North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

December 11, 2020

Pardon Our Dust

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North Carolina is just beginning to see the impact the Thanksgiving holiday may have had on the state’s coronavirus numbers. In a press conference Tuesday, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said that she believes the numbers the state has seen thus far are just the beginning. It is likely the increase in COVID-19 cases reported over the last week reflect those that went to Thanksgiving gatherings already sick. Throughout the next week, the state’s numbers will start to reflect those that did not know they were sick with the virus until after attending those holiday gatherings. This week, the state continuously set record numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The case counts, in addition to a positive test rate of 10.5%, prompted Sec. Cohen to urge North Carolinians to consider canceling any remaining travel plans and to keep any gatherings small and outdoors this holiday season. 

As of Thursday morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 416,083 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 5,778,458 completed tests, 5,714 deaths, and 2,444 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.

New Restrictions

With the most recent executive order, EO 180, which extended the state’s pause in Phase 3 of reopening and instituted stricter mask-wearing rules, expiring at the end of the week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) announced new restrictions in an effort to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Tuesday, Gov. Cooper issued Executive Order 181, a modified stay-at-home order, that will go into effect Friday, December 11 at 5:00 PM. EO 181 requires North Carolinians to stay home between the hours of 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM, with a few exceptions. All businesses, such as restaurants, retail stores, entertainment venues, and personal care shops like salons, will be required to close by 10:00 PM. Some of the exceptions include grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and child care facilities, or people traveling to and from work or picking up take-out and groceries. In addition, all on-site alcohol sales and consumption at restaurants, bars, and breweries must end by 9:00 PM. 

While the new order does not reduce capacity limits for businesses or decrease the limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings, Gov. Cooper said his administration would consider taking further action and tightening restrictions if the state does not see its trends improve. Tighter restrictions could include reduced capacity limits for retail stores and restaurants or closing business that were recently allowed to open. Executive Order 181 will remain in effect through the New Year, until Friday, January 8 at 5:00 PM. 

New House Members

The North Carolina General Assembly will welcome a handful of new faces when session convenes in January. Over in the Senate, eight new members will join the chamber. To get to know the new faces joining the Senate, as well as the Council of State, check out last week’s edition of Week in Review. This week, we get to know the 18 new members joining the North Carolina House of Representatives next month. 

Steve Tyson (R) – District 3 (Craven)

  • Occupation: General Contractor, licensed Real Estate Broker, and small business owner (Tyson Group Realtors).
  • Political Experience: Craven County Commissioner, served for two terms as Chairman, and serves as a board member of Carolina East Medical Center, Craven100 Economic Development Alliance, and Craven County Disaster Recovery Alliance.
  • Top Priorities: Advocating for active duty service members, the Cherry Point Marine Air Station, and the Fleet Readiness Center, as well as establishing term limits for state legislators, increasing the number of School Resource Officers (SROs) in public schools, and fighting for the protection of waterways.

Matthew Winslow (R) – District 7 (Franklin, Nash)

  • Occupation: Owns a small business, Winslow Homes, and previously worked as a county planning and inspections director.
  • Political Experience: Political newcomer but does serve on the Economic Development Committee and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce board, and is a member of the Master Layout Planning Committee for the Triangle North Regional Airport as well as the Comprehensive Development Plan Steering Committee.
  • Top Priorities: Lowering the cost higher education, investing in various trade profession education programs, increasing teacher pay, forgiving loans to healthcare providers that practice in underserved areas, and funding infrastructure throughout the state with a focus on providing broadband to rural communities.

Brian Farkas (D) – District 9 (Pitt)

  • Occupation: Works at his family’s small business, an architecture firm, in Pitt County.
  • Political Experience: Has never held elected office but has worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office and serves as a member of the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Issues Committee, is the Governor’s Appointee on the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar, and is a voting member of the Greenville-ENC Alliance Interim Board of Directors.
  • Top Priorities: Raising teacher pay, freezing college tuition, Medicaid expansion, obtaining funding for a new Brody School of Medicine facility, and helping formerly incarcerated people re-enter society and achieve economic security through good paying jobs.

Charlie Miller (R) – District 19 (New Hanover)

  • Occupation: Chief Deputy at the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office – Certified North Carolina Law Enforcement Officer.
  • Political Experience: Member of the Brunswick County Board of Education where he served as Vice Chair.
  • Top Priorities: Reopening businesses, recovering from the pandemic, and using his time served as a police officer to talk with the community about policing issues while ensuring people and property are protected.

Erin Pare (R) – District 37 (Wake)

  • Occupation: Owns a local retail sporting goods store in her district and is the founder and director of a non-profit organization that supports music arts programs.
  • Political Experience: Serves as the Vice Chair of the Town of Holly Springs Board of Adjustment and previously worked as a government affairs professional in Washington, D.C.
  • Top Priorities: Supporting education, specifically school choice and educational freedom, reducing the regulations on small businesses, and applying free market principals to health care to help reduce the cost of care, including repealing certificate of need, supporting scope of practice reform, and supporting association health plans.

