Apr 13, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

Although the legislature adjourned for its spring break on Tuesday, it did not slow down the pace of action. 194 bills were filed in the House this week. The House bill filing deadline for non-finance bills was on Tuesday. The Senate’s bill filing deadline was last week. Also, a group of House Republicans filed a bill to increase Medicaid coverage, the Senate confirmed three more agency secretaries, and the House and Senate conferred on legislation to gradually reduce the Court of Appeals. The legislature returns from its spring break on Wednesday, April 19th.

Governor’s Agency Confirmations

Three of Governor Cooper’s cabinet nominees were unanimously confirmed by the Senate this week to lead their respective state agencies:

  • Michael Regan, Department of Environmental Quality
  • Tony Copeland, Department of Commerce
  • Susi Hamilton, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Governor Cooper also released his last two cabinet nominees to lead their respective state agencies:

  • Ron Penny, Department of Revenue
  • Eric Boyette, Department of Information Technology

Eight of the ten cabinet secretaries have been confirmed under the new confirmation process established by the Senate. Governor Cooper challenged the constitutionality of the confirmation process, which was implemented by the legislature in a special session in December. A three-judge panel ruled against Cooper in late March, which allowed the confirmation process to continue.

Athletics Conference Boycott Bill Filed

A group of House Republicans filed legislation on Monday that would withdraw UNC System schools from intercollegiate athletic conferences if the conference boycotts the State of North Carolina. HB 728: UNC Institutions/Conference Boycotts, sponsored by Reps. Bert Jones (R-Rockingham), Chris Millis (R-Pender), Mark Brody (R-Union), and Jeff Collins (R-Nash), would also prohibit the universities from rewarding media contracts to the boycotting conference. The legislation is in response to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s boycott of North Carolina after the enactment of House Bill 2.

Competing Economic Development Proposals

House and Senate leaders proposed competing legislation to modify economic development incentives programs. HB 795: Economic Development Incentives Modifications was sponsored by Reps. Susan Martin (R-Wilson), John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Stephen Ross (R-Alamance), and John Fraley (R-Iredell). SB 660: Economic Development Incentives Modifications was sponsored by Sens. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), Danny Earl Britt (R-Robeson), and Michael Lee (R-New Hanover). Although there are many similarities, both proposals make various changes to the state’s economic development tier system and one of its grant program, JDIG. Both are central to the debate between urban and rural economic success in North Carolina.

Review the differences and similarities between the proposals here.

Governor’s Veto Stamp Expected to Return

Governor Cooper is expected to veto two bills that were sent to his desk this week.

The House and Senate concurred on legislation that would merge the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission. The General Assembly passed similar legislation in December, which was struck down by a three-judge panel in March. Legislative leaders say this bill would address the concerns of the judges in the previous court case. SB 68: Bipartisan Bd of Elections and Ethics Enforce would create an eight member board, four members from each party. The Governor would appoint members from a lists of nominees from both major parties. Republicans would chair the committee in presidential election years, and Democrats would chair in mid-term elections. The bill also would lower the vote threshold to five, and would enforce state lobbying laws, which is currently under the authority of the Secretary of State.

The legislature approved HB 239: Reduce Court of Appeals to 12 Judges this week. Sponsored by Reps. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), David Lewis (R-Harnett), and Sarah Stevens (R-Surry), the bill would gradually reduce the Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 judges through retirements or resignations. It would also facilitate certain cases to bypass the Court of Appeals, and be sent directly to the Supreme Court. Proponents argue this is an effort to save the taxpayers money because the Court of Appeals has had a lighter workload in recent years. Opponents say this is an attempt to prohibit Governor Cooper from appointing judges to the court. Governor Cooper said he will veto the bill.

Medicaid Expansion

Last Thursday, four Republicans filed HB 662: Carolina Cares, which would provide health care coverage to North Carolina adults between the ages of 19 and 64 not currently eligible under the Medicaid program eligibility criteria, and not entitled to enroll in Medicare Parts A or B. Participants must also have a modified adjusted gross income does not exceed 133% of the federal poverty level.

Under the proposed Carolina Cares program, which is based off of the Medicaid expansion program in Indiana, qualifying adults would pay monthly premiums equal to 2% of their household income with some exceptions. Participants would also have to be working or seeking employment in order to be eligible. Exemptions are included for adults caring for a dependent minor or a disabled adult child or parent, persons in active treatment for substance abuse, or individuals determined to be medically frail. The Department of Health & Human Services would be required to establish preventative care and wellness activities for the program, including physicals, screenings for mammograms and colonoscopies, and weight management programs.

Of the bill's four primary sponsors, Reps. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), Greg Murphy (R-Pitt), Josh Dobson (R-McDowell) and Donna White (R-Johnston), three are House Health Committee chairs (Lambeth, Murphy, Dobson). Earlier this week, Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) stated that he is open to considering their proposal.