North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

May 3, 2024

Members of the North Carolina General Assembly were back in full force in Raleigh this week as legislators met for their first full week of business since convening the legislative short session last week, on Wednesday, April 24. A handful of committees met, and both the House and Senate held brief floor voting sessions, however, much of the focus surrounded Thursday’s 4:00pm bill filing deadline. While lawmakers are limited in what they can file as a new bill during the short session, since reconvening on April 24, 159 House bills have been filed and 137 Senate bills have been filed. Legislators still have until Tuesday, May 7 to file any local bills.

Opportunity Scholarships

On Wednesday, members of the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee considered a bill to eliminate the Opportunity Scholarship program’s waitlist following the unprecedented number of applications for the 2024-25 school year.

HB 823: Eliminate School Choice Program Waitlists would provide $248 million in nonrecurring funds in FY 2024-2025 to clear the estimated 54,800 applicants on the waitlist, in addition to $215.46 million in recurring funds to support the scholarship program in the 2025-2026 school year.

The Opportunity Scholarship program provides scholarships to families to help pay for the required tuition and fees to attend eligible K-12 private schools. The legislature amended the eligibility requirements for the program in last year’s state budget bill, expanding it to be open to all families who want to apply, regardless of household income levels. Only those families who have already submitted applications will be eligible to receive funds from the program for the 2024-25 school year.

The income eligibility change resulted in more than 72,000 new applicants earlier this year. The current funding level of $191.5 million only allowed for just over 13,500 Tier 1 families and 2,300 Tier 2 families to receive Opportunity Scholarship funds.

Critics of the Opportunity Scholarship program have argued that the funds provided to the grant program would be better spent if allocated to traditional public schools, particularly with the elimination of the income requirements last year. Supporters of the program, though, argue that providing a child with an education is the state’s responsibility and the Opportunity Scholarship program allows families to choose the educational setting that is best for their child, regardless of the family’s income.

In addition to the increased Opportunity Scholarship program funds, HB 823 also provides an additional $24.7 million in recurring funds, beginning with FY 2024-2025, to the North Carolina Personal Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities Program to help clear the estimated 2,015 applicants currently on the waitlist.

After successfully passing through the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee Wednesday afternoon, HB 823 headed straight to the Senate floor, passing along party lines by a final vote of 28-15. HB 823 will now make its way back over to the House for a concurrence vote.

ICE Cooperation

A familiar immigration bill made its way through the Senate again this week. HB 10: Require Sheriffs to Cooperate with ICE passed the House during the 2023 legislative long session but stalled once it reached the Senate. This time around, Senate leadership has moved HB 10 quickly through committee and to the floor all this week. The Senate Judiciary Committee considered HB 10 Tuesday morning, followed by the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations Wednesday morning, and a final floor vote on Thursday.

HB 10 would require that Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the US Department of Homeland Security (ICE) be queried when an individual charged with various felony offenses is in custody and the individual’s legal residency or United States citizenship status is undetermined. The bill would also require a judicial official to order that a prisoner subject to an ICE detainer and administrative warrant be held in custody for 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, or until ICE resolves the request. HB 10 also establishes reporting requirements related to ICE queries in addition to a complaint procedure that allows any person to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office if they believe a jail administrator has failed to comply with the provisions in the bill.

About 90 of the state’s 100 sheriffs already follow the ICE detainer query process when an undocumented individual ends up in their custody, however, the bill would ensure that all 100 sheriffs are doing so.

This legislative session marks the third biennium legislators have tried to implement a law requiring sheriffs to honor ICE detainers. Slightly different, but substantively similar bills were passed by the General Assembly during the 2019-2020 biennium and the 2021-2022 biennium. Both times, Governor Roy Cooper (D) vetoed the bills, and legislators did not have the votes needed to override the governor’s vetoes. This time around may be different given that Republicans hold a slim veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of the legislature.

HB 10 passed the Senate by a final 28-16 vote Thursday afternoon, sending it back over to the House for a final concurrence vote.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, May 6

10:00 AM House: Session Convenes
3:00 PM Senate: Session Convenes

Tuesday, May 7

10:00 AM House: Local Government
2:00 PM House: Military and Veterans Affairs

Wednesday, May 8

9:00 AM House: Education – Universities