North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

March 10, 2023

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North Carolina lawmakers kicked off the week with an address by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper to a joint session of the legislature. Governor Cooper spoke about previous legislative accomplishments and pleaded with his General Assembly colleagues to use the current legislative session as another moment for substantial progress, particularly when it comes to the state’s transition to clean energy and the recruitment of employers. The Governor also praised legislative leadership for reaching a deal to expand Medicaid, as announced by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) last week.

Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson delivered the Republican response to the Governor’s State of the State address, attributing much of the state’s recent progress to the Republican-controlled legislature, and arguing that Democrats threaten the state’s economic growth with “government overreach, high taxes, and attacks on our personal freedoms.”

The bill that would expand Medicaid in North Carolina, HB 76: Access to Healthcare Options, moved swiftly through the legislature. HB 76 was heard, and unanimously approved, in three Senate committees this week – Health Care, Finance, and Rules – setting the bill up for a vote on the Senate floor early next week. The bill will then return to the House for a concurrence vote on the compromise changes the Senate made to the bill that were announced last week. 

Term Limits

This week, House lawmakers passed a resolution, HJR 151: Term Limits for Congress, in favor of imposing term limits for members of Congress. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) sponsored the resolution and urged members to vote for the measure. The resolution, which passed with bipartisan support, calls for a constitutional convention of the states.

Article V of the United States Constitution spells out two ways for amendments to be adopted, one of which is for 34 states to request Congress to call a convention for the purpose of adopting amendments. HJR 151 would create an application by the General Assembly to the Congress for a limited convention of the states for the purpose of proposing an amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress.

Speaker Moore told House members that the reason for limiting terms for members of Congress, but not for the state legislature, is because members of Congress have used the higher salary and prestige as a career instead of a public service. “The difference between us as state legislators and folks in Congress is this is not our full-time vocation,” Moore said in committee, “you’ll find [state legislators] get $13,000 a year.”

It will be up to Senate lawmakers to decide next if they also want to adopt the resolution and formally call for a convention of the states. In order to formally apply for the convention, 34 states would have to ratify similar resolutions. According to U.S. Term Limits, 14 states have already passed resolutions with the specific congressional term limit language included. 

Computer Science Courses

A bill aimed at setting up students across the state for success in a growingly technologically driven world passed the House this week. HB 8: Computer Science Graduation Requirement passed the House in a near unanimous vote, 115-2, Wednesday afternoon, after weeks of revising the bill based on negotiations with educators and other lawmakers. HB 8 would require the State Board of Education to establish a computer science graduation requirement for public high school students and include computer science instruction in the standard course of study. Each public middle school would also be required to offer students an elective introductory computer science course.

A previous version of the bill called for a science requirement to be dropped, which would have been either an earth science or an environmental science, to make room for the new computer science course requirement. Teachers and several House legislators opposed that change, arguing that students thinking about going into those fields would lose out on learning critical skills. Ultimately, the bill passed by the full House states that instead of dropping a science requirement, the total number of electives students would need to take would decrease by one, with the number of science requirements staying the same, allowing enough room in students’ schedules for all required courses, including computer science, to be taken. 

Representative Erin Paré (R-Wake), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, told fellow lawmakers that studies now predict that 70% of jobs, in all sectors over the next decade, will require at least a baseline knowledge of computer science. Rep. Paré said that she hopes this bill is the first step in preparing North Carolina’s students for the future workforce. 

Bills Sent to Governor

Two bills impacting policy statewide passed both chambers of the General Assembly this week and will now make their way to the Governor’s desk. SB 53: Hotel Safety Issues passed both chambers mostly along party lines, with some Democrats in the House crossing the aisle to support the measure. SB 53 defines transient occupancies as the rental of an accommodation by an inn, hotel, motel, or similar lodging to the same guest or occupant for fewer than 90 consecutive days and clarifies that the agreement between a lodging facility and a guest does not create a residential tenancy. In effect, the law, if signed by Governor Cooper, would provide lodging facilities more control over removing guests who are violating policy or the law. The bill’s sponsors in both chambers argued that hotels and motels currently are unable to fully remove a guest because of the state’s tenant residency laws. In his veto statement of a similar bill in 2021, Governor Cooper stated that he was vetoing the bill because it was “not the right way to ensure safety in hotels” because it would remove legal protections for “vulnerable people, including families with children, who have turned to hotels and motels for housing in a time of need.” The Governor has not yet stated if he will veto this most recent version of the bill.

SB 115: Repurpose R.J. Blackley Ctr as Psych Hospital was also sent the Governor this week after unanimously passing both chambers. The bill would exempt from the state’s certificate of need laws the conversion of the R.J. Blackley Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center in Granville County to a psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents. Senator Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, spoke on the bill in committee this week, saying if the bill is adopted into law soon, the facility could open as soon as the end of this summer, and provide up to 50 new beds that are critically needed in the state.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, March 12

4:00 PM Senate: Session
4:00 PM House: Session

Tuesday, March 13

10:00 AM House: Local Government
10:00 AM House: Health
12:00 PM Senate: State and Local Government
1:00 PM Senate: Commerce and Insurance
1:00 PM House: Education K-12
2:00 PM Senate: Finance
3:00 PM House: Judiciary 3
3:00 PM House: Energy and Public Utilities

Wednesday, March 15

9:00 AM Senate: Agriculture, Energy and Environment
10:00 AM House: Judiciary 2

Thursday, March 16

11:00 AM House: Education – Community Colleges