North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

February 10, 2023

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Lawmakers were back in full swing this week with both chambers holding floor votes for the first time this year. One bill making its way out of the Senate this week was SB 49: Parents’ Bill of Rights, which was discussed in last week’s Week in Review. Legislators have said the reason for passing such bills this early in the session is so they can handle each chamber’s respective policy initiatives first, while budget work is expected to rev up in early spring. Dozens of public speakers have made their way to Raleigh already this year to speak in favor of, or against, a handful of policies pushed forward in both chambers. Also, this week, lawmakers officially confirmed Tod Ishee as Secretary of the Department of Adult Correction, a new department established last session, as well as Nels Roseland as state controller.

Riot Bill 

This week, House lawmakers fast-tracked a bill that is a personal priority of House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland). HB 40: Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder contains similar language to a bill passed by the legislature last session but that was ultimately vetoed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. The legislation would implement stricter criminal penalties for people who destroy property or harm law enforcement officials during a riot. Speaker Moore introduced the first iteration of the bill in response to the protests that turned violent in downtown Raleigh during the summer of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. 

Unlike the previous version of the bill, Speaker Moore sought input on the bill’s content from some of his Democratic colleagues. Several amendments, supported by Democrats, were adopted on the House floor, including an increase to the threshold for property damage to $2,500 and reducing the period during which suspects could be held on bond from 48 hours to 24 hours. Several additional amendments were also adopted with some, but not all, support from Democrats, including an increase to penalties when the riot causes someone’s death or when someone assaults emergency personnel on the scene. 

The amended version of HB 40 passed the House by a vote of 75 to 43, with six Democrats voting in favor of the bill. Representative Shelly Willingham (D-Edgecombe), who is a former police officer, has stated that he would vote to override a potential gubernatorial veto, if needed.

Education Bills

The House Committee on Education – K-12 passed two bills this week that would change the public education system in North Carolina. On Wednesday, the full House passed HB 26: Education Omnibus, which includes several priorities of Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. The bill would restructure the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) such that the State Superintendent oversees the NCCAT’s powers and duties. Currently, NCCAT is led by an executive director hired by a board of trustees appointed by the State Board of Education. HB 26 would also remove career teacher limitations as a qualification for teachers to be admitted to the NCCAT to allow all teachers, regardless of years of teaching experience, to be qualified. The bill also forces the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to contract with Gooru, a software that assists with student learning. Some Democrats raised concerns with this provision, saying it was uncustomary for the legislature to explicitly award a state agency contract to a private company. The bill’s sponsor, Representative John Torbett (R-Gaston), said Gooru has been vetted, is supported by DPI, and will help schools recover from pandemic learning loss.

The Education Omnibus bill would also require DPI to study “school achievement, growth, performance scores, and grades” and report their findings to the General Assembly by April 15. During a committee meeting last week, Representative Torbett, who chairs the House Committee on Education – K-12, stated that DPI and the State Board of Education were already evaluating ways to reform how the state measures growth in schools and assigns performance grades, and this provision’s deadline would be in line with the work already underway. HB 26 passed by a vote of 75 to 42, with 10 Democrats voting in favor of the bill and three Republicans voting against it.

HB 17: Elect the SBE/SPI as SBE Chair also made its way through the House Committee on Education – K-12 this week. A more controversial bill, HB 17 would amend the North Carolina Constitution to elect members of the State Board of Education and make the Superintendent of Public Instruction the chair of the State Board of Education. Currently, the North Carolina Constitution sets the membership of the State Board of Education to include thirteen voting members, eleven of whom are appointed by the Governor. The bill would place an amendment to the state Constitution on the ballot in the November 2024 election and, if a majority of voters voted in favor of the amendment, would allow the General Assembly to draw the districts used for the election of State Board of Education members and prescribe the process for their election, including whether to make the elections partisan. 

HB 17 passed out of the House Committee on Education – K-12 in a divided vote, largely along party lines, and will be taken up next week by the House Committee on Judiciary 3.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, February 13

2:00 PM House: Session
3:00 PM Senate: Session

Tuesday, February 14

8:30 AM Joint House & Senate: Appropriations, Transportation
8:30 AM Joint House & Senate: Appropriations, General Government and Information Technology 
8:30 AM Joint House & Senate: Appropriations, Justice and Public Safety
8:30 AM Joint House & Senate: Appropriations, Education 
8:30 AM Joint House & Senate: Appropriations, Health and Human Services
9:00 AM Joint House & Senate: Appropriations, Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources
10:00 AM House: Local Government
10:00 AM House: Health
11:00 AM House: Alcoholic Beverage Control
1:00 PM House: Environment
1:00 PM House: Education – K-12
2:00 PM House: Finance 
2:00 PM House: Energy and Public Utilities
3:00 PM House: Judiciary 3 

Wednesday, February 15

8:30 AM Joint House & Senate: Appropriations, General Government and Information Technology 
8:30 AM Joint House & Senate: Appropriations, Health and Human Services
12:00 PM House: Judiciary 1