North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

November 12, 2021

Pardon Our Dust

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While there were no legislative sessions or committee meetings this week, we learned that some familiar faces would likely be staying in town for a few more years. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who was first elected to the state House in 2002, announced he would not run for Congress and would seek another term as Speaker. There had been speculation that he might run for Congress in the newly drawn open Congressional district in the foothills. His announcement came after conservative firebrand Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-Henderson) declared he would switch districts and run in the same newly drawn district.

There is positive news out of Raleigh this week as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have declined. As of this morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 2,156 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 1,095 individuals hospitalized, and sadly, 18,371 confirmed deaths. There have been 11,692,513 doses of the vaccine distributed in NC, which is about 72% of the total adult population.

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.

Budget Update

For the first time in his second term, Governor Roy Cooper (D) faces the prospect of a legitimate veto-override over the state budget. On Wednesday, Cooper’s office released a statement on Twitter saying that Republican leaders in the legislature will release a budget next Monday, adding that it will “have a number of the Governor’s priorities…including increased education funding” According to the statement, Medicaid expansion will not be in the bill.

Wednesday evening, Senate leader Phil Berger’s office and top budget writer Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) confirmed that votes will be taken next week on the budget proposal. According to an interview with Saine, the Senate will release the budget conference report on Monday, which was worked on by a conference committee consisting of both Republicans and Democrats in both chambers. The Senate will then hold votes on the budget bill on Tuesday and Wednesday, then the House will vote Wednesday night and Thursday.

Legislators are optimistic that the Governor will sign the budget into law. “No one has left mad, no one has left upset…no one has gotten everything they wanted,” Saine told reporters, but “it looks to me that because of that [Governor Cooper] is going to seriously consider signing the budget.”

Leandro Ruling

A State Superior Court took a rare step Wednesday when Judge David Lee ordered the state budget director, state treasurer and state controller to transfer around $1.7 billion from state reserves to fund two years of a seven-year plan to increase state spending on public education. The plan, often called the Leandro plan, resulted from a 1994 court case where low-wealth school districts argued that the state was not adhering to the state Constitutional standard to guarantee every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education.” During Democrat Roy Cooper’s first term as Governor, his administration funded a comprehensive review by education consultants who recommended the $5.6 billion Leandro plan, which calls for a 5% pay raise for teachers, increased funding for low-wealth school districts, and expansion of the NC Pre-K program.

Earlier this year, Judge Lee signed an order to implement the Leandro plan. He said he was choosing the Leandro plan as the remedy to the state not fulfilling its guarantee because the legislature had not developed its own plan. Not everyone agrees that Lee had the power to order the plan into effect. Retired Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who presided over the Leandro case for nearly two decades, argued in a letter to Cooper and legislators that the courts don’t have the authority to order that the money be provided to the “educational establishment” that he blames for the state’s lack of educational progress.

To accommodate the potential for an appeal, Lee’s order will not go into effect for 30 days. It is almost certain that the General Assembly will challenge the ruling. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) released a joint statement after the hearing, saying that a judge “does not have the legal or constitutional authority to order a withdrawal from the state’s general fund.” Moore and Berger called the case “an attempt by politically allied lawyers and the governor to enact the governor’s preferred budget plan via court order, cutting out the legislature from its proper and constitutional role.”

Legislative Meetings

Monday, November 15

11:00AM: Senate Session