North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

March 11, 2022

Pardon Our Dust

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Legislators were back in town this week to take votes on several bills, including an adjournment resolution. Aside from interim committee work, lawmakers will plan to be back in town for the short session after the May primary election. There was a spirited discussion on the House floor on Thursday on a resolution expressing support for the people of Ukraine. Legislators on both sides of the aisle shared stories of their interactions, both in the military and as civil servants, with Ukrainian people, businesses, and government leaders.

Cases of and hospitalizations from the coronavirus have continued to steadily drop. As of this morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 1,783 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. There are 1,012 individuals hospitalized, and sadly, 22,892 confirmed deaths. 76% of the total adult population has been vaccinated with at least two shots. 

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.

General Assembly Adjourns

The 2021 legislative long session will officially come to an end today, Friday, March 11, 2022. The North Carolina General Assembly beat the previous record for the longest legislative session with their nearly fifteen-month session and will return in mid-May for the short session. While the long session is formally concluding, the adjournment resolution included a few important dates:

Monday, April 4 through Wednesday, April 6 and Wednesday, May 4 through Friday, May 6: The General Assembly may take up veto override bills, appointment and nomination bills, redistricting and redistricting litigation, election laws, bills for concurrence, adoption of conference reports, impeachment bills, resolutions, and joint resolutions on adjournment resolutions.

Wednesday, May 18th: This will be the beginning of short session, which usually starts at the beginning of May or end of April and lasts through July. The length of the short session has yet to be determined, but given the later start than usual, it is anticipated that lawmakers will have a condensed short session.

As legislators head home after their 15 months’ worth of session, they do not get to go home and rest as the primary is just over two months away. It will be a quick transition to the campaign trail and then right back to work!

Technical Corrections

The General Assembly’s long session ended this week with both chambers passing House Bill 243, an omnibus budget technical corrections bill containing adjustments to the state budget passed last November. According to Senator Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) and Representative Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), the two presenters of the bill on their respective floors, most of the changes were compromises between stakeholders that were initially suggested by nonpartisan staff.

Major highlights of the 52-page bill include:

  • A Medicaid rate increase to expand the number of home health and direct care workers who will now make a $15-hour minimum wage,
  • Expansion of the crop loss program for farmers affected by Tropical Storm Fred in Western North Carolina,
  • Authorization of $170 million of state fiscal recovery dollars to the Workforce Housing Loan Program for housing developers to address funding gaps from previous awarded deals,
  • Retroactive state employee pay raises for correctional officers,
  • Amends the Firefighters and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund to include living spouses of members who joined the forces prior to July 1, 2018,
  • A large portion of the bill dealt with the State Capital Infrastructure Fund and amended or increased flexibility in specific project appropriations.

The bill also corrected the 2022 primary and primary runoff election schedule to adhere to requests from the State Board of Elections and municipal leaders. It changes the date for contested partisan primary elections to May 17, to conform with the statewide election schedule, and it moves the primary runoff election date to July 26. Elections officials were concerned that it would be burdensome to find polling workers for the previously enacted July 5 date, since it would be the day after Independence Day.

While there were some members of both parties who voted no, the bill passed both chambers with mostly bipartisan support. The measure now goes to Democrat Governor Roy Cooper’s desk for his signature.

Override Vote

For the first time this year, Senate Republican leadership brought forth the first vote to override a veto by Democrat Governor Roy Cooper on Senate Bill 173, also known as the “Free the Smiles Act.” The bill would have nullified any local education board’s policy on face masks for students while in school and provide parental discretion in deciding if their child wears a face covering to school. The bill also would have repealed a law passed just last year that required local education boards to vote monthly on face covering policies. A version of the bill, which gave local school boards the authority to determine the use of face coverings in school, passed the House last June.

In his veto message, Governor Cooper recognized that most school boards across the state have lifted mask mandates with the advice of health officials, but warned that this bill is “dangerous” because it “could tie the hands of public health officials in the future.”

Still, the override could come back up for another vote on a future date. Senator Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) passed a procedural motion that returned the bill to the Senate Rules Committee so that the override vote could potentially be reconsidered in the Senate at another time.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Tuesday, March 15

10:00AM: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services
1:00PM: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources
2:00PM: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Access to Healthcare and Medicaid Expansion

Wednesday, March 16

1:00PM: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety

Thursday, March 17

10:00AM: Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee – Robeson County Administration Center