North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

December 9, 2022

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This week, legislators returned to Raleigh for the final meeting of the House Select Committee on Advancing Women in STEM. After being chartered by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) earlier this year, the committee met four times to hear presentations from industry and state commerce and education officials. This week, the committee approved their report to the 2023 House of Representatives.

The report includes a series of three findings for how the state can best train and equip more women and people of color to become involved in the STEM industry. The committee recommends next year’s legislature create the Increasing Engagement in STEM Program, with one million dollars in funding, to encourage public school units, community colleges, and public universities to provide mentoring and STEM enrichment opportunities for their students and educators. The committee also recommended the legislature appropriate five million dollars to existing programs and grant opportunities that have demonstrated a successful track record of “providing the skills, experiences, and critical enrichment opportunities necessary to build a strong, qualified STEM workforce pipeline in the state.”

Leadership Elections

Over the last few weeks, legislators from both parties convened to select their leaders for the upcoming biennium. After recapturing a super majority, Senate Republicans reelected Senator Phil Berger, of Rockingham County, to a seventh term as President Pro Tempore. Senator Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) will serve as Majority Leader, succeeding outgoing Senator Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston). Currently, Sen. Newton serves as Chair of the Senate Finance and Senate Redistricting committees. Senator Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) will serve another term as Deputy President Pro Tempore and Senators Tom McInnis (R-Moore) and Jim Perry (R-Lenoir) will serve as Majority Whips. 

Senate Democrats maintained their current leaders, too. Senator Dan Blue (D-Wake) was elected to his fifth term as Senate Democratic Leader and Senator Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) was reelected Minority Whip.

In the House, many familiar faces in leadership will remain. Representative Tim Moore, of Cleveland County, will serve his fifth term as Speaker of the House. Representative Sarah Stevens (R-Surry) will serve another term as Speaker Pro Tempore and Representative John Bell (R-Wayne) will continue as Majority Leader. Representative Brenden Jones (R-Columbus) will serve as Deputy Leader and Representative Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) will serve another term as Majority Whip. Representative Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), who currently Chairs the House Appropriations Committee, and Representative Harry Warren (R-Rowan) were also chosen for leadership positions.

This week, House Democrats reelected Representative Robert Reives (D-Chatham) to serve a second term as Democratic Leader. Representative Ashton Clemmons (D-Guilford) will serve as Deputy House Democratic Leader, Representative Cynthia Ball (D-Wake) will serve as Conference Chair, and Representative Brandon Lofton (D-Mecklenburg) will serve as Legislative Chair. House Democrats will round out the remainder of their leadership positions in January when they elect three Whips and the freshmen members of the caucus elect co-chairs for their class. 

Moore County Substations

Power has been restored to nearly 45,000 customers in Moore County following an attack on two Duke Energy electricity substations last weekend. During a press conference, Sheriff Ronnie Fields said the substations were vandalized by gunmen who “knew exactly what they were doing.” According to local and state investigators, nearly two dozen shell casings from high powered rifles were found around the substation. As of today, no group or individual has taken responsibility for the attack.

Governor Roy Cooper condemned the sabotage, calling it a “criminal attack,” and said he would be evaluating “ways to work with our utility providers and state and federal officials to make sure we harden our infrastructure where that’s necessary, and work to prevent further damage.” Federal officials are also involved, at the direction of the White House. Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs for the Department of Homeland Security, Marsha Espinosa, told reporters that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is monitoring the situation, and that “DHS will continue to share information with the FBI, and state and local authorities as the investigation unfolds.”

State Senator Tom McInnis (R-Moore), who represents the entire county, told reporters he is already “setting things in motion” to file legislation to address similar damage in the future. Sen. McInnis said he has asked lawyers at the General Assembly to begin doing research on the crime and penalties associated with an attack like this to “make sure the penalty equals the crime.” Current North Carolina law says it is a Class I felony, with a maximum punishment of two years in prison, for damaging electrical infrastructure.

Labor Commissioner

During a meeting of the North Carolina Council of State in Raleigh this week, Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson (R) stated he would not seek reelection to another term in 2024, nor to any other elected office. Commissioner Dobson is a former McDowell County commissioner and served eight years in the state House of Representatives in which he served as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and House Health Committee. Commissioner Dobson is currently in his first term as Labor Commissioner.

During the meeting, Dobson explained, “When this term is up, I will have served 14 consecutive years in three different offices and I feel the time is right for me to step out of elected office: it’s nothing more, and it’s nothing less than that.”

No other candidates from either party have publicly announced their intention to run for the office.

Economic Tier Designations

The North Carolina Department of Commerce released the 2023 Development Tier Designations where they measure all 100 counties on a series of economic factors and rank them in one of three tiers. Tier 1 counties are considered to be the most economically distressed while Tier 3 counties are considered to be the least economically distressed.

