Pardon Our Dust
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Although the North Carolina General Assembly formally gaveled in to begin the 2023 legislative session two weeks ago, lawmakers reconvened this week to officially begin work for the long session. Members started filing bills, and as of today, nearly 40 bills have already been filed publicly. Committees in both chambers were finalized and the schedule for the next several weeks was announced.
Outside of the legislative complex, a new hire was announced in an embattled agency. Richard Trumper will join the North Carolina Department of Public Safety as a senior advisor for disaster recovery. Trumper is currently the executive director of disaster recovery within the Office of State Budget and Management. In his new role, Trumper will report directly to Secretary Eddie Buffaloe Jr., who was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper (D). The North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, which was tasked with running recovery efforts in response to Hurricanes Florence and Matthew, has received constant criticism from legislators who say the office is moving too slowly with getting people back in their homes. In a news release, Trumper said he looks forward to “establishing new partnerships that will speed up the recovery process and help families return home more quickly.” Trumper is a licensed general contractor with 22 years of experience, including project and construction management.
Bill Filing Begins
Legislators returned to Raleigh this week and the window for members to begin drafting and filing bills officially opened. Since Wednesday, dozens of bills have been filed by members in both the House and Senate. Democrats quickly staked out abortion protections as a top issue, with companion bills being filed in both chambers. The entire Senate Democratic caucus signed onto SB 19: Codify Roe and Casey Protections. The bill would codify access to abortion procedures in North Carolina previously protected under Roe v. Wade. Unlike states like Texas and Arkansas, North Carolina continues to allow abortion procedures up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In the House, 32 Democrats also sponsored HB 9: Fair Maps Act which would require an independent, nonpartisan commission to draw congressional, legislative, and local electoral districts. Currently in North Carolina, legislators draw congressional and legislative maps, and have oversight over local district lines if they choose to intervene.
Republicans, who control both chambers, also filed a litany of bills this week. The very first bill filed was by Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), which would legalize medical marijuana. The bill, SB 3: NC Compassionate Care Act, is similar to a bill that passed the Senate last year with bipartisan support but failed to gain traction in the House. The bill is narrowly tailored to allow marijuana to be prescribed for specifically named conditions, like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, and other terminal illnesses. The bill would establish the Medical Cannabis Production Commission to approve, suspend, or revoke medical cannabis supplier licenses. The commission can issue up to ten supplier licenses, which can operate up to four medical cannabis centers.
In the House, Republicans reintroduced a bill that would require local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officers. The bill, HB 10: Require Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE , was filed by House Rules Chairman Representative Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) and would require sheriffs to contact the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they cannot immediately confirm the citizenship status of someone in their custody accused of specific crimes. A similar bill passed the legislature along party lines in 2019, but was vetoed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who called the bill “unconstitutional” and said it “weakens law enforcement by mandating sheriffs to do the job of federal agents.”
A host of other legislation was also filed this week, including bills that resulted from the House Select Committee on Advancing Women in STEM and the House Select Committee on An Education System for North Carolina’s Future which met last year. Many of the bills are based on direct recommendations presented to the select committees, like HB 8: Computer Sci. Grad. Requirement which would require high school students to complete a computer science course in order to graduate, and HB 4: Increasing Engagement in STEM Grant Program which would establish a program within the Department of Public Instruction to provide grants to public schools to partner with vendors to provide opportunities for students to learn science, technology, engineering and math educational subjects. However, some of those bills could substantially alter the current structure of public education in North Carolina. Most notable is HB 17: Elect the SBE/SPI as SBE Chair which would amend the state constitution to elect members of the State Board of Education in districts drawn by the legislature and make the Superintendent of Public Instruction the Chair of the State Board of Education. Currently, the Governor appoints a majority of the State Board of Education, and his appointments are not subject to approval by the General Assembly.
The legislature will return to Raleigh next week, with the session’s first committee meetings scheduled for Tuesday.
Upcoming Legislative Meetings
Monday, January 30
12:00PM: House Session
Tuesday, January 31
11:00AM: Senate Judiciary Committee
1:00PM: House Education K-12 Committee