North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

August 26, 2022

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North Carolina News Roundup

Late last week, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the Republican-controlled legislature proceeded with passing constitutional amendments while holding an illegitimate super majority due to racial gerrymandering. In 2018, four amendments were ratified through a ballot referendum, but only two were challenged by the court: one that would require voters to provide photo identification to cast a ballot, and one that would cap the state’s income tax rate at seven percent. The high court did not rescind the constitutional amendments but returned the case to the original trial court to issue a new ruling based on additional standards and questions.

On Monday, a Wake County grand jury recommended indictments against Attorney General Josh Stein and two top aides for violating a decades old law that prohibits false statements in political campaign advertisements. But on Tuesday, a federal court halted an indictment and any further action in the criminal investigation until federal judges can evaluate if the law is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

In a competitive election that could decide control of the state Senate, Representative Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck) is challenging the residency of his Democratic opponent, Valerie Jordan. North Carolina law requires a candidate for the legislature to live in the district they are running to represent. This week, the Currituck County Board of Elections, where the challenge was filed, voted 3-2 to advance the protest to the State Board of Elections. The State Board of Elections, which is controlled by Democrats, will decide if Jordan should be removed from the ballot. Jordan has called the effort “a political stunt.”

North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor, Republican Mark Robinson, recently released a preview of his upcoming book. In it, Robinson reportedly argues the state does not need to teach social studies or science. During a panel this week in Durham, Robinson walked back those ideas, saying the priority should be on reading and mathematics. As Lieutenant Governor, Robinson serves as a voting member of the State Board of Education.

Principal Pay

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt (R) released a plan this week to use federal COVID-19 funds allocated to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to prevent some principals from receiving deep pay cuts this year. The state budget that was passed earlier this year increased principal salaries by four percent, but also changed the performance portion of the principal pay structure to base compensation on the 2021-22 school year. Education advocates have asserted that the performance stipulation will harm principals of many school districts who had not fully recovered from the pandemic. Truitt’s proposal will use the federal funds to supplement those principals’ salaries, to ensure they are held harmless and retained by their school district. The State Board of Education will vote on the policy during their monthly meeting next week.

No-Vote Session

Although the General Assembly is not currently in session, the legislature reconvened this week for an administrative session during which no votes were held. It was a good opportunity for legislative leaders to preview what could be coming when the General Assembly returns in December for votes. On Medicaid expansion, which stalled out at the end of the short session due to disagreements between the House and Senate, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) told reporters this week that much of the compromise has been over certificate of need reforms. “We have been willing to compromise on the bill we sent to the House,” Berger said. However, Berger concluded that the House has not been willing to compromise on certificate of need, and said the Senate will “continue to wait until we get something.”

Legislative leaders also commented on abortion limits in the state following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision in June. Senator Berger said Tuesday that he supports exceptions to abortion prohibitions, such as in situations of rape and incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) also spoke on the matter this week, saying he supports legislation that would ban abortions when a heartbeat is detected. Both leaders said no potential action on abortion would occur until next year, when Republicans could potentially have enough members to override a veto by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Wednesday, August 24
10:00AM: House Select Committee on Advancing Women in STEM