last 11 days. Commissioner Ishee said that the understaffed system has had to take extra precautions in order to ensure staff and inmate safety, create space for medical units, and isolate those who are ill.  Commissioner Ishee told the committee that the state plans to roll out vaccines to prisons which will be given to staff and high-risk inmates. The State Employees Association of North Carolina expressed concerns over the temporary or permanent closures of prisons resulting in the loss of state jobs. Commissioner Ishee assured committee members that DPS intends to re-open suspended facilities, but could not guarantee when that will happen. 

Additionally, the committee heard from PED who presented their findings on a potential step pay plan to retain correctional officers and encourage more people to join the field. Recommendations included a five percent increase during the first one to four years on the job, with varied increases every year after. Legislators were unsure if the increases were enough to attract qualified individuals to a system that is struggling due to the pandemic.

New Members

The North Carolina State Senate will welcome eight new members when the General Assembly returns in January. Additionally, the Council of State will welcome three new members to its ranks. This week, we highlight the incoming members of those respective branches. Next week, we will highlight the new members of the North Carolina House of Representatives.


Ernestine Bazemore (D) (District 3- Beaufort, Bertie, Martin, Northampton, Vance, Warren)

  • Political experience: Elected to Bertie Board of Commissioners in 2014,  appointed by Gov. Cooper as a Trustee for Roanoke Chowan Community College, serves as the District 2 Director from the State of NC Association of County Officials 
  • Occupation: School Administrator 
  • Priorities: Family issues, connecting rural NC, bipartisanship

Michael Lazzara (R) (District 6- Jones, Onslow)

  • Political experience: Member of Jacksonville City Council, elected as the President of the NC League of Municipalities and as a Coastal Carolina Community College trustee, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce,  served as Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee
  • Occupation: Owner and President of Lazzara Enterprises
  • Priorities: Agriculture, military support, mental health and substance abuse, and economic development

Michael Lee (R) (District 9- New Hanover)

  • Political experience: Served as State Senator from 2014 to 2018, serves on UNCW Board of Trustees, served on the NC Board of Transportation and chaired the NC Ports Authority Board of Directors
  • Occupation: Real Estate Attorney 
  • Priorities: Allow teachers more control over their classrooms, economic development, bring back film incentives, school funding, clean water, and redistricting

Lisa Stone Barnes (R) (District 11- Johnston, Nash)

  • Political experience: Currently representing House District 7 (Franklin, Nash)
  • Occupation: Agribusiness
  • Priorities: Preserving Second Amendment rights, protecting farmers, access to quality healthcare, COVID-19 economic relief 

Sarah Crawford (D) (District 18- Franklin, Wake)

  • Political experience: Worked for Congressman David Price (D-NC-04)
  • Occupation: Non-Profit Executive
  • Priorities: Education, increased teacher pay, Medicaid expansion, economic development in rural counties, increased environmental protection 

Amy Galey (R) (District 24- Alamance, Guilford)

  • Political experience: Alamance County Commissioner 
  • Occupation: Attorney 
  • Priorities: Economic development and recovery from COVID-19, increased teacher pay, Second Amendment rights, agricultural preservation

DeAndrea Salvador (D) (District 39- Mecklenburg)

  • Political experience: Community advocate for clean energy and affordable housing
  • Occupation: Non-Profit Executive
  • Priorities: Rebuilding the economy, infrastructure advancement, increased educational opportunities, Medicaid expansion 

Julie Mayfield (D) (District 49- Buncombe)

  • Political experience: Asheville City Council member
  • Occupation: Attorney 
  • Priorities: Climate change, healthcare equity, LGBTQ+ rights

Council of State

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elect Catherine Truitt (R)

  • Political experience: Served as Senior Advisor on Education for former Governor Pat McCrory (R)
  • Occupation: Chancellor of Western Governors University
  • Priorities: Research-based early literacy strategies, expand collaboration and partnerships between schools, community colleges, and businesses, and collaborate with experts to solve the funding shortfall for public schools

Commissioner of Labor Elect Josh Dobson (R)

  • Political experience: Represented House District 85 (Avery, McDowell, Mitchell) since 2013
  • Occupation: Budget Analyst
  • Priorities: Make the office less partisan and keep North Carolina’s workers safe through increased training, education, and collaboration between employees and employers

Lieutenant Governor Elect Mark Robinson (R)

  • Political experience: None
  • Occupation: Small Business Owner 
  • Priorities: Increasing benefits for Veterans, strengthening opportunity scholarships, less taxes and regulations for businesses, and strengthening immigration policies

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, December 7, 2020

10:00 AM – NOON

Unintentional Death Prevention Committee – North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force

Virtual (see committee website for details)

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Perinatal Health Committee – North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force

Virtual (see committee website for details)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

9:00 AM

Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee

643 LOB