LEGISLATIVE REPORT - March 27, 2019
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.
The General Assembly also made news this week as it appointed members to the UNC Board of Governors. Between appointments made in both chambers, 10 incumbent Board members will return and two new members will join them. The size of the board will shrink from 28 to 24 members as a result of previous legislation. The new board will have six women, three African-Americans and one American Indian.
The House appointees are:
- Pearl Burris-Floyd of Gaston County
- C. Philip Byers, the former sheriff of Rutherford County
- James Holmes Jr., managing partner at Sentinel Risk Advisors
- Hilton Terry Hutchens, an attorney in Cumberland County and the only new appointee the House approved
- J. Alex Mitchell, a developer in Durham
- David Powers, a lobbyist at the General Assembly
The Senate’s appointees are:
- Darrell Allison, charter school advocacy group leader
- former Republican state Sen. Thom Goolsby
- Anna Spangler Nelson, Charlotte investment firm leader
- Temple Sloan, Raleigh business executive
- Michael Williford, Fayetteville attorney
- Martin Holtonhe, longtime Reynolds American executive and only new appointee
With growing evidence about the importance of access to high-speed internet for economic development, the topic of broadband was also prominent in Raleigh. A new executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper aims at expanding broadband internet access across the state. The order directs the N.C. Department of Transportation to create a "Dig Once" policy to help broadband infrastructure installations that coincide with scheduled road projects. It also creates the Governor's Task Force on Connecting North Carolina, which is to develop recommendations for securing more federal broadband funding, and for developing state policies that make it easier to install broadband infrastructure on state property and roadways.
The Department of Information Technology released a report on the “Homework Gap,” discussing the impact on students who don’t have access to high-speed internet. The report showed that about 10 percent of K-12 families responding to a survey lacked broadband access at home. The report calls for grants to fund mobile wireless internet hotspots for students to use at home, as well as for adding wifi to school buses.
New legislation would target the issue by allowing cities, towns and counties to build broadband internet infrastructure and lease it to private internet providers. The "FIBER NC Act" is similar to a bill that was approved by the House in 2017, but did not get a hearing in the Senate.
This Legislative Report is a publication of Kochanek Law Group and is a member benefit of AANC. Any use or reproduction of this report is limited to AANC and its members.