Onslow, Pitt, Randolph, and Surry Counties moved from the Tier 2 category to the Tier 1 category. Caldwell, Cleveland, Pasquotank, and Swain Counties moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2, and Avery County moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3.

The new county tier designations rank Scotland County as the state’s most economically distressed county and Currituck County as the least.

State law requires 40 counties be categorized as Tier 1, 40 as Tier 2, and 20 as Tier 3. The four factors used by the Department of Commerce to make the county designations include:

  • Average unemployment rate for the most recent 12 months
  • Median household income for the most recent 12 months
  • Percentage of growth in population for the most recent 36 months
  • Adjusted property tax base per capita for the most recent taxable year

State officials within the Department, Governor’s agencies, and the legislature use these rankings to determine where to best direct state economic development and infrastructure improvement funding.

New Senate Republicans

When legislators return to Raleigh in January to start the 2023 legislative long session there will be several new faces around the legislative complex. Among those newly elected lawmakers, the Senate will welcome five new Republican members, including:

Bobby Hanig – District 3 (Bertie, Camden, Currituck, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton, Martin, Tyrrell, Warren)

Bobby Hanig was appointed to the Senate in August to fill the seat of Republican Senator Bob Steinburg who resigned after losing his bid for reelection during the primary. Sen. Hanig previously served two terms in the House, representing his home of Currituck County, along with Dare, Hyde, and Pamlico Counties. In the House, Hanig served as Chair of the Marine Resources and Aqua Culture Committee and Vice Chair of the Local Government Committee. Before serving in the House, Hanig served as Chair of the Currituck County Commissioners.

After serving in the U.S. Army, Hanig moved to Eastern North Carolina and created a property management business and pool business. According to his website, today, his businesses service roughly 400 properties in the Outer Banks area.

Benton Sawrey – District 10 (Johnston)

Benton Sawrey was elected to a newly created district in Johnston County. A native of Johnston County and a third-generation graduate of North Carolina State University, Senator-elect Sawrey works as an attorney in Smithfield where he concentrates on civil litigation, corporate litigation, and business transactions. Sawrey is President of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation and sits on the Board of Trustees for the Johnston Community College.

Sawrey has been active in Republican politics since first volunteering as an intern for the North Carolina Republican Party in 2005 and worked for Senator Phil Berger when he was the Minority Leader in 2006.

Eddie Settle – District 36 (Alexander, Surry, Wilkes, Yadkin)

Wilkes County business owner Eddie Settle defeated two candidates, including a former State Senator, to win the Republican Primary in May, before easily winning this seat last month. Senator-elect Settle has served ten years on the Wilkes Board of County Commissioners, including four years as Chairman and three years as Vice Chairman. While Chairman, the Commissioners declared Wilkes County a second amendment protection county, making them the second county in the state to do so, and unanimously passed a resolution to designate Wilkes County as “a haven for the unborn.”

Settle was recently appointed Chairman of the Environmental Steering Committee of the NC Association of County Commissioners and previously was Chairman of the Agriculture Steering Committee for six years. Settle has been actively involved with the Wilkes County Economic Development Corporation, having served on their Board of Directors for four years, and with the Wilkes County Airport Board, where he has served since 2019.

Brad Overcash – District 43 (Gaston)

Current Senate Majority Leader Kathy Harrington opted not to run for reelection this year, and endorsed Brad Overcash, an attorney to succeed her. The Belmont resident has been active in the Republican Party for many years, having served as Vice Chairman for the Gaston County Republican Party and the 10th Congressional District GOP Chairman. Senator-elect Overcash is also dedicated to his community. Overcash has served as Chair of the Gaston College Board of Trustees and serves on the Gaston County Family Advisory Board.

Tim Moffitt – District 48 (Henderson, Polk, Rutherford)

When Senator Chuck Edwards decided to run for Congress, a race which he won, he also left open a seat in his Henderson County-based Senate district. Current House Representative Tim Moffitt announced he would run for the open state Senate seat and was elected last month. Moffitt was first elected to the State House in 2010 and lost a close race in 2014 to Representative Brian Turner (D-Buncombe). Moffitt ran for a different seat, in Henderson County, in 2020, and won.

Moffitt quickly moved up in leadership, becoming Chairman of the House Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee, and Vice Chairman of the House Regulatory Reform Committee. According to his website, Moffitt continued the legacy of his predecessor to “modernize North Carolina’s prohibition-era alcohol laws,” and “guided ABC policy during a challenging time for the hospitality industry.”

For a complete breakdown of North Carolina’s state Senate election results in 2022, click here.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, December 12

1:00PM: House Select Committee on An Education System for North Carolina’s Future

Tuesday, December 13

9:30AM: Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee
12:00PM: House Session
12:00PM: Senate Session

Wednesday, December 14

10:00AM: Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, Subcommittee on Hurricane Response and Recovery