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LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

Legislative Report May 5, 2021

Last week was exciting for North Carolina, with the huge announcement of Apple choosing North Carolina for its $1 billion-plus East Coast campus and engineering hub. The 1-million-sq-ft. building in the Research Triangle Park will employ over 3,000 people in areas related to machine learning, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and other cutting-edge industries. The jobs are expected to have a minimum starting salary of $133,520. Over time, the company expects the average minimum salary to be $187,001.

State political leaders on both sides of the aisle celebrated this opportunity for the state, and the great bipartisan effort it took to seal the deal and attract such businesses to the state. Gov. Roy Cooper, Senate Leader Phil Berger, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, House Speaker Tim Moore and House Democratic Leader Robert Reives issued a joint statement:

“Innovation has long been North Carolina’s calling card and Apple’s decision to build this new campus in the Research Triangle showcases the importance of our state’s favorable business climate, world-class universities, our tech-ready workforce, and the welcoming and diverse communities that make so many people want to call North Carolina home. This announcement will benefit communities across our state and we are proud to work together to continue to grow our economy and bring transformational industries and good paying jobs to North Carolina.” Read the full report.

Legislative Report April 30, 2021

A disagreement over Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans resulted in the longest-serving member of the North Carolina House being stripped of her chairmanship on the House Finance Committee last week. Speaker Tim Moore removed Representative Julia Howard from her position, saying in a statement that Representative Howard was removed because she failed to move the measure “expeditiously” through the Finance committee as desired by the House Republican Caucus. “While we respect different viewpoints, committee chairs must be willing to put personal agendas aside and move forward with the will of the caucus,” Moore, Speaker Pro Tempore Sarah Stevens and Majority Leader John Bell said in the statement. Read the full report.

Legislative Report April 23, 2021

The legislature didn’t skip a beat getting back to work after returning from their “spring break.” Many committees had packed-full agendas, full of mostly noncontroversial bills and also local bills. One notable bill that quickly swept through the House was House Bill 334, Temporarily Align Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Treatment to Federal Treatment. Typically, loans are considered taxable income, but this bill would align North Carolina with 47 other states and the federal government by providing businesses a tax deduction for expenses they paid using forgiven PPP loans. This program was a part of the CARES Act last year and was aimed at helping struggling businesses continue to keep their employees on the payroll. The bill passed the House with a nearly unanimous vote of 111-2. Republican Reps. George Cleveland and Julia Howard were the only no votes. In an unusual twist, the long time Chair of the House Finance Committee, Rep. Julia Howard, publicly criticized the Speaker and other Republican Leadership in the House for supporting the bill if their businesses received PPP Loans. This despite a determination that it was not a conflict of interest and that many issues may impact legislators and their businesses, but as long as not targeted to them specifically generally there is no conflict. It will be interesting to see how this conflict plays out. Read the full report.

Legislative Report April 12, 2021

On the General Assembly’s last week before Spring Break (March 29 – April 2), legislators ran a busy schedule of committee meetings and sent numerous bills off to the Governor to sign into law. Most of the bills heard that week had bipartisan support; however, some did not. House Bill 264, Emergency Powers Accountability Act, passed through the House this week with a vote completely along party lines, with 69 Republicans voting in favor and 50 Democrats voting against. The bill would require the Governor to seek concurrence from other elected officials on the Council of State to continue a state of emergency beyond seven days, and again every 30 days following. Read the full report.

Legislative Report April 1, 2021

Gov. Cooper has proposed a $27.3 billion spending plan for North Carolina’s budget this biennium. The budget includes 10% raises over two years for teachers, increased education funding, and putting a $4.7 billion general obligation bond on voters’ ballots this fall. This bond would provide funds to public schools, the UNC system, the community college system, health and safety projects throughout state government, and parks, zoos, museums, and state historic sites. Notably, the contentious issue that has held up past budgets, Medicaid expansion, has not been included in the budget proposal. The Governor expressed an interest in that matter being heard, but said that it can be taken up at any point in session. Read the full report

Legislative Report March 23, 2021

Senate Redistricting and Elections Chairmen, Senators Daniel, Hise, and Newton, have filed an election bill that would address absentee ballot deadlines and other election procedures. Absentee ballot deadlines have been highly contested since the State Board of Elections’ policy change last fall. The State Board of Elections made the change to address U.S. Postal Service delays and the record-breaking number of absentee voters due to the pandemic. This change was made merely days before the 2020 election and resulted in ballots being accepted 12 days after the election if they were postmarked by Election Day. Senate Bill 326, Election Integrity Act, would prevent the collection of any absentee ballots after 5 p.m. on Election Day or the date of the primary, regardless of when the voter mailed the ballot. Along with changes to the absentee deadline, the bill would also provide $5 million to fund photo identification for anyone who needs it, and would prevent Boards of Elections from collecting money from outside sources to pay for temporary employees. Read the full report.

