North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

March 15, 2024

Last week were the primary elections in North Carolina, but several contests are still too close to call. The second-place finishers in the Republican primary contests for Lieutenant Governor and Auditor have called for runoffs, and a runoff is expected to determine the Republican nominee for the 13th Congressional District race. The second primary will be held on May 14. However, another close race will not go to a runoff. Former Congressman Mark Walker, who finished in second place behind Addison McDowell, the Trump-endorsed first-time candidate for the 6th Congressional District, announced this week he would not call for a runoff.

Aside from election results, there was significant news affecting the boards who run the state’s elections. A three-judge panel unanimously ruled this week to maintain the North Carolina governor’s appointment power to the State Board of Elections, stopping a legislative attempt to change the board’s composition and appointment process. This ruling keeps the board at five members, appointed by the governor – currently a Democrat – with the governor’s political party maintaining chairmanship, preventing a proposed shift to an eight-member state board with appointments split between General Assembly leaders – currently controlled by Republicans. Legislative leaders have already stated they will appeal the ruling.

Interim Health Committees

This week, legislators involved with health care policy convened for two interim committee meetings, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid.

Senior leaders from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) presented to members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services about the challenging landscape of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), which has seen a 26% increase in case jurisdiction mainly due to overdose deaths and violent crimes. Chief Deputy Secretary Mark Benton highlighted the unsustainable staffing model and the strategic plan to introduce two regional autopsy centers, aimed at mitigating the delays in processing times. Additionally, discussions with the Attorney General’s Office and the Sheriff’s Association are exploring the possibility of using video testimony to alleviate the time medical examiners spend in court.

In addition to discussing the state’s medical examiner system, Secretary Kody Kinsley, along with Benton, presented on efforts to enhance the state’s vital records system, acknowledging advancements and existing challenges. Kinsley outlined initiatives to improve services for individuals with disabilities, the launch of the Inclusion Connects initiative, expansion of Medicaid services, and efforts to support professionals directly. Kinsley updated the committee on Medicaid expansion, noting that enrollment figures had reached 389,411 since Medicaid expansion went into effect on December 1 last year.

During the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid, Adam Levinson, the Chief Financial Officer for DHHS, reported a noticeable increase in children enrolling in Medicaid, contributing to a shift in the enrollment mix. This rise doesn’t significantly impact overall costs, as children represent a lower expense on the system. The state is closely monitoring these trends, especially the unexpected rise in child enrollments, while managing its budget efficiently within federal matching guidelines.

Jay Ludlam, Deputy Secretary for Medicaid, also spoke about the impact Medicaid expansion has had on wait times for seeing providers. Deputy Secretary Ludlam assured that claims data suggested that access to care remained stable.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Currently, there are no legislative meetings scheduled for next week.