LEGISLATIVE REPORT - February 4, 2019
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.
For the first time since 2012, Republicans leaders in the House and Senate will have to work with legislative Democrats and with the Governor to get things done, as the Republican’s veto-proof majorities in both chambers have been broken. Fourteen of the 50 Senators are new this year, as are 25 of the 120 House members.
Rules Revisions and Session Schedule
In the House, changes have been made in the rules House members set for themselves. In an effort for greater transparency and more deliberation, this year’s rules call for more public notice about proposals, a more predictable voting schedule and a slightly slower legislative process. House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis said most bills will go through at least three committees before they are heard on the floor, with most floor debates being held on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The House’s new approach to their schedule will allow for Mondays to feature mostly afternoon Rules Committee meetings and a night session that often won't include recorded votes. "Tuesdays we're looking to make more of a committee day, so that committees can meet the entire day and take full time to vet the bills," Speaker Tim Moore said. Busier floor sessions will be held Wednesdays and Thursdays. "The idea is to really maximize the committee time, which is needed, and also to give some certainty as to when the floor votes are going to be," Moore said. "That's a departure from what has historically been done."
The proposed House permanent rules also set aside two vacation weeks when no votes will be taken: April 22-26 and July 1-6. House Rules Chairman David Lewis, said that so far, those weeks off apply only to the House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown said he doesn't expect major changes in how the Senate functions this session. "Most of the time, we agree on things up here. It's just a few things that you don't [agree on] that you get all the headlines," said Brown. "I've always been able to work with [political opponents]. I'll continue to do that. I think most members feel the same way."
The Senate is revising its operating rules to ensure Democrats will have advance notice when veto override votes are scheduled. On Thursday, Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon filed Senate Resolution 10, which tweaks the rules to require that the minority leader, currently Sen. Dan Blue, be given 24 hours' notice "that a vetoed bill may be considered by the Senate." Rabon said that the updated rules were developed with input from Democrats. "These changes respond to some of the concerns that have been raised by the minority party," he said. "We don't want any surprises early on - or later on for that matter." The new Senate rules also require that proposed committee substitutes be distributed to committee members by 6 p.m. on the day before a vote is held. The House has had a similar deadline of 9 p.m. on the night before a committee meeting, but the Senate previously had no such rule.
Crossover day this session will be Thursday, May 9. In the Senate, local bills will have to be filed by Thursday, March 14. Public bills and resolutions must be filed in Senate by Tuesday, April 2. In the House, bills recommended by study commissions must be filed by Thursday, February 21. Bills recommended by state agencies must be filed in the House by Thursday, February 28. Local bills will have to be filed in House by Thursday, March 28. Public bills and Resolutions (Not Appropriations or Finance) must be filed by Thursday, April 16, and Public bills, including Appropriations and Finance will have to be filed in House by Tuesday, April 23.
The Republican Party has nominated retired Kinston businessman Jim Perry to complete the term of District 7 State Sen. Louis Pate. District 7 includes Wayne and Lenoir counties. Since most of the district voters reside in Wayne County, the votes were weighted in favor of Wayne County. Lenoir County had three voting delegates representing 198 votes at the meeting while Wayne County had 75 representing 409 votes.
Democrats introduced “clean” Medicaid expansion bills this week, holding a press conference calling on North Carolina to become the 38th state to enact expansion of the program to low-income adults. House Republicans are expected to re-introduce a plan to expand coverage that also includes provisions like premiums, lock-out periods, and work requirements that critics say would would have a negative impact on coverage. Medicaid expansion is the top priority for Gov. Cooper as well. Asked when the legislative session would end, Lee Lilley, Cooper’s director of legislative affairs, replied: “The session ends when we get Medicaid expansion.”
A Senate bill was introduced by Senators Brown, Harrington, and Krawiec that would increase the state contribution to the State Capital Infrastructure Fund from 4% to 4.5% of net tax revenues, which sponsors say will raise roughly $2 billion for K-12 schools, community colleges, the UNC system, and other state agencies over the next nine years. This approach contrasts with Speaker Moore’s proposed $1.9 billion bond measure, which critics have noted would cost $1.2 billion in interest over 30 years. North Carolina has approximately $8 billion in school construction and repair needs.
Gov. Cooper appointed members to the reconstituted elections board on Thursday. The Governor selected from nominees offered by the two major political parties. Three members are Democrats and two are Republicans, keeping with the tradition that the governor’s party holds a majority of the seats.
The new board has elected Charlotte attorney Bob Cordle as chairman. He served on the Board for several years until 2013. Other Democratic members are recent board member Stella Anderson of Boone and Durham lawyer Jeff Carmon. The appointed Republicans are recent board member Ken Raymond of Winston-Salem and David Black, a Concord business executive. The new board consists of three former state board members, two of whom served on the most recent board that was dissolved after judges ruled the nine-member panel unconstitutional.
The election board’s first order of business is to try and resolve the nation’s last unsettled congressional race. The new board could declare a winner from the widely-disputed 9th Congressional District race, or could order a new election. State law requires three “yes” votes from the panel to certify a winner and four votes to order a new election. In a statement, the board said they plan to meet in February to consider evidence in the 9thCongressional District election and potentially vote. The board expects to set a specific date next week.
Please let us know if you have any questions, as always, we’ll keep you posted as things develop. We have included the Chairs, Vice-Chairs and members of the standing Senate and House Committees for this session after the legislative report.
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.