Jul 28, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

This week in North Carolina politics Governor Cooper signed 18 bills into law and vetoed one bill, while legislators met this week to move forward on their redistricting efforts. The General Assembly will come back into town next Thursday, August 3, with veto overrides and conference reports at the top of their agenda. To read more about what is eligible to be considered next week, follow this link.

Bill Signings, a Veto, and two Executive Orders

Five bills remain on Gov. Cooper’s desk as the bill signing deadline approaches at the end of this month.

Bill Signings

HB 84: DL/Deaf or Hard of Hearing Designation

HB 89: Housing Authority Transfers

HB 128: Prohibit Drone Use Over Prison/ Jail

HB 138: Revise Gang Laws

HB 161: Divestment from Companies that Boycott Israel

HB 353: Authorize State Park System Expansion-AB

HB 396: Municipal Broadband Service Area

HB 434: Coins/ Currency/ Bullion Sales Tax Exemption

HB 559: Outdoor Heritage Enhanced

HB 589: Competitive Energy Solutions for NC

HB 656: College of Albemarle/ Construction Funds

HB 657: Improve Adult Care Home Regulation

SB 55: School Bus Cameras/ Civil Penalties

SB 82: Achieving Business Efficiencies

SB 344: Combine Adult Correction & Juvenile Justice

SB 410: Marine Aquaculture Development Act

SB 468: QZAB Use Modifications

SB 599: Excellent Educators for Every Classroom

Bill Signings

Gov. Cooper vetoed HB 140: Dental Plans Provider Contracts/Transparency on Thursday afternoon. HB 140 originally just addressed standalone dental insurance policies, until it was amended on the Senate floor to include a provision on credit property insurance. Click here to read the Governor's veto message.

Executive Orders

On Tuesday, Executive Order No. 10 was issued to establish the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education. The 17-member commission is tasked with reviewing the State’s “ability to staff schools with competent well-trained teachers and principals and the State’s commitment of resources to public education,” in accordance with the 1997 decision in Leandro v. North Carolina.

Right after signing HB 589 into law on Thursday, Gov. Cooper issued Executive Order No. 11 , which he stated will mitigate the effects of the 18-month wind energy moratorium put into place by the legislation. The executive order directs the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to continue working on permits for proposed projects so that once the moratorium expires at the end of 2018, the projects would have already made it through part of the permitting process, as well as directs DEQ to support the Department of Commerce in recruiting “innovative energy projects,” and for Executive Branch agencies to promote wind energy.

Additionally, as a result of the damage to a main transmission line, which caused for a major power outage on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, the Governor issued Executive Order No. 12 and Executive Order No. 13 , declaring a state of emergency and suspending motor vehicle restrictions for vehicles working to restore utility services and transporting essentials to the islands. Ocracoke Island has issued a mandatory evacuation for all non-residents.

Redistricting Moves Forward

North Carolina v. Covington was filed in May 2015, when 31 NC residents sued the State, leaders of the legislative redistricting committee and the State Board of Elections. In November 2016, a three-judge federal panel affirmed that 28 State House and Senate districts were racial gerrymanders and unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, and ordered special elections to be held in 2017. Then in December, the Supreme Court issued a stay and blocked the lower court’s order for the special elections. Ultimately, the Supreme Court upheld the lower courts initial ruling, vacated the order for special election, and directed the trial court to re-weigh the balance of equities in determining whether special elections are appropriate.

The House and Senate redistricting committees held their first joint meeting on Wednesday afternoon. The meeting, co-chaired by Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) and Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), was mostly organizational, but gave committee members and the public insight on the intended timeline according to legislative leaders. Per information set out by Rep. Lewis, the legislature will vote on new maps by mid-November.

The committees posted numerous documents to their websites, including a place for the public to submit comments on redistricting:

House Select Committee on Redistricting

Senate Redistricting Committee

Meanwhile, a three-judge federal panel heard arguments yesterday concerning the timeline of redrawing the maps and holding elections under the new maps. Plaintiffs in North Carolina v. Covington asked for the legislature to redraw the maps in two weeks and hold December 2017 primaries and March 2018 general elections for legislative seats, while defendants argued to keep the regularly scheduled 2018 elections timeline.