Abe Jones (D) – District 38 (Wake)

  • Occupation: Attorney and former professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law – has served as a prosecutor and defense attorney in civil and criminal cases at both the state and federal level.
  • Political Experience: Previously worked for a federal judge in the Washing, D.C., U.S. Attorney’s Office (Eastern District of North Carolina) and for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office as an Administrative Law Judge. Jones served on the superior court after being appointed by then Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. and was elected to two terms on the superior court.
  • Top Priorities: Bringing more affordable housing to the state, making vocational training a core element of North Carolina’s educational system, reducing overcrowded prison populations and the cost of the bail bond system.

Diane Wheatley (R) – District 43 (Cumberland)

  • Occupation: Previously worked as registered nurse at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, Orange Memorial Hospital, and the Fayetteville Children’s Clinic and now owns a small business with her husband.
  • Political Experience: Served three terms on the Cumberland County Board of Education and was elected as a county commissioner in 2004.
  • Top Priorities: Providing support to local police departments and first responders, ensuring access to affordable and sustainable healthcare, keeping taxes and regulations to a minimum, and building a strong economy with a skilled workforce to help recover from the pandemic.

Ricky Hurtado (D) – District 63 (Alamance)

  • Occupation: Instructor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the Executive Director for an education initiative that supports first-generation college students and immigrant families, and previously worked as a consultant and policy analyst for nonprofits and foundations.  
  • Political Experience: Serves as a Commissioner for MyFutureNC, is a member of Governor Cooper’s DRIVE Task Force, and is the former Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for NC Child.
  • Top Priorities: Increasing access to early childhood education, creating incentives to recruit and retain a diverse group of educators, investing in public higher education, and expanding Medicaid.

Ben Moss (R) – District 66 (Montgomery, Richmond, Stanly)

  • Occupation: Railroader and engineer.
  • Political Experience: First Republican elected to the Richmond Board of County Commissioners and serves as the local chairperson of the United Transportation Union (SMART TD).
  • Top Priorities: Supporting second amendment gun rights, supporting the community college system, and teaching trade skills in the public education system.

David Willis (R) – District 68 (Union)

  • Occupation: Owner and operator of a local preschool.
  • Political Experience: Serves as a member of the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges, the Board of Union County Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and is the youth services chair of the Waxhaw-Weddington Rotary Club.
  • Top Priorities: Improving local roads and supporting other infrastructure projects, lowering taxes, and investing in career and workforce development programs.

Amber Baker (D) – District 72 (Forsyth)

  • Occupation: Principal at Kimberly Park School in Winston-Salem.
  • Political Experience: Serves as Vice-Chair of the Forsyth County Democratic party’s African American Caucus.
  • Top Priorities: Adding an African American history requirement for high school students and working to build fiscal and financial partnerships with businesses in order to fund things such as schools or create additional workforce development opportunities.

Jeff Zenger (R) – District 74 (Forsyth)

  • Occupation: Commercial and residential builder and small business owner.
  • Political Experience: City Councilman.
  • Top Priorities: Reducing the regulations on businesses in North Carolina, increasing access to school choice, and advocating for healthcare solutions such as association health plans.

Dudley Greene (R) – District 85 (Avery, McDowell, Mitchell)

  • Occupation: Retired Sheriff.
  • Political Experience: Served as the Sheriff of McDowell County for ten years.
  • Top Priorities: Broadband expansion, specifically to rural counties and communities, promoting small business incentives, and proving economic support to businesses and workers in wake of the pandemic.

Terry Brown (D) – District 92 (Mecklenburg)

  • Occupation: Litigation attorney at Buchannan, Ingersoll & Rooney.
  • Political Experience: Serves as the Vice Chair of the City of Charlotte Zoning Board of Adjustment and ran for the Charlotte City Council in 2019.
  • Top Priorities: Increasing teacher pay, expanding access to broadband, Medicaid expansion, and making mental health services accessible to all North Carolinians.

Ray Pickett (R) – District 93 (Ashe, Watauga)

  • Occupation: Small business owner – manages the Blowing Rock Inn.
  • Political Experience: Former Town Council member of the Blowing Rock Town Council, served on the Blowing Rock Planning Board, as the President of the Rotary Club of Blowing Rock, the Blowing Rock Historical Society, and the Hunger & Health Coalition based in Boone.
  • Top Priorities: Simplifying regulations for small businesses, updating the state’s transportation infrastructure, and advocating for gun rights.

Mark Pless (R) – District 118 (Haywood, Madison, Yancey)

  • Occupation: Works in the insurance industry as a Farm Bureau Insurance Agent.
  • Political Experience: Serves on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners.
  • Top Priorities: Providing economic incentives for businesses to come to the western part of the state, provide state funding to construct one new school every five years in Haywood, Madison, and Yancey counties, and limiting the Emergency Management Act to only apply to “Naturally Occurring Weather Related Events.”

Karl Gillespie (R) – District 120 (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon)

  • Occupation: Small business owner and founder of National Communications, Inc. (NCI).
  • Political Experience: Serves on the Macon County Board of Commissioners, previously served as a member of the Southwestern Community College Board of Trustees, as the Vice President of the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association, and on the Macon County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
  • Top Priorities: Ensuring education funding formulas work for rural communities, increasing access to broadband, preserving the district’s local natural resources, promoting local agricultural production, and competing for new businesses to come to his district.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, December 14

10:00AM House: Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement and Justice

1:00PM: Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee