The General Assembly continues to be in full swing as legislators work mainly to address pandemic-related needs of North Carolinians, as well as various other budget matters. As many predicted after a contentious floor debate in the House, Governor Cooper vetoed House Bill 536: Temporary Outdoor Restaurants for Outdoor Seating. This bill would have allowed private bars and clubs to reopen under specified conditions similar to restaurants currently, with outdoor seating capacity limited to the lesser of 50% of the establishment’s indoor capacity, or 100 customers. This week, legislators took a new approach to passing similar language with another vehicle: House Bill 594: Temporarily Open Gyms/Health Clubs/Fitness Centers, which would reopen both gyms and bars at 50% capacity. Both attempts to reopen businesses that Gov. Cooper has closed in an executive order are sponsored by Republican Senator Rick Gunn of Burlington. Sen. Gunn also amended the bill on the floor to allow the Governor to close gyms, bars, and other businesses again if a spike were to occur, if approved by the rest of the Council of State. The House passed House Bill 594 with a mostly partisan split of 69-50. The Senate was largely split by party too, voting to pass the bill with a 36-13 vote, with seven Democrats voting in support of the legislation. The bill has now been presented to the Governor so it will be interesting to see what he does with the bill in light of the recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations. Read the full report here.
Legislators were faced with the stark reality of the budget hole that they are looking at as a result of COVID-19 with the revised consensus revenue forecast, which predicted a total net drop in expected collections of $5 billion for the current budget biennium. Clearly difficult decisions will have to be made and instead of spending more time fighting the Governor on the budget, legislative leaders have moved way from a comprehensive one-year budget and adopted a strategy of “single shot budget bills.” These single-issue budget bills will pull down funds unappropriated last year and from various cash sources to fund state needs for the next fiscal year. Already, both houses have approved bills to fund communications technology for emergency responders and provisions related to the Raise the Age legislation. The Senate has approved another three appropriations bills, and the House has approved six. Still more bills are moving through committees. At the same time, budget writers and legislative leaders are waiting to see if Congress will give the states more flexibility in spending the federal money targeted for COVID-19. Read the full report here.
The General Assembly returned last week to continue its business for the 2020 short session. So far, several notable bills have moved through the legislature, including House Bill 536: Temporary Outdoor Restaurants for Outdoor Seating. This bill would allow private bars and clubs to reopen under specified conditions similar to restaurants currently, with outdoor seating capacity limited to the lesser of 50% of the establishment’s indoor capacity, or 100 customers. House Bill 536 passed both chambers last Thursday, with a 42-5 vote in the Senate, and a 65-53 vote in the House after a contentious floor debate, which led to all but two Democrats voting against the bill. With the partisan split of this bill’s support, it is likely that this bill could be the first veto of the 2020 short session by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. In a news conference prior to the bill’s passing, Gov. Cooper expressed his disagreement with the reopening of private bars and clubs now. “I believe there will be a time when we can open bars, but that time is not now,” said Cooper. House minority leader Darren Jackson also has shared concerns on the bill, saying that if this bill were to become law, next week there would be a bill to reopen gyms ahead of the executive order, too. The bill has been presented to the Governor where it awaits his approval or veto. Read the full report here.
The General Assembly has re-convened for the short session to continue to address needs of North Carolinians as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and to consider various other bills, as well as the state’s budget. Leaders have indicated that they hope to complete their business within four to six weeks, but recognize that this is subject to change due to the uncertain nature of the pandemic and the uncertainty around federal coronavirus funding. Lawmakers are hard at work determining how to address the drastic economic shift in North Carolina, as a result of the pandemic. “Before COVID-19 hit North Carolina and our nation we were looking, here in North Carolina, at a significant budget surplus,” Senate leader Phil Berger said. “Now, our nonpartisan fiscal staff is estimating that we will have a multi-billion dollar shortfall as far as our revenue is concerned.” The losses could be as much as $4 billion in tax revenue for the state, which would be around 16% of the state’s $25 billion budget. This sharp decline in revenue could result in huge cuts across state government. Read the full report here.
The General Assembly returned to session last week, working quickly to pass legislation to respond to the pandemic. As protests took place in the streets urging the state to re-open, legislators met to consider various policy and spending proposals related to COVID-19. Precautions were taken during session, and the general public was not allowed in the legislative buildings, although more video of the proceedings was available.
The Senate began its work with bipartisan legislation, while the House started from the draft legislation prepared by the House Select Committee on COVID-19 working groups. Once both chambers passed their bills, they moved to conference on House Bill 1043, Pandemic Response Act, which appropriates over $1.5 billion in relief funding, and Senate Bill 704, Covid-19 Recovery Act, which covers a number of policy changes in unemployment, tax reform, education, health care and government operations. On Saturday, both chambers approved compromised versions of both bills, sending them to the Governor for his signature and he signed them into law on Monday.
Though the telehealth parity language championed by the House Health Care Working Group did not make it into the final bills adopted by the General Assembly, the final legislation did include a number of helpful provisions including temporary limited liability for health care workers; funding for supplies, equipment, and PPE; funding for COVID-19 research; 5% increase in the Medicaid fee-for-service rates; funding to divert individuals in mental health crisis from emergency departments, funding to DHHS to support telehealth; and flexibility to allow first and second examinations for involuntary commitment to be conducted via telehealth.
House and Senate members are expected to return to the Legislature in two weeks to continue work on round two of COVID-19 response legislation. Read the full report here.
After a drawn-out long session, it appears that the legislature is beginning to take steps towards adjournment. In a press conference last week, Senate Leader Phil Berger addressed the Senate’s plan for the remainder of session. Sen. Berger explained that we can expect to see numerous non-controversial mini budget provisions, such as funding for historic tax credits, DOT, Raise the Age implementation, Community Colleges, and rural broadband moving through the legislature now. Sen. Berger wishes to continue to work on a compromise with Senate Democrats to over-ride the Governor’s veto of the budget, but if he cannot work out a compromise or muster the votes to override the veto, he will continue to push single budget items through until no later than October 31st, at which point Sen. Berger plans to adjourn. Read the full report here.
After a couple of contentious weeks at the legislature, both chambers have decided to take a break from Raleigh to return to normal business on Monday, September 30th. With the Senate out of town, the fate of the veto override is still up in the air, but we can expect both sides of the aisle to be better prepared when the vote is taken in the Senate. Per Senate rules, the Senate Rules chair must give the minority leader at least 24 hours’ notice that a vetoed bill may be considered by the Senate. Read the full report here.
At an 8:30 a.m. session on Wednesday morning, the House voted to override the Governor’s veto of the state budget, as well as his veto of House Bill 555: Medicaid Transformation. The votes were 55-9 and 54-10 respectively, with nearly half of the membership absent. Most of the Democratic members were missing and argued loudly that they were told there would be no votes held that morning, which the Republican House leadership denies. Read the full report here.
As the State budget stalemate stretches past day 50, the Republican leadership in the General Assembly has clearly shifted gears on strategy. A number of “mini budgets,” legislation dealing with small portions of the budget (some taken out word for word) dealing with employee pay raises, Medicaid funding, and other critical issues are moving through committees. These new versions of bills are almost entirely pieces of the budget bill pulled out and pasted into existing legislation, usually in conference reports that go to both the House and Senate floor to be voted on with no amendments allowed. Read the full report here.
After nearly two months of trying to find the votes to override the Governor’s veto of the budget, it appears Republican leadership has changed their strategy. Last week and this week, Republican leadership has pushed House Bill 74, which was amended to be a bill that would refund taxpayers more than $660 million this fall, by giving those taxpayers refunds of $125 for individuals and $250 per couple (as long as the return paid that much in taxes for 2018). In an effort to get around a budget impasse, Republicans have also begun pushing legislation to the Governor’s desk containing mini-budget pieces which are particularly popular and will be difficult for the Governor to veto, such as State employee raises. On Thursday, the Governor called the push for House Bill 74 and the piecemeal budget bills “politics and gimmicks,” but did not say if he intended to veto the series of bills. Sen. McKissick commented on the matter and says he expects a veto from the Governor, and suggests that the refund legislation “seems more for political messaging.” These bills will be difficult for the Governor to veto from a political standpoint, and could potentially make it more difficult for Democrats to stick together to keep any vetoes from being over-ridden. Read the full report here.
We find ourselves in a sort of legislative limbo with session still officially underway but very few committees meeting and just a handful of bills being finished up here or there. The Senate has been absent a great deal and the House has been stripping bills or putting several bills together to send to the Senate where their fate remains less than certain. It is a difficult position for groups wanting to get things done at the legislature as they refuse to move most bills pending while tinkering at the edges on bills that the House and Senate want to resolve. Seems they are all waiting on a budget resolution that is not happening. Read the full report here.
It has been an eventful time at the General Assembly as legislators work to see their bills on the Governor’s desk before the end of session and as the debate over the budget continues. House Republicans have worked tirelessly to convince a handful of Democrats to break from the Governor and vote with them on the override. Republican leadership has pointed to increased funding in specific legislators’ districts as reasons for Democrats to support the override. House Speaker Tim Moore said that they are waiting until the time is right, and wants everyone to have time to consider their position before voting. It’s unlikely that we will see a vote on the override any time soon, as various members of the majority have plans to be away and Republicans will need all of their members, as well as eight from the minority, in order to successfully override Governor Cooper’s veto. Read the full report here.
There was plenty of talk about the budget last week at the General Assembly, but a bit less action. Since Governor Cooper vetoed the budget, he and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly have not appeared to come closer to a compromise. Cooper held a press conference to announce his version of a compromise, which legislative leaders said was actually a move away from common ground. A vote to over-ride the veto hung over the General Assembly all last week, but never materialized, which is surely a sign that they do not have the votes. Three weeks into the new fiscal year and we seem no closer to resolving the stalemate.
Medicaid expansion continues to be a major sticking point. A House committee passed a version of expansion with work requirements and premiums, but the Senate continues to assert the votes are not there for expansion in their chamber. Read the full report here.
The big news in Raleigh last week was the state budget. The week began with a bit of negotiating and a lot of posturing by legislative leaders and Governor Cooper. By the week’s end, the General Assembly had sent its budget to the Governor, and he had vetoed it, calling it an “astonishing failure of common sense and common decency.”
As expected, the major hang up with the budget is that it does not include Medicaid expansion, something Governor Cooper has made a priority. Republican leaders did include language in the budget encouraging a special session to discuss Medicaid and access to health care. House leaders have revived discussion about a vote for Carolina Cares, Rep. Donny Lambeth’s Medicaid expansion bill that included work requirements. But Senate leadership has made it clear there are not the votes in that chamber for any kind of Medicaid expansion. Read the full report here.
What a strange session it has been so far! Legislators have been telling lobbyists to wait until the budget is finished to get their bills through committee and have also advised most groups to try to bring consensus bills to the table. Now suddenly, without the budget being completed, legislators are now saying that they are wrapping up and the bills better move soon or will have to wait until the short session. That means that the hundreds of bills in both the Senate Rules Committee and the House Rules Committee need to be assigned to a committee and heard, debated, possibly amended and then sent back to the Rules Committee again before going to the House or Senate floor. There is a scramble now to get bills moved and heard as quickly as possible so we have gone from medium gear to supersonic speed in a short period of time! Read the full report here.
As the House and Senate negotiate the budget, only a handful of bills have been able to move through the legislative process with most still in Rules. Notably, the House did take up their veto override vote on Senate Bill 359, the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act.” The Republican-controlled chambers moved to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the controversial bill last month. The Senate successfully voted to override the Governor’s decision, but the House vote failed to reach the 60 percent majority vote needed to complete the override. The chambers, which both held Republican supermajorities last session, had overridden many of Gov. Cooper’s vetoes for the past two years with ease. With Democrats gaining seats and breaking the supermajorities last election, it is clear that Gov. Cooper’s vetoes will be much more difficult to be overridden now. Read the full report here.
The legislature has continued business at a slower pace following the heavy schedules for both chambers during Crossover and the release of the House’s proposed budget. With the House having passed its version of the budget, the Senate has been spending most of their time crafting theirs. Senate leadership held a press conference Tuesday morning laying out the broad outlines of their plan (see below). The Senate is expected to vote on their budget by the end of the week, and once the Senate approves their version, negotiations between the chambers will begin in earnest. All involved understand, of course, that Gov. Cooper is likely to veto the plan if it does not include a plan to expand Medicaid and other priorities his office has detailed. With enough Democratic votes to sustain a veto, Republicans will be hoping to include spending and provisions that entice Democratic support. This may be difficult as only one House member voted for the budget, so expect the final product to include provisions that are popular enough with the public to make voting against the budget politically problematic. Read the full report here.
Last Thursday was the General Assembly’s crossover deadline, the date by which bills without a financial element must move from one chamber to another in order to stay alive for the session. Usually, this is a week filled with late nights and craziness, but this session they actually planned ahead and moved bills quickly the week before so it was surprisingly calm. The House wrapped up its work on Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday, meaning most lawmakers weren’t even in town for the actual deadline. A total of 1,687 total bills have been introduced this session, including more than 1,000 House bills and nearly 700 in the Senate. Most bills that had been heard in committee made it to the floor for a vote, and many remaining bills have a budget or finance component, exempting them from crossover. And some bills that may not have made the deadline, may be revived later in session with the addition of a fiscal element or by being added to another measure. Now that crossover has passed, the budget will take center stage again. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, indicated that the goal is for the Senate to complete the budget by the end of the month, which would likely mean floor votes on the week after Memorial Day. According to Brown, budget subcommittees are already working on the pieces of the budget. Read the full report here.
Last week was extremely intense as up to 17 committee meetings happened each day with 30-50 bills being considered in those committees. As members and lobbyists tried to get their bills through one chamber before the cross-over deadline, we heard some similar phrases. Many bills clearly had problems that legislators promised to work on when the bill arrived in the Senate or House but their fate is unclear. Whether the other chamber will be willing to take up these issues will depend on whether legislators on the other side are willing to move the bill and fight for it.
Last week, the House also finalized and approved their budget proposal, which we have summarized later in this legislative report. The budget moved quickly through the process and although there were a lot of amendments proposed, the main controversy was the Democrats efforts to include Medicaid Expansion in the budget, which was defeated by the majority Republicans. The budget now goes to the Senate and they will create their own version of the budget before the House and Senate work out their differences. Read the full report here.
This week has felt like the calm before the storm or maybe the eye of a hurricane! The House and Senate were both out on “spring break” for the first part of the week and then the House came in on Thursday and started releasing their budget proposal. The House Appropriation subcommittees are meeting this week and the House is expected to debate and amend the budget in the House Appropriations Committee and the full House next week and send over to the Senate. The Senate has been working behind the scenes on their budget proposal so we expect their version to roll out soon.
The other big news and deadline approaching is the May 9th cross-over deadline and committee meetings are already being noticed for next week as work moves into high gear to get legislation approved in one chamber or the other. This is a scary time of year for lobbyists as legislation that is not correct or has not been thoroughly vetted gets moved so that “the bill can get to the other side” with a promise to “fix it later.” We will be on high alert as legislation will move very quickly over the next two weeks. Read the full report here.
Well, it has been quite an interesting couple of weeks. We have been under an avalanche of bills that have been filed over the last few weeks, many of them making major policy changes. Meanwhile, committees are meeting with a renewed level of intensity as they try to move bills before the impending cross-over deadline of May 9th, which requires bills to move out of one chamber or the other to remain eligible for consideration the rest of the session. Of course, during all this the House budget writers have been meeting behind closed doors to put their budget proposal together so that it can be released next week, which will start a whole new level of pressure and debate about priorities for the State. Read the full report here.
The General Assembly had a busy legislative week, with the Senate marking its bill filing deadline on Wednesday, April 3rd. The Senate has filed a total of 676 bills this session, and the House has filed a total of 626 bills, with its bill filing deadlines coming up on April 16th and April 23rd. Things are likely to get even busier as crossover, the date by which legislation must pass from the originating chamber to the other chamber, approaches. The 2019 crossover deadline is May 9th.
On May 1st teachers are planning a large rally at the General Assembly and since that is coming up soon, education bills have been popping up at the General Assembly. One such bill, House Bill 377, would reduce the number of tests given to students and passed the House by a vote of 110 to 2. The bill would eliminate state end-of-grade (EOG) tests in grades 3-8 in reading and math with shorter tests given throughout the year. It would also eliminate the state end-of-course (EOC) exams for biology, English and math for high school students.
Read the full report here.
It’s been a busy time at the General Assembly as hundreds of bills were rushed to be filed to meet the Senate’s bill filing deadline on April 2nd. The House will have a few more weeks to prepare for their bill filing deadline on Tuesday, April 16th (bills not related to the budget). Once both chambers’ deadlines have passed, legislators will turn their attention to meeting the May 9th crossover date, by which time bills must be passed by the chamber in which it was introduced in order to remain eligible for the remainder of the 2-year session, unless the bill has a fiscal impact on the State. Read the full report here.
The budget process continues to inch forward. Last week House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger announced that top legislative leaders have agreed that expenditures for the year starting July 1st will be just over $24 billion. That amount represents a roughly 3.5 percent increase over this year’s budget, but less that the amount proposed by Governor Cooper. As legislative opposition to Treasurer Folwell’s proposed changes to the State Health Plan continues to heat up, Folwell has made changes to boost payments to rural hospitals. The State Health Plan has agreed to increase by $52 million the annual reimbursement rates for many rural hospitals. Folwell said the adjustments would increase payments to rural providers by 20 percent from the original proposal, “while still saving taxpayers almost $258 million and plan members almost $57 million.” Discussion about Medicaid expansion also continued last week, with a new poll showing strong support for the idea. A poll conducted by well-known Republican consultant, Paul Shumaker found that 72 percent of voters’ support Medicaid expansion. The poll also found that support remained above 70 percent even after messages supporting and opposing expansion were given to respondents. Read the full report here.
The past week featured a number of high-profile news stories emanating from the NC political world, while legislative progress was slow by comparison. With the exception of a bill to delay implementation of the State’s new Voter ID law (which was introduced in the Senate, passed by both chambers and signed into law in a four-day span), most other notable issues were marked by news of movement (or lack thereof) as opposed to visible progress. A bill to allow small business associations to create health insurance plans was passed by the Senate but is expected to move slowly in the House. An amendment to that bill offered by a Democratic Freshman that would have expanded Medicaid was defeated, which is not surprising. What surprised many is, according to a little-noticed rule, the amendment’s defeat will pre-empt any further consideration of that topic for the rest of session. Senate leadership could vote to waive the rule; however, they are not currently inclined to do so and used the drama to blame Democrats for “killing debate” on the issue. Read the full report here.
Last week kicked off with Governor Cooper’s State of the State address to the General Assembly, where he reinforced familiar themes, including Medicaid expansion, increased spending on education and rural broadband. Cooper also called for more cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.
Despite the calls for harmony, some of the most contentious policy battles continued to heat up. A group of legislators, including Rep. Gale Adcock, a nurse practitioner, introduced the SAVE Act, which would remove the requirement for physician supervision from advanced practice nurses (APRNs) like nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and certified nurse anesthetists.
As expected, another group of legislators – Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell), Rep. Julia Howard, (R-Davie), Rep. Bill Brisson (R-Bladen) and Rep. Gale Adcock (D-Wake) – introduced legislation to halt State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s changes to the State Health Plan. The changes, which Folwell says would save the Plan millions, include tying providers rates to Medicare rates. Providers and hospitals claim that the changes would close hospitals and impact access for state employees. The new bill would create a commission to study potential changes to the State Health Plan, while prohibiting any changes to the current status quo while the study is being conducted.
Read the full report here.
The big news around Raleigh last week was the long-awaited State Board of Elections hearing on the controversy surrounding the election in the 9th Congressional District. After months of investigation into fraud and four days of testimony, Republican Mark Harris announced that he believed a new election should take place. The Board unanimously ordered the new election, with a timeframe to be decided later. This will not be the end of the matter though as criminal investigations are on-going and new information was released during the hearing about what the campaign and the candidate did or did not know about the absentee ballot program.
There were some fireworks at the General Assembly as well, as health care shifted to a new focus– the State Health Plan. Treasurer Folwell and the North Carolina Healthcare Association testified before the House Health Committee on Folwell’s plan to save more than $300 million annually from the State Health Plan by cutting provider reimbursement rates. Read the full report here.
The session is expected to ramp up this week as committees begin to move into regular business and floor votes begin. It may appear that session has started slowly based upon the number of committee meetings and the bills that have made it to the floor of one chamber of another, but the real activity is taking place in legislators offices and conference rooms around the legislative complex as proposed bills are being discussed, debated and negotiated. This is a critical time for lobbyists to get their bills filed by the “right” sponsor and to work out as many issues as possible before the bill is filed officially. Many deals are being made right now that will impact legislation as it moves through the process. Freshman legislators are also getting an education about the legislative process and trying to figure out how to maneuver in this strange new world! Read the full report here.
The 2019 Long Session is continuing its slow start despite a steady stream of newly introduced bills and important health policy developments. On the health front, Medicaid continues to take center stage. Gov. Roy Cooper has been pushing expansion, but some Senate leaders remain opposed to the idea, citing concerns that costs would ultimately be shifted from the federal government to the state. Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, has indicated he plans to reintroduce his “Carolina Cares” bill. “Carolina Cares” would expand Medicaid in exchange for work requirements for some recipients to access benefits. At the same time, North Carolina’s shift to Medicaid managed care continues to move forward. Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the five managed care groups that will receive Medicaid contracts. The managed care companies will be paid a per person, monthly rate to cover all of an individuals’ needs. Read the full report here.
This year’s long session has begun, but we can expect a slow start. Both Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said Wednesday that General Assembly action would be minimal this week and next. The House held skeletal sessions Thursday and expect to do the same on Monday and Tuesday, with the possibility of some committee meetings next week and a vote on the chamber’s permanent rules on either Wednesday or Thursday. Read the full report here.
August 3rd, the General Assembly was back in Raleigh, just over a month after the end of the 2017 “long session” on June 30th. The session was scheduled in anticipation of Governor’s vetoes that would need to be considered, however in the days leading up to the session legislative leaders announced that veto override votes would be put off until a later date, possibly during the session scheduled for September 6th. Despite this announcement, the Governor issued a proclamation calling the legislature back into session (also on August 3rd) to consider his vetoes, a Constitutional necessity to prevent the vetoed bills from becoming law without an override vote. In a usual sequence of events the session called by Gov. Cooper was convened and immediately adjourned, then the session called by the legislature was convened after a short break. When that session began, it was still unclear exactly what, if anything, the legislature intended to do. Read the full report here.
As is our custom, we have prepared the 2017 Final Legislative Report which includes summaries of new laws approved by the General Assembly and (sometimes) signed into law by the Governor. The interesting thing is that the legislative session doesn’t quite feel over as two and maybe three special sessions have already been planned to deal with a variety of issues (See Senate Bill 686) and unfinished business. This makes lobbyists and probably legislators a little antsy as there does not seem to be a moment where one can relax and feel that no surprise legislation or bad ideas are lurking around the corner. I have never quite understood this as if I was a legislator (heaven forbid) I would want a complete break where no one was “lobbying” me to do something during the special sessions. Of course, since they are also fundraising during this time frame, maybe my question answers itself!
We have included bill summaries of relevant legislation, a final summary of the 2017-2019 Budget and some bills that are currently in conference committee and are eligible to be considered during both the August and September special sessions. The legislature is also expected to deal with the many bills vetoed by the Governor – 4 bills at the last count. Although the Republicans have a veto-proof majority, several of these bills had bi-partisan support and opposition so it may be difficult to over-ride the Governor’s veto on some of these. So far, every bill vetoed by the Governor has been over-ridden by the legislature but I would predict that one of two of these vetoes will stand. The Governor also let 4 bills become law without his signature and we have noted those in the report. Read the full 2017 Final Legislative Report here.
After weeks of negotiations the House and Senate agreed upon a budget, approved it in bi-partisan votes in both the House and Senate and on June 22nd sent their compromise proposal for the 2017-2019 State budget to the Governor. Gov. Cooper, a longtime member of the State Senate before his years as Attorney General, wasted no time in denouncing the proposal as “the most fiscally irresponsible” he’d ever seen, and the stage was set for a veto showdown. Read the full report here.
The last two weeks of the session have been all about the budget. The House of Representatives passed its proposed two-year budget on June 2. The House budget includes $22.9 billion in State spending in FY18, which is the same as the Senate proposal, and $23.8 billion in FY19, which is slightly more than the Senate proposal. While the overall spending levels are similar, the details of how those funds are allocated differ significantly in many cases. The tax cuts in the House budget are much more modest than the Senate proposal. The House plan includes an increase in the standard deduction and the cap on the mortgage expense and property tax deduction, but no cuts to the personal or corporate income taxes. In sum, the House budget would reduce revenue by $350 million over the next two fiscal years, while the Senate budget would reduce revenue by about $1 billion over the same time period. Read the full report here.
The past two weeks have seen a reversal as the Senate, having finished their budget, turned to moving legislation through committees as the House budget process took over much of the energy in that chamber. On Thursday, the House budget subcommittees released their reports; however, the full House budget will not be released until Tuesday of next week. Once the House votes their budget out (on Thursday and Friday of next week) the Appropriations Chairs from each chamber will start work on crafting a compromise version. While the chambers agreed on a total budget number, a 2.5% increase from the current fiscal year, there are a number of differences that will need to be resolved. Each chamber also included policy priorities in their respective budgets, and sorting out which of those will make the final cut will likely be among the more contentious debates. What the chambers do agree on is a desire to have the budget process completed by the middle of June, as a possible gubernatorial veto (and veto override vote) needs to be factored in if the final spending plan is to be passed before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Read the full report here.
The Senate issued its $22.9 billion proposed budget this week, having first unveiled it with an 11:58 p.m. release on Tuesday night. After hearings in multiple Committees this week the budget bill was passed along party lines, with the final vote coming around 3:00 this morning. The Senate budget includes another round of tax cuts (the 6th since 2011), millions more into savings reserve and relatively modest raises for teachers and State employees. It also contains a significant amount of policy, much of which was lifted from other pieces of legislation currently before the General Assembly. As expected, the first legislative budget proposal released this year (the House and Senate take turns each session) was a statement of priorities, and a marker of sorts that the other chamber (the House in this case) will spend the next few weeks responding to. Read the full report here.
The General Assembly faced the “crossover” deadline this week, meaning that most legislation had to be passed by the chamber in which they were filed by Thursday, April 27th. In total, over 100 bills passed out of the House or Senate this week, with sessions stretching late into the night and furious last-minute lobbying punctuating stretches of relative calm as members sequestered themselves in caucus meetings to strategies and decide the fate of various proposals. A flurry of bills were filed in the House just before the deadline, with most including a small appropriation or some Finance impact as a means of avoiding the crossover deadline (bills that impact the budget, have a Finance Committee referral or are local bills are not subject to crossover). Read the full report here.
Last week the General Assembly adjourned on Tuesday afternoon to take a “spring break” so that members could spend time with their family over the Easter Holiday so the bills summarized below are those filed on Monday and Tuesday last week. The General Assembly returned on Wednesday, April 19th to a flurry of activity – over 100 bills were scheduled to be heard in over 20 committee meetings in one day! This hectic schedule will continue as the push is on to move bills before the cross-over deadline. The Deadline requires all bills that do not impact the budget or create new taxes must be approved by either the House or Senate by April 27th. If bills do not meet the deadline they can no longer be considered for the session. Although there are ways around this rule, like every rule at the General Assembly, bills that do not move before cross-over rarely get new life. Read the full report here.
This week things returned to business as usual in the General Assembly following the passage of the HB2 replacement bill last Thursday. House Bill 2 has remained in the news, however, as LGBT rights groups criticize the replacement bill for leaving discrimination in place for many North Carolinians. All eyes were on the NCAA as they prepared to announce whether the HB2 replacement bill went far enough to allow sporting events to return to the state. On Tuesday, the NCAA announced that they would lift the ban on North Carolina from holding championship events; the announcement coming just after UNC clinched the Men’s Basketball National Championship Game after defeating Gonzaga. Some cities in other states have maintained their travel bans to NC, however, citing concerns that the HB2 replacement law is inadequate. Read the full report here.
NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen took a step closer to be confirmed this week after the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to recommend her confirmation. Senators questioned her about her role in administering Obamacare at the federal level and how she would deal with major health issues facing the state, including the opioid epidemic, rural health care, and technology challenges. Previously, Secretary Cohen was the Chief Operating Officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a practicing physician. For a detailed summary of her confirmation, follow this link. Read the full report here.
House Bill 2 dominated the headlines once again this week, as the 1-year anniversary of the law came and went without any action on a repeal or modification to the controversial measure. News that a 1000-job expansion was at stake broke as the deadline for action set by the NCAA loomed, with the state facing a 8-year drought of hosting collegiate games unless HB2 is repealed. A proposal to fully repeal the bill but enact a 30-day referendum on local nondiscrimination policies appeared to have some momentum, with Speaker Moore floating the idea of a long legislative week ahead, but the week ended with no action once again. A separate proposal that would repeal HB2 but prohibit local nondiscrimination ordinances that cover LGBT citizens was floated, but would likely only garner Republican support and may not alleviate the concerns of business and sports leaders who oppose HB2. There was some excitement this week as the House and Senate each overrode Gov. Cooper’s first veto, meaning a bill to restore partisan labels to judicial races became law. Bills dealing with guns, gangs, Israel, boycotts and first responders all saw action, and the Senate unveiled an ambitious tax reform package that would continue the trend of cutting rates on individuals and businesses (and leaving less revenue for government spending as a result). In all, it was a week that saw relatively little action, but served as a reminder that there are plenty of issues, and plenty of conflict, left to resolve this session. Read the full report here.
The North Carolina House is currently considering a bill (HB 88) that would change the way advanced practice nurses are licensed and regulated. Specifically, the bill would eliminate the requirement for nurse practitioners to be supervised by a physician and would alter the relationship between nurse anesthetists and physicians. Advocates for the bill claim that it will reduce unnecessary regulations and free up nurses to provide affordable care in hard to serve areas. Bill opponents, including different physician groups, claim that the bill could have a negative impact on the quality of care and even endanger patients. The bill’s proponents and opponents testified before the House Health Committee this week, but no vote was taken. Read the full report here.
Governor Cooper signed his first bill into law last Friday, shrinking the size of the UNC Board of Governors elected each regular session from sixteen members to twelve. This week, two new bills make their way to his desk, House Bills 100 and 119. House Bill 119 establishes a procedure for filling vacancies on the county board of commissioners and had bipartisan support in both chambers. The more controversial House Bill 100 would make elections for superior and district courts partisan and has been largely criticized by House and Senate Democrats. All eyes will be on the Governor next week to see if this will be his first veto. Read the full report here.
Governor Cooper released his proposed budget for the biennium this week, which includes a 5% teacher raise for each of the next two years, no increases in taxes or fees, an increase in salary for all state employees, expansion of Medicaid to cover an additional 924,000 citizens, and countless other policy initiatives and funding decisions. While the governor’s budget is a significant policy statement about his priorities, the legislature is responsible for creating the biennial budget and is not required to follow or even take his proposal under consideration. When the Senate produces its proposal, it’s likely to look quite different from what the Governor proposed this week. Read the full report here.
This week the battle between legislative leaders and Gov. Cooper intensified as the pace of the session continued to slowly gain speed. As the ongoing conflict about the Senate’s authority to confirm Cooper’s Cabinet Secretaries works its way through the courts, a third confirmation hearing was held for Sec. Larry Hall (Veterans and Military Affairs), who once again did not attend (Yes the same Larry Hall that served in the NC House of Representatives and was the Minority Leader). The Nominations Committee voted to subpoena Sec. Hall as the Governor’s team reiterated their position that he is not legally obligated to appear. A three-judge panel has denied a preliminary injunction to stop the hearings but found that “the Advice and Consent Amendment require the Governor to begin the process by first notifying the Senate of the nominee, and the Senate cannot begin the advice and consent process until the Governor submits a nominee.” The Governor has not yet formally submitted his nominees and insists he will not do so until after the March 7 trial which will determine the constitutionality of the confirmation process. Read the full report here.
The General Assembly 2017 long session picked up speed last week with floor votes by both the House and Senate and a variety of committee meetings. One item already adopted by the House and given tentative approval by the Senate is a 25 percent reduction in the University of North Carolina Board of Governors by 2019. This legislation will decrease the Board of Governor’s membership from 32 voting members to 24, in an attempt to make the Board more manageable. The House also passed House Bill 7 to increase the state’s “rainy day fund” by requiring legislators to save 15 percent of the growth in the budget from the previous year and place it into the rainy day fund. This legislation received bipartisan support in the House and will next be considered by the Senate, where we expect some version of it to be approved by the Senate. Read the full report here.
This week the slower-than-normal pace of session began to pick up some steam, though committee meetings were few and only one bill passed its chamber. The ongoing court battle between Gov. Cooper and legislative leaders continued, with a three-judge Superior Court panel temporarily blocking the effect of a law passed in December that requires Senate confirmation for Cabinet-level appointments. Confirmation hearings were set to begin this week, and lawmakers convened the scheduled hearing despite the nominee’s absence. Another hearing is scheduled for February 10, with Gov. Cooper’s lawyers asking that the stay remain in place until a full trial on the law is held next month. The Governor also pressed the General Assembly this week on repealing House Bill 2, the controversial law passed last year that stripped municipalities from extending protections to LGBT citizens. The NCAA made clear this week that time is running out to make changes to the bill that would allow North Carolina to be considered as a host for NCAA games (including March Madness tournament games) for the next 8 years. While Gov. Cooper and others insist “the votes are there” for full repeal of HB2, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger have said publicly that only a “compromise” measure (presumably one that continues to require transgender men and women to use public facilities that match their gender at birth) will be considered, and Republican Party leaders called on Gov. Cooper to propose such a compromise. Read the full report here.
The legislature continued its slow start with no committee hearings, only a few bills being introduced, and no action taken yet on any legislation. Despite the lack of legislative progress, the Senate did announce its confirmation process for Gov. Cooper’s cabinet appointees. Read the full report here.
The 2017-2018 session of the North Carolina General Assembly began in earnest this week. After an organizational session earlier this month, there was a two-week break for office moves, committee assignments, and last-minute fundraisers. This week, despite no committee meetings or votes on the floor, there was plenty of activity. Legislative leaders continued to battle Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in the press, on everything from Cooper’s Medicaid expansion proposal (which looks increasingly like a nonstarter as the Trump administration weighed in on the side of the legislature) to the corporate tax cuts championed by the leadership and criticized by the Governor. At the same time, Gov. Cooper, Speaker Moore, and Pro Tem Berger continued private discussions on a number of issues, including a potential repeal of House Bill 2 (though no consensus has been reached on how to achieve the compromise legislative leaders have insisted on as a condition for repeal). This week, committee Chairs in each chamber were given their gavels and assignments were made (and in some cases changed), with new Chairs taking the reins of some powerful committees (Senate Finance, Senate Rules, House Regulatory Reform, among others). How these new Chairs will lead their committees and what direction their respective policy areas may go this session remains to be seen, and was the subject of much discussion and speculation this week. Read the full report here.
When the General Assembly adjourned “sine die” near midnight on July 1st, it was the end to one of the most contentious biennium sessions in recent memory. The 2015 “long” session was the longest in a decade, lasting almost into October, and featured several high-profile battles between the House, Senate and Governor. While the 2016 “short” session (second year of the biennium) adjourned earlier than any in recent memory and did not feature the same kind of drawn out battles we witnessed last year, it was not without moments of significant drama. Despite an insistence from leaders in both chambers that major, controversial issues would have to wait until the next long session (a pledge which was upheld much more than insiders expected back in April), conflicts still managed to erupt and derail major priorities for each chamber. As we detailed in the previous report, bills that were important to two Senate leaders were shot down by the House on the final day of session, and the resulting breakdown between the chambers stranded several high-profile pieces of legislation – including a regulatory reform package that had taken weeks to negotiate; an anti-immigration measure opposed by law enforcement but seemingly destined to pass; and a trio of Constitutional amendments that would have appeared on the November ballot, including one to cap state income tax levels. Read the full report here.
At 11:58 p.m. on Friday July 1st, the House and Senate joined in a ceremonial “dropping of the hankie” as the 2015-2016 session of the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned “sine die.” This was the earliest adjournment in many years, and (just) met the goal of leaders in both chambers to be finished with the people’s business before the July 4 holiday weekend began. The months ahead will be a whirlwind of political activity as hard-fought campaigns for every major political office truly heat up, and legislative candidates in competitive districts work to have their message heard in a very crowded electoral field. Despite this bi-cameral urge to adjourn as quickly as possible, the final week of session, and in particular the final day, was marked by a breakdown between the chambers that left a number of priorities stranded. Read the full report here.
Very early this morning the 2015-2106 session of the General Assembly adjourned “Sine Die,” meaning they are done until a new session convenes next January. The session ended with a traditional “hankie drop” ceremony, which has not taken place in years, which felt appropriate as many veteran members and the irreplaceable House Principal Clerk – a fixture on Jones St. since 1977 – saying their goodbyes. Read the full report here.
At the end of last week the House and Senate leadership reported that much progress had been made in reaching a compromise on the 22.2 billion dollar state budget. On 10:30 p.m. Friday a House Finance Chairman posted to social media an image of “white smoke” (signaling the selection of a new Pope at the Vatican), which veterans of the General Assembly understood to mean an agreement had been reached between the chambers. A final review of language is set for Monday, and the document is expected to be posted online late Monday night. While the final budget is a “conference report” (compromise version of legislation passed by both chambers in different forms) and cannot be amended on the floor, it is still a “two-day bill,” meaning separate votes must be taken over consecutive sessions. Given a House rule that requires the document to be public for 48 hours before a vote can take place, the House is expected to hold budget votes on Thursday and Friday (likely near midnight Friday morning) before adjourning for the holiday weekend. The Senate does not have a public notice rule and can vote the budget out earlier in the week if they choose. Read the full report here.
The final weeks of each legislative session are marked by a few familiar signs, many of which have been seen over the past week, raising hopes that the General Assembly may well be nearing adjournment. Both chambers are moving bills through their respective Rules Committees, typically used as a clearinghouse at the end of session as the chambers’ regular committees begin to shut down. Last-minute committee hearings have been called, sometimes after the day’s session has concluded, to move bills through the process as expeditiously as possible. Budget subcommittee negotiators took to social media to announce they’d reached agreement with their counterparts, and the Senior Budget Chair in the House provided an update on the overall negotiations that provided some hope the two chambers are nearing a compromise. While controversial issues like Certificate of Need and continued tax reform were discussed in committee, neither seemed to be issues that would create a session-extending logjam in the way differences on Medicaid Reform and Teacher Assistants did in the past few sessions. Despite some furious lobbying on a number of issues, most of the proposals viewed as being controversial are being pushed off to the 2017 long session, with “we’re wrapping up” being offered as increasingly common explanation. There are a few issues that may cause some delay, however. Both chambers passed a 2016 Regulatory Reduction Act, though the versions were quite different, which will require a compromise version to be negotiated between the chambers. Tentative progress on a bill to repeal parts of the controversial House Bill 2 seems to have stalled, though pressure on the legislature to act on the issue remains strong. Budget negotiations could deadlock on any number of issues; however, the signs on Jones St. continue to point to a common priority of both chambers – adjournment as close to the end of June as possible. Read the full report here.
Last Tuesday, a second primary election was held for North Carolina’s 13 Congressional districts. These races were under new maps drawn earlier this year when the current districts were struck down by a federal 3-judge panel for being illegally gerrymandered on racial grounds. The new maps were challenged as being politically gerrymander, however the panel rejected the challenge less than a week before the primary, though they made their opinion of the deliberate use of partisan factors in the creation of districts known. “The Court’s denial of the plaintiffs’ objections does not constitute or imply an endorsement of, or foreclose any additional challenges to, the Contingent Congressional Plan,” however “the Court’s hands appear to be tied” by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case. Read the full report here.
Although this legislative report is not very long this week – the activity at the General Assembly was fast and furious as legislators took up a variety of controversial items, the Senate released and passed its budget, and the Medicaid Reform waiver was completed and sent to the Feds under great fanfare.The Senate approved their $22.2 billion budget for the next fiscal year early Friday morning by a 26-13 margin. The Senate budget includes more funds for teacher raises than the House budget did, and would increase the standard deductions on personal income tax two years faster than the House plan. To help cover the cost of these changes, state employee raises and a cost-of-living increase for retirees were cut. Read the full report here.
With the announcement of an ambitious teacher pay plan and passage of a bill that calls for a $2,000 increase in the standard deduction over two years (as opposed to 4 in the House plan), the Senate has created significant anticipation for the release of their budget plan. As we’ve reported the chambers agreed to a $22.22 billion spending limit, meaning the proposals outlined by the Senate will have to be paid for with cuts to other areas of the House budget. What will be cut, and by how much, is the question on everyone’s mind, and Senate budget writers are keeping their cards very close to the vest. While some gamesmanship is expected to set the table for negotiations with the House, the release of the Senate spending plan is expected to dominate political discussions next week. The full plan will be in committee on Tuesday with floor votes expected Wednesday and Thursday, at which point the most significant work on the budget will begin – between the chambers, behind closed doors and, we hope, ahead of schedule. Read the full report here.
On Thursday the House passed their budget update by a vote of 203-12, with 30 Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting the measure. The plan includes pay raises for teachers and state employees, cost of living increases for retirees, middle-class tax cuts and no controversial changes to the tax code that have been debated in recent years. With a $330 million surplus in hand, the House crafted a budget light on policy and heavy on measures that will be easy to tout as the fall election season looms. The question, as it always is when it comes to crafting the State budget, is how much will the other chamber’s plan differ, and how long will it take to iron out those differences? With the memory of last year’s protracted budget battle fresh in everyone’s mind, the signs this year point to a much less contentious process. As we’ve reported, the two chambers agreed early on a spending target ($22.225 billion, lower than the Governor’s $22.8 billion proposal) and the House budget plan conforms to that figure. The Senate budget is expected to do the same, and the Appropriations Chairs are expected to announce subcommittee meetings next week to begin the process and anticipate that it will be completed by Memorial Day. That would allow an entire month for House and Senate budget writers to negotiate a compromise version before the fiscal year ends on June 30. Budget Chairs from each chamber met on Thursday after session to continue discussions, lending hope to the thought that a final version may be sent to the Governor before the end of June, making the prospect of adjournment in time for the July 4 holiday a little more realistic, if only just a little more. Read the full report here.
Every “short session” year the same confident predictions can be head in the halls and offices of the General Assembly: “We’re going to do the budget, pass a few time-sensitive bills and go home,” “we’ll be home for the fireworks,” “it will truly be a short session,” etc. And, just as predictably, those confident predictions give way to political reality as one issue or another (or, several) creates conflicts between and within the chambers that cause delays, slowdowns, and the occasional total deadlock. While there are certainly issues that could create such conflicts available this session – what, if anything, to do about House Bill 2 and the continued backlash, how to spend the $330 million surplus the State currently enjoys, etc. – it has been many years since things moved as quickly and as relatively smoothly as they have this year. After the chambers agreed on a spending target, the House appropriations subcommittees met last week to unveil their portions of the budget. The House is expected to pass their full spending plan and send it to the Senate by the end of this week. Read the full report here.
Things on Jones Street are beginning to heat up as the House starting meeting in Appropriation subcommittees to hear presentations from State departments on the Governor’s budget allocations and their individual needs. Since there are extra funds available because of higher than expected revenue and lower than expected costs for Medicaid, the fight for the extra funds is in full force. On Wednesday, both chambers’ leadership announced that they agreed on a spending amount for the fiscal year, at $22.225 billion, a 2.26% budget increase (by comparison, the Governor’s budget had a spending limit of $22.8 billion, or a 2.6% increase). The announcement comes as good news for those closely following the short session, noting that the agreement is a positive sign for a shorter and more cohesive budget process. However, it would make the 5% teacher salary increase proposed by the Governor very unlikely. Next week, expect House committees to continue to meet and discuss budget goals and to begin to highlight their priorities for this year’s budget, with a goal of having their budget proposal approved and over to the Senate by May 20th. Read the full report here.
On April 25th, the 2016 “short” session of the North Carolina General Assembly convened amid protests for and against the much-discussed House Bill 2, also known as the “bathroom bill” (though as we’ve reported, the bill does significantly more than address that issue, including enact a statewide nondiscrimination policy that excludes LGBT people and voiding local ordinances regarding minimum wage). A rally on the legislative mall in support of the bill drew a large crowd, while a counter rally at the Old Capital ended with opponents delivering thousands of petitions for its repeal to the Governor’s staff. Some activists associated with the Moral Monday movement occupied the hallways outside House Speaker Tim Moore’s office, and dozens were arrested when they refused to disperse. Read full report here.
On February 22nd, the Charlotte City Council passed a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance that, among other provisions, included a LGBT-inclusive public accommodation requirement. This provision would ban public businesses from discriminating against LGBT customers in places of public accommodations (including bars, restaurants, taxis, etc.) The most controversial aspect of this provision is that it would specifically require businesses to allow transgender men and women to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender. The ordinance – which Mayor Roberts and some Council members pledged to support during their campaigns, passed 7-4 and was scheduled to go into effect April 1st. The Governor and legislative leaders promised to repeal the ordinance before that date, citing concerns that the “bathroom ordinance” would force women and girls to share facilities with men, jeopardizing their safety. Supporters of the ordinance noted that over 200 cities across the country have adopted similar ordinances and safety has not been an issue. Read more here.
After 9 long months, a 10-week delay in passing the State budget, and the longest session since 2001, an adjournment resolution was finally drafted and the long session came to an end at 4:18 a.m. on Wednesday, September 30th. As we anticipated and is always the case, once the budget was approved the legislative floodgates opened, as members began to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the mad rush toward it began in earnest. The last days of session are always heady and exciting, and are also the most dangerous time of the year. Among the headline-grabbing bills that saw action in the last week: Medicaid reform; regulatory reform; a ban on the sale of fetal remains; economic incentives; a bond package; and several charter school and education bills. Read the full report here.
After working on the budget for 8 months and at times seeing no end in sight, the budget was rolled out last Monday night around 10:30 p.m. with over 670 pages of numbers, detail, explanation and policy. Amazingly the budget was then debated and voted on less than 75 hours later (over the strong objections of the Democrats)! Despite all the battles, negotiations and harsh words, the House and Senate leadership congratulated each other and had high praise for the final product. The budget even drew some bi-partisan support with a handful of Democrats in the Senate and about 10 in the House voting for the measure. The Governor signed the Budget on Friday morning making sure the spending plan was in place before the end of the continuing budget resolution that was set to expire at the end of the day. Read the full report here.
As we reported last week, an agreement was reached between the House and Senate on the total state budget for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 of $21.735 billion, roughly $415 million less than what the House had proposed and about $265 million more than the Senate’s proposal. What was left to debate was exactly how that money would be spent, and more specifically what cuts to their proposal the House would be willing to accept. By the end of the week leaders in both chambers proclaimed the amount of progress that had been made in these negotiations, including agreements on teacher and State employee raises (a one-time $750 bonus, raise of starting teacher pay to $35,000 per year, and scheduled “step raises” for teachers, State Highway Patrol officers, court clerks and magistrates, in addition to money set aside to boost salaries for community college employees, correctional officers, spielautomaten and certain hard-to-retain state workers) and agreements on how much each budget subcommittee will have to spend, which kick-started negotiations between the respective House and Senate Chairs. Read the full report here.
Coming into this legislative week, the question on everyone’s mind was “do we have a number?” With budget writers from both chambers staying over the weekend to negotiate, there was hope that a spending target would be agreed to by the time members, staff and lobbyists began filing back into 16 West Jones St. on Monday. Reaching a spending target is the first step in putting the final budget packages together – with the total budget number set, the Chairs of each Appropriations Subcommittee can be given a certain amount of taxpayer dollars to work with as they negotiate the line-item spending for their respective subject areas. Until the number is set, negotiations can’t begin and the process is deadlocked, as it has been for weeks this session. Read the full report here.
The Senate took up its own batch of controversial issues this week. On Monday night, the Senate brought its Medicaid reform package (H372) to the floor, and on Tuesday the plan was approved by a vote of 34-10. The Medicaid reform plan changes the state’s current fee-for-service system to a per-member monthly allotment for services. It is meant to encourage competition by mixing both commercial insurers and healthcare provider groups. The Democrats made an attempt to amend the bill in order to expand Medicaid, but it was voted down along party lines. The House has publicly criticized the Senate’s plan, and the package has not yet been calendared for House floor debate. Read the full report here.
What a week! The news from Raleigh came so fast and furious it was hard to keep up. Two of the Governor’s cabinet Secretaries were replaced, three major issues that have been holding up negotiations on the budget were removed from that process and saw movement as separate bills, the House approved a nearly $3 billion bond package, and a Constitutional amendment to control future state spending was proposed. Embattled DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos announced her resignation last week after nearly three years on the job, just as the House and Senate seem to be moving closer to a deal on Medicaid reform. Her replacement will be former ProNerve CEO Rick Brajer, a newcomer to public service who begins his tenure at a crucial time. He takes over not only during the debate on Medicaid reform but as the Senate is considering a proposal to move the Division of Medical Assistance (Medicaid) from DHHS and create a separate cabinet-level department to oversee the program. Read the full report here.
This week saw quite a bit of action at the General Assembly as both chambers passed a number of non-controversial (or previously controversial but watered-down) pieces of legislation. It looked to be the annual “desk-clearing” that usually precedes the final budget negotiation process. This year however the negotiations are expected to drag out over the coming weeks at least, and there is little hope that a deal will be struck by the current deadline (set for August 14th). While the House and Senate Finance Chairs have met to discuss the tax portion of the budget plan, the Appropriations Chairs have not, a full month after the State budget was technically due. The two major issues of contention in the budget process – Medicaid reform and tax reform – will need to be settled before budget writers can know how much revenue they have to complete the budget. Once those numbers are set the Chairs of each respective budget subcommittee can negotiate their part of the budget, with other issues being left to the “big Chairs” (main budget writers) from each chamber and the House and Senate leadership. Read the full report here.
The session continues on with no end in sight. In fact, it does not even seem that legislators have any sense of urgency over the budget and the extended session. Both sides seem to be daring the other to come to the negotiating table and the response is that they are willing to stay as long as it takes. We have heard several reports that there are NO negotiations yet on the budget and that the Senate will not negotiate the budget until Medicaid Reform is agreed upon. Read the full report here.
