Jan 13, 2017
NCGA Week in Review: Spotlight on Interim Committees
The General Assembly convened on Wednesday to officially begin the 2017 long session. After the legislature completed some organizational and celebratory duties, the bodies adjourned until January 25. During the session, the bodies formally elected their leadership, confirming earlier caucus decisions to re-elect Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) as Speaker of the House and Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) as President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
Since the legislature adjourned last June, many interim committees have been meeting to study a myriad of issues and to make their legislative recommendations for the 2017 session. Legislative recommendations and draft bills, which will be formally introduced when the bill filing period begins on the 25th, are being considered and approved by these committees.
This is part two of a two week spotlight series on interim committees. To read part one, please click here.
ICYMI Political News
US Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Special Elections
On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court issued an order temporarily blocking a lower court order requiring the legislature to redraw legislative district maps and hold special elections in 2017. The court order will stay in place until the court decides whether or not to hear an appeal requested by the state.
Governor Cooper Makes Appointments
This week, Gov. Roy Cooper made four new cabinet appointments – he has now made seven appointments.
Yesterday he announced nominations for Tony Copeland, a former assistant commerce secretary in Gov. Mike Easley’s administration, to be the Secretary of Commerce, and Andrea Sanders, a former biotech executive, to be the Secretary of Administration.
Today he announced his nominations for the Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Veterans and Military Affairs (DMVA). Dr. Mandy Cohen, who is currently the Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has been selected to become the Secretary of DHHS. Former House Minority Leader Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham) has been nominated to lead the DMVA. Rep. Hall served in the US Marine Corps from 1976 to 1995.
Under state law passed last month, Gov. Cooper’s nominations must be confirmed by the state’s Senate, a requirement which Gov. Cooper has legally challenged.
The House and Senate have made several committee announcements leading up to January 25th.
On Wednesday, Speaker Tim Moore announced that several committees would be consolidated:
- Reps. Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg) and Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) were named to chair the House Finance Committee.
- Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) was named a chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Speaker indicated that two additional senior appropriations chairs will be named.
This morning Sen. Phil Berger made several committee leadership announcements:
- Rules and Operations of the Senate will be chaired by Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick).
- Sens. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake), Warren Daniel (R-Burke) and Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes) will lead the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- Commerce and Insurance will be chaired by Sens. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland) and Trudy Wade (R-Guilford).
- Sens. Bill Cook (R-Beaufort), Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) and Andy Wells (R-Catawba) will chair the Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
Spotlight on Interim Committees
The Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee met once during the interim. At their meeting this Wednesday, the committee heard a report from Brent Lane, the Director of the UNC Center for Competitive Economies, who has been working with the committee on the issue of defining North Carolina’s distressed counties since April 2016. In his presentation, Lane offered the following six options to make the state’s current tier structure more efficient:
- Establishing and overseeing goals for Tier 1 and Tier 2 outcomes.
- Reformatting the Job Development Interment Grant (JDIG) evaluation to include goals for employment, income and tax base.
- Limiting JDIG awards to Tier 3 counties.
- Reducing the maximum amount of Tier 3 awards.
- Limit EDP bonuses to projects located in Tier 1 and 2 counties.
- Limit JDIG eligibility to resident, permanent workers.
The committee has not adopted a final report and has no further meetings scheduled as of today.
Two committees dedicated to studying the state’s agricultural industry met during the interim:
The Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission held one meeting during the interim. In their meeting, the committee received a presentation on allowing farm equipment to cross certain highway medians and discussed relief efforts in the agriculture in response to both Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in the western part of the state. The committee has not considered a final report.
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources held one meeting during the interim and has not approved a final report. In their meeting, the committee discussed the state’s International Recruiting Coordination Office and a state program that offers grants to agricultural businesses for expanding gas service.
The Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee held two meetings during the interim and has not issued a final report. In their meetings, the committee has examined safety protocol in public schools, community colleges and the UNC system, emergency response following Hurricane Matthew and the western wildfires, and the perspectives of local law enforcement in Mecklenburg County following unrest last year.
Two committees focused on transportation issues have met during the interim and have recently passed committee reports:
The House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation planning and Long Term Funding Solutions met seven times during the interim and focused on the state’s transportation infrastructure needs. The committee included four legislative proposals in their final report:
Transportation Megaproject Funding: If passed, this bill draft would establish a Megaproject Fund to be used for transportation projects that exceed $200 million in total project costs and would be separate from the Strategic Transportation Interment law (STI).
State Infrastructure Bank Revisions: Would expand the purposes which State Infrastructure Bank funds can be used for.
STI/ Regional & Division Weighting: Would adjust the formula used for regional and division need transportation projects to give Rural and Metropolitan Planning Organizations and division engineers greater influence in the decision making process.
Blue Ribbon Committee/ Transportation Funding: Would establish the Blue Ribbon Committee on Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions, which would include 12 members of the legislature and eight members of the public.
The Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee met twice during the interim and discussed a number of issues, including the recent decision in Kirby v. North Carolina Department of Transportation, which halted a state law known as the Map Act and legislative requests from the Department of Transportation (NCDOT). In their final report, which was adopted last Friday, the committee approved of the following legislative proposal:
DOT/ DMV Changes: The bill would make numerous changes to current state laws related to NCDOT and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), including:
- Extending the sunset of NCDOT’s minority-owned and women-owned business program.
- Clarifying that hybrid vehicles are held to emissions standards and testing requirements.
- Modifying the continuing education requirements for independent car dealers.
- Modifying the law governing special identification cards issued by the DMV.
- Repealing the Driver’s License Technology Fund, which was established in 2001 to fund a driver license verification system for ABC permittees and is no longer in use.
Justice & Public Safety
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety held three committee meetings during the interim and created a subcommittee on gangs, which met once. In their meetings, the committee examined issues related to pawnshop databases, law enforcement training, gangs, prison mental health and delegated authority. The committee has not issued a final report and has no further meetings scheduled at this time, the subcommittee on gangs approved of a bill draft, Revise Gang Laws. The bill draft would make numerous changes to current gang laws, including increasing the penalties for certain gang related crimes.
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice has held one meeting since the end of the short session in June and has not issued a committee report. At their meeting in November, the committee reviewed several presentations and updates on the Medicaid and NC Health Choice programs, including the status of the state’s Medicaid reform plan.
Health & Human Services
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health & Human Services has held two meetings during the interim, a third was scheduled for earlier this week but was ultimately cancelled due to inclement weather. Though the committee has yet to approve of a final report, it is possible that a final meeting will be scheduled before January 25 for this purpose. In their meetings, the committee has discussed behavioral health and reviewed legislation that was passed in 2016.
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government has held two meetings during the interim where they have discussed issues such as the Domestic Violence Grant Funding Formula, Hurricane Matthew assistance, a potential NC Military Hall of Fame and the process for certifying notaries. The committee has not issued a final report and has no further meetings scheduled.
The Legislative Research Commission on Savings Reserve Account has held three meetings during the interim where they have focused on ways to maximize the state’s Savings Reserve Account, also referred to as the state’s rainy day fund. In their third meeting, the committee approved of a final report, which includes a legislative proposal that would require the state to transfer 15% of each year’s estimated growth in state tax revenues into the fund.
Permanency Innovation Initiative
The Permanency Innovation Initiative Oversight Committee, which oversees an initiative passed by the legislature in the 2013 budget bill, held one meeting during the interim. The program funds projects with the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina to improve permanency outcomes for children living in foster care. On Tuesday, the committee received a report on the progress of the initiative, which has successfully placed 75 children in permanent families through adoption and reunification since January 2014. The committee recommended that the legislature continue and expand the initiative.