NCGA Update from McGuireWoods

AANC News,

Redistricting Update

Last quarter the primary focus at the General Assembly was passing the state budget. With that objective successfully secured, this quarter the primary focus has been finalizing North Carolinas district maps. The original Maps were drawn and contested at the North Carolina Supreme Court. In a narrow decision the original maps were ruled to be unconstitutional by way of partisan gerrymandering. The Courts ordered the maps be redrawn and the prolonged legal dispute resulted in delaying North Carolina’s primary elections. Traditionally held in March, the postponed elections will now be held May 17th. The seemingly never-ending saga surrounding redistricting in North Carolina appears to have come to an end. A North Carolina Superior Court 3-judge panel approved the General Assembly’s latest drawing of the state House and state Senate maps but substituted in their special master’s Congressional map. This ruling was followed by subsequent appeals from all parties on all maps, but those appeals were denied. There is ultimately still the possibility of an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, it appears that the latest maps will be the maps for the 2022 election cycle since filing opened Thursday morning.

Congressional Map
The Congressional map has a 7-6-1 breakdown, meaning that there should be seven safe Republican seats, six safe Democratic seats, and one toss-up district. Recent polling indicates that Republicans are performing ahead of Democrats on the generic ballot, potentially making it likely that Republicans will pick up the toss up district in November, leaving a minimum of an 8-6 Republican advantage in the Congressional map for the 2022 election cycle.

State Senate Map
The State Senate map has a 22-18-10 breakdown, meaning that there should be 22 Republicans, 18 Democrats, and 10 toss up seats. Of the 10 toss up districts, on paper six of them should be Democrat and four Republican. However, since Republicans are polling ahead for the 2022 election cycle, some are predicting as high as 29 Republicans could be elected in 2022. More modest predictions have the Senate ending up with a 28-22 Republican majority. Senate Republicans should maintain a majority, but not a supermajority.

House Map
The state House map has a 53-45-22 breakdown, meaning that there should be 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 22 toss up seats. Republicans will more than likely end up having more than 60 members of the House, but their majorities will be dependent upon their performance on Election Day. Some estimates have the Republicans regaining their supermajority in the House, while more modest estimates have them staying in the simple majority. Republicans will likely hold their majority in the state House.

Overall, if the political environment remains as it is today, North Carolina will most likely continue to have Republican majorities in both state legislative chambers, but the chances of supermajorities look to be unlikely. As for the Congressional map, North Carolina will likely send eight or nine Republicans and six or seven Democrats to Washington, DC.

Barring a successful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, candidates in North Carolina can file for office through next Friday, March 4. The period will also include filing for rescheduled municipal elections from last year. In the coming weeks AANC will monitor candidate filings and look at how races are shaping and what races we hope to get our PAC involved in.

Mask Mandates

Both the legislature and Governor Roy Cooper (D) moved to lift mask mandates in schools and cities. Cooper cited the state’s improved vaccination rate and COVID-19’s declining virulency when calling on North Carolina municipalities and school boards to end their mask mandates. “As a result of all these factors,” said Cooper, “I encourage schools and local governments to end their mask mandates.” Joining Cooper at his press conference from the Emergency Management Command Center was newly appointed Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services Kody Kinsley. Kinsley encouraged schools to move to voluntary masking starting March 7. Kinsley stressed that vaccines would become the most important strategy for mitigating the dangerous impacts of the virus, saying, “we’ll be updating our guidance for schools, as we mentioned, and also childcare, but also for local governments.”

As Cooper spoke, the legislature approved Senate Bill 173, referred to as the “Free the Smiles” bill. The bill would allow parents to opt their children out of face covering requirements in public schools. The bill would also repeal the requirement for monthly votes on face covering policies by county school boards.

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) has said for over a week that he would introduce and champion the legislation. In the House Education Committee meeting on Thursday morning, Moore said “it is parents, not politicians who should be making these decisions for their children.” Unlike his recommendation to school boards, the legislation would supersede local mandates and go into effect immediately. Governor Cooper later vetoed the SB173. In a statement Governor Cooper said “The bipartisan law the legislature passed, and I signed last year allows local boards to make these decisions for their own communities and that is still the right course. Passing laws for political purposes that encourage people to pick and choose which health rules they want to follow is dangerous and could tie the hands of public health officials in the future.” Many townships and municipalities across North Carolina have announced the expiration dates of their local mask mandates. Be sure to check your local municipalities to see if the mask mandate in your area is set to expire and any other update safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.