The legislative session is entering a new phase, as the House and Senate begin work on a compromise budget. As we have reported, the differences between the spending plans passed by each chamber are vast and numerous, many of the policy provisions included in the Senate budget are controversial, and all indications are the process will be as contentious as it is lengthy. The Senate has announced it intends to complete all policy committee work by July 23rd, with the implied threat that bills important to the House will be stranded unless the budget is resolved in an agreeable manner. Of course, there are many bills important to Senate members that will be stranded in the House if that chamber follows suit, meaning all remaining issues will be resolved in the context of the budget negotiations, and many good policy bills (even those with widespread support) may become victim to the standoff, possibly stalled until the “short” session next year. We will continue to push for good legislation to be heard and passed, despite the current and deepening stagnation. Read the full report here.
Last week the General Assembly passed a continuing resolution (called the “CR,” see Senate Bill 534 below) to keep State government funded for 45 days past the end of the fiscal year until August 14, 2015. Then they approved an adjournment resolution suspending the session for 10 of those days, from July 2nd until July 13th at 7:00 p.m. The CR will allow time for the House and Senate to negotiate a compromise budget plan. The “summer break” will – we hope – allow some of the tension and conflict between the chambers to dissipate enough to make the necessary give-and-take possible. However, we think it is also a sign that they are digging in and expect to be in Raleigh a very long time. Read full report here.
This week at the General Assembly was relatively quiet on the surface, as tensions and disagreements between the chambers continue to roil behind the scenes. The biggest news came not from 16 West Jones Street but from the U.S. Supreme Court, with back-to-back decisions that impact North Carolina politics. With the 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the Accountable Care Act, known as “Obamacare,” which confirmed that subsidies in non-expansion states (including NC) could continue. The decision created a firestorm of statements both for and against by politicians and also renewed calls for an immediate expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina. The Governor responded by asserting that Medicaid has to be “fixed” before expansion can be considered, complicating the stakes of the ongoing battle over the legislature’s reform plan. Whether expansion can or will be part of the negotiations on a Medicaid Reform Plan is yet to be seen with legislative leadership still firmly opposed to expansion. Read the full report here.
This week at the General Assembly was dominated, once again, by action on controversial and contentious issues. The Senate approved its version of the budget (see below), setting up what looks to be a drawn-out process of negotiating a compromise version, the House approved an omnibus gun bill and held another public hearing on their Medicaid reform plan, and both chambers took up (without notice) a bill to expand the Voter ID requirements that were approved last session and currently the subject of a court battle. While debating the budget on the floor, Sen. Ralph Hise, co-Chair of the Senate Health policy and budget committees, referred to the now years-long battle between the chambers over Medicaid reform and said “this time we don’t go home until it’s done.” Speaker Moore, during an interview that aired the night before, talked about a 2-month continuing resolution being necessary to provide time for negotiations on the State spending plan. Read the full report here.
The rollout of the Senate’s budget proposal, expected this week, was delayed and is now scheduled to begin on Monday at 4:00 pm, when each of that chamber’s Appropriations Subcommittees will meet and review their respective spending plans. Much like last week, the lack of a Senate budget plan did not prevent various other dramas from playing out. The House unveiled its Medicaid reform plan – setting up yet another showdown between the chambers on that issue – since the Senate has already rejected a similar plan. The Senate put forward its tax cut and redistribution plan (which has been condemned by municipal leaders and called “dangerous” by the Governor), as well as its economic development package, which is vastly different than the bill that the House approved and sent over. The House voted, after several days of delay, to override Gov. McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2, which allows court officials to opt out marriage duties because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” And finally, one of the leading members of the House minority, 7-term Cumberland County Rep. Rick Glazier, unexpectedly announced he will retire after this year’s session to lead the NC Justice Center. Clearly, we do not need budget negotiations to keep things lively on Jones Street! Read the full report here.
This week in state politics we thought it would be a quiet week, between the passage of the House budget on May 22nd and the (expected) unveiling of the Senate budget next week, but it certainly did not lack for action or excitement. Bills dealing with guns, liquor, abortion, immigration and gay marriage were considered, two Gubernatorial vetoes were addressed and Republican Presidential contenders converged on Raleigh for the state GOP convention. The halls of the General Assembly were filled with citizen activists – many supporting or opposing the omnibus gun bill, some pushing for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and, on Tuesday, over 500 workers from the solar industry (complete with hardhats and work vests) supporting the renewable energy tax credits included in the House budget. Read the full report here.
When session ended last week, following a chaotic budget process in the House, expectations were this week would be relatively uneventful. The Memorial Day holiday precluded action on Monday, the House held-a no-vote session on Tuesday and no committees met that day. The Senate Appropriations subcommittees reviewed the House budget briefly on Wednesday but took no action on their own budget. By the end of the week, however, some of the most contentious votes of the session on some of the most controversial issues of our time had been taken, and the Governor had issued his first veto of the session. A number of noncontroversial bills dealing with women and children’s safety were added to a House bill about abortion restrictions and run through the Senate process, to the ire of many sponsors and advocates of those unrelated bills, some of whom felt compelled to vote against the entire bill (a vote which will likely come up in their next campaign, which many felt was the whole purpose of combining the issues in the first place). Read the full report here.
While the House was working diligently on their budget proposal, the Senate continued on with business as usual, except it was almost too calm? There a handful of committee meetings, but the real work seemed to be going on behind the scenes to work on their budget proposal in light of what they saw in the House proposal. A few lighter moments came during the week when both chambers honored the Duke Blue Devils for their national championship and also honored Miss North Carolina. Always interesting seeing legislators trying to get selfies!
The House focused almost exclusively on the budget, trying to review, amend and debate the various provisions that would combine to spend over $22 billion dollars in each of the next two years. There were many stops and starts as negotiations continued into yesterday over the final package. The House voted to approve the budget on a bi-partisan vote of 93-23 at 1:15 this morning with a handful of Republicans and Democrats voting against the budget. There were almost 100 amendments debated and discussed in committees and on the floor of the House yesterday. Read the full report here.
While a number of policy issues saw action this week (including a trespassing bill aimed at curbing activist surveillance of agriculture facilities and a teen tanning ban), the news on Jones St. was dominated by the release, on Thursday morning, of the House Appropriations Subcommittees’ budget proposals. With the unexpected news last week that the State had a $400 million surplus for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and $600 million for 2016-17 (rather than a $273 million deficit for 2015-16 that was projected as late as March), the pressure for each Subcommittee to find cuts in their specific subject areas was greatly reduced. While some reductions were proposed (many of which were eliminations of state positions that have been vacant for extended periods), most of the painful cuts that advocates, organizations, and State agencies had been bracing for were nowhere to be found. Read full report here.
Last week, post crossover, the pace of action at the General Assembly slowed considerably. Few committee meetings were held and only a handful of votes were taken on the House and Senate floor. A planned hearing on a controversial omnibus gun-rights bill was scheduled, rescheduled, and finally cancelled. While a few newsworthy developments took place within the building, including a House vote to cap the renewable energy tax credit (after a version of this measure was voted down in committee earlier this session, and twice last session), and several groups held “lobby days” to promote agendas ranging from LGBT rights, school nurse funding, and second chances for felons, most of the major news affecting State government happened outside of 16 W. Jones St. Read full report here.
Last Thursday was the crossover deadline (by which all bills that do not have a Finance or Appropriations impact must be passed by the chamber in which they were filed, or be “dead” until the next full session convenes in 2017), and last week was incredibly hectic as legislators, staff, and lobbyists worked to move bills through committee and onto the floor for a vote. While the Senate concluded their work relatively quickly each day, the House went late into each night, finishing at roughly 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning after a marathon 18–hour day. Over 200 bills were passed by the House alone last week, with committee hearings held during breaks – some around members’ desks on the floor – passing or making last minute changes to a variety of bills. As relieved and exhausted House members filed out in the early hours, many remarked that the breakneck pace was no way to govern, as they do each year after crossover, yet we expect next session the scene will be much the same as it was last week, with little time for members to read, let alone fully comprehend, some of the laws they voted to enact. Read full report here.
Last week was very intense at the General Assembly, particularly in the House, with dozens of committee hearings and hundreds of votes cast on a wide range of issues. It seemed that every controversial social issue was the subject of debate or negotiation, as bills dealing with abortion, immigration and animal rights moved forward, and a “religious freedom” bill similar to one that sparked condemnation when passed in Indiana was declared dead for the session by Speaker Moore. An unusual number of bills were voted down in the House this week (normally sponsors do not bring bills up for a vote unless they are sure they have the numbers to pass it), including bills that would allow public funding of charter school construction, require candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor to run as a team and scale back the renewable energy requirement for utilities. Other issues that saw action last year but did not reach the Governor’s desk, such as banning the use of tanning beds by minors, the repeal or modification of Certificate of Need laws that approve new healthcare facilities and regulation of dog breeders, were all back on the agenda. Read the full report here.
Last week a wide variety of issues were debated and voted on, including powdered alcohol, the annual “Possum Drop,” drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, divesting the state from Iran, Sunday hunting and a proposed statue of Billy Graham at the U.S. Capitol. Even with the relatively active committee and session schedules, however, the pace has still been relatively slow compared to previous sessions. Only a handful of bills have been passed since January – 13 to be exact, roughly a third as many as were passed this time last long session. That will change over the next two weeks, as the annual crossover deadline, by which public bill that don’t have an effect on the state budget must be passed by the chamber in which they were filed, was moved from early May to April 30th. Read the full report here.
This week the General Assembly did not meet, with most members taking a “Spring Break” and some members of leadership meeting privately to consider which issues will be taken up throughout the remainder of the session. The House bill filing deadline, previously set for April 8th, was moved by new House rules adopted last week to next Tuesday, April 14th. (This deadline is for public bills, the deadline for bills with a fiscal impact is now April 16th.) The new house rules also extended the deadline for bill requests by members to the drafting staff, and increased the per-member bill limit from 10 to 15. With over 1,300 bills filed by the end of last week, these changes promise to push the total number even higher than expected. With so many bills filed and more to come, the crossover deadline (by which a public bill must pass the chamber in which it was filed, now set in both chambers for April 30) looms large. With a limited number of committee meetings possible over the next few weeks, the rush to get bills cleared for a hearing, through the committee process, and passed on the floor will be tremendous. Read the full report here.
This week the North Carolina General Assembly saw plenty of action on a variety of bills – passage of a compromise gas tax bill, committee votes on legislation dealing with biosimilar medicines, means for catching drivers who pass school buses, debates about the merits of a Constitutional Convention of the States, passage of a controversial plan to redraw the Wake County Commission district lines, and a bill to amend the requirements for advanced medical directives suffered a rare defeat on the House floor. Read the full report here.
Last week was incredibly busy and stressful as Thursday marked the Senate bill filing deadline and the House bill drafting deadline (by which time House members have to have all their requests in for crafting of their legislative proposals). In the Senate 355 bills were filed this week alone, with the total now at 711 for the session. The House is expected to exceed that number by the time that chamber’s bill filing deadline passes on April 8th. The topics on which legislation was filed ranged greatly, and the sponsorship lists represented some unexpected pairings — a bill to regulate providers of digitally dispatched prearranged transportation services like Uber and Lyft, filed by two members who are normally far opposed on most issues — and some expected themes (Republican-sponsored “Iran Divestment” and “Religious Freedom” bills, a Democrat-sponsored proposal to expand Medicaid). Read the full report here.
The big news last week at the Legislature was the win by the Governor in the Constitutional challenge filed by the Governor (and former Governors) against the Legislature that the Legislature had overstepped its authority. Basically, the lawsuit said that the Legislature was infringing on the power of the Executive branch by appointing members to various commissions where the work or oversight should have been from the Executive branch. Read the full report here.
We had a shortened week at the legislature in light of the ACC Tournament (basketball for those who don’t follow sports). The House and Senate both shortened their day on Thursday and most of the House members left Wednesday night since they did not have any votes on Thursday. Even with the shortened week however, there was a great deal of activity as the deadline to have bills into bill drafting in the Senate was Friday. See the full report here.
We found out last week what happens when the legislature cancels most of their meetings for two weeks and then returns —– a form of controlled chaos. Committee chairs rescheduled meetings, sometimes for the third time, and then extended their meetings to get more done. Of course, this threw off the schedules of legislators who found themselves cancelling or re-scheduling appointments with each other, constituents, and lobbyists. With the bill filing deadlines fast approaching, the stress level is rising as folks are having a hard time finding the time to talk to legislators about which bills they will sponsor, support, or even find out if they agree or disagree with the goal of the legislation. To cap off a busy week, the Governor released his 2015-2017 budget proposal on Thursday. See the full report here.
This week the operations of the General Assembly were once again brought to a halt by foul weather, with committee hearings cancelled wholesale and House members headed back to their districts by Tuesday afternoon. The Senate remained in town long enough to hold session Wednesday morning and pass a bill allowing some court officials to opt out of marriage duties (a top priority for Senate Leader Phil Berger) before also breaking for the week. Despite the shortened week, some newsworthy pieces of legislation were filed, including one to phase out transfers from the state’s Highway Fund to the General Fund by 2021 (part of the ongoing reform of the state’s transportation funding) and the long-awaited debut of the House’s economic development plan. See the full report here.
This week, most activity at the General Assembly was halted by the snow and ice that covered most of the state and made safe passage to Raleigh impossible for many members. Policy committees were cancelled from Tuesday through Thursday, and both chambers cancelled session on Tuesday, a rare event. Despite the weather, there was some activity, including the filing of over a dozen new bills and the referral to committee of dozens more. See the full report here.
This week saw the initial meetings of some committees, particularly joint meetings between the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees, the six of which all met Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. to review their respective charges, areas of focus and directions from the full Appropriations “big Chairs,” the chief budget writers in each chamber. The meetings were and will be, for a time, mainly educational, as the budget writing process does not typically begin in earnest until the Governor’s proposed budget is released. In the meantime, the members of each subcommittee will have time to hear from agencies, advocates and organizations affected by the spending plans they are charged with delivering. See the full report here.
The first full week of session was similar to the first, in that a handful of bills were filed, what took place in the Chambers was for the most part ceremonial and (with few exceptions) no votes were cast on issues of substance. The most notable event was Wednesday night’s “State of the State” address, given by Governor McCrory in the House chamber and attended by legislators from both chambers, Cabinet officials and Council of State members. The Governor’s speech touched on the expected main topics – jobs, education, increasing health and safety and reducing government inefficiencies. He called for an increase in starting teacher pay, a $1.2 billion bond for transportation improvements and an overhaul of the state’s IT systems. His recommendations received a relatively muted reaction from legislative leaders, with whom he will need to work, and possibly battle, to see them enacted. See full report here.
The 2015-2016 session of the General Assembly began in earnest on Wednesday, after an organizational session two weeks ago and a short interim, which ended with a round of last-minute fundraisers Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Read the full report here.
The 2015-16 session of the North Carolina General Assembly kicks off this Wednesday, January 28th, at 12:00 p.m., after a ceremonial “organizational session” on January 14th and subsequent two-week recess. The purpose of the organization session was to elect members of each chamber to leadership positions in both the majority Republican and minority Democratic caucuses. Read more here.
The 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly will likely go down in our state’s history as one of the most pivotal, controversial and polarizing. To some, it represented a much-needed correction of course after years of policy drift and expansion of state government. To others it signaled a dangerous push to the right by an extreme minority, against the wishes and interest of the majority of our citizens. Read more here.
The 2013-2014 session of the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned last Saturday morning, with the House completing their work roughly 36 hours after the Senate had finished up and left town. Read more here.
Over the past week the sense of progress toward a budget deal was palpable at the General Assembly, though exactly how much progress was being made and how quickly was anyone’s guess (excepting the few main budget negotiators and their staff, who weren’t showing their hands). Progress was made on issues from charter schools and red light cameras to local sales tax rate caps and the annual Technical Corrections bill, easing the sense of gridlock that has defined the past few weeks. Read the full report here .
With the budget stalemate at least somewhat resolved, the unofficial lockdown on policy action was lifted to a small degree. While the Senate had announced all policy committees were done for the year, the Rules and Finance committees held a series of meetings to try and move some of that chamber’s priorities forward. The most notable of these was the Senate’s version of H1181, the Medicaid Reform bill. Read the full report here.
On Wednesday, after several weeks of building tension between the chambers on the budget, Medicaid reform and teacher pay, something unusual took place at the General Assembly. A public meeting of the House and Senate Appropriations committees was held, during which offers and counter-offers were made, in full view not only of the rank-and-file members, but also leadership, lobbyists, staff and the press. This meeting was entirely unprecedented – normally these kinds of negotiations take place behind closed doors, and involve only the senior budget writers. To be clear, all that was being negotiated was the budget availability – specifically the amounts needed to cover the estimated Medicaid shortfall and to fund reserve accounts for next year – not the specifics on how to spend the remaining state dollars. Read the full report here.