Legislative Report March 16, 2021

After a drawn-out debate and several bills filed, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and leaders of the Republican-led House and Senate have reached an agreement on a bill that will allow schools to reopen for daily, in-person instruction. The bill quickly passed through both chambers and was signed into law by the Governor last week, and has been commended by both sides of the aisle as a great bipartisan effort to help our state’s students. The Senate used an already-filed bill on CPR graduation requirements, Senate Bill 220, as the vehicle to put the school reopening language in by removing the original text of the bill. This “gut and amend” approach, where legislators take an existing bill and change its content to a new bill, is a way to speed up the legislative process and will be seen more and more as we get further into session. Read the full report.

Legislative Report March 9, 2021

The latest COVID-19 bill is on its way to the Governor after unanimously passing both chambers this week. House Bill 196 is a $1.7 billion-dollar package, spending federal COVID-19 money and making some COVID-related policy changes like extending virtual options for services like notarization. It includes $600 million for COVID-19 testing and related needs, as well as $390 million for K-12 and higher education as they look towards safely reopening. Although the bill passed with unanimous support, there were some procedural concerns expressed by members, as well as some who said the bill should do more. Read the full report.

Legislative Report March 1, 2021

This week, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that several COVID-19 restrictions would be eased. The Governor made the announcement as the state’s number of new cases continued to drop since the start of the year. “We’re sticking with the science and the data,” Cooper said, “and that is what has told us to ease these restrictions the way we have.” Executive Order 195 went in to effect on Friday at 5 p.m. and will last until March 26th. The Republican General Assembly is taking credit for these changes as several bills to ease restriction are moving through the process with a great deal of support. Read the full report.

Legislative Report February 22, 2021

The House passed Senate Bill 37 this week, requiring schools to open following Plan A for special needs students and either Plan A or B for all students. Plan A only requires masks, while Plan B calls for masks and social distancing. The bill still provides for an online option for students throughout the state as well. There has been some controversy with this bill, largely partisan in nature, concerning older students returning with minimal social distancing. House Democrats have responded to these concerns with their own bill, House Bill 112. This bill would allow for school districts to open with Plan A or B for elementary students, and allow middle and high school students to return solely under Plan B. Senate Bill 37 has already passed both chambers however, with three Senate Democrats voting in support and eight House Democrats voting in favor, the bill passing the final House vote with a 77-42 veto-proof margin. While the bill is on its way to the Governor, its fate is unknown. Gov. Cooper said earlier this week that he would not sign the bill unless Republicans agreed to make some changes. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Governor will veto the bill. He may allow the bill to become law without his signature. Read the full report.

Legislative Report February 15, 2021

The state’s recently released revenue forecast shows that North Carolina has fared relatively well economically throughout the pandemic. The two-year forecast’s expected revenue collections surpass the expectations of May 2020’s forecast by $4.1 billion. The forecast explains this surplus was heavily impacted by an increase in sales tax collections and delayed tax payments; it also suggests that the economic state of North Carolina will continue to improve over the coming years. However, there are still segments of the state’s workforce who are underemployed or unemployed due to this pandemic. Gov. Cooper responded in a statement that “while state revenue is strong, people across our state are still hurting and we must use these funds to help them recover from this pandemic.” Read the full report.

Legislative Report February 9, 2021

The General Assembly got down to business this week, and as promised, legislators prioritized getting their first round of COVID-19 relief funding off to the Governor’s desk. Other bills began to gain traction at the legislature this week, including a bill to reopen schools and a bill to give bar owners a reprieve on their ABC permits. See below for an update on this week at the legislature. Read the full report.

Legislative Report February 1, 2021

Legislators returned to Raleigh on January 27th to officially get started with the 2021 "long" session. Wednesday marked the first day bills were allowed to be filed in either chambers, and thus far a total of 35 bills have been filed in the House and 28 in the Senate. During the previous biennium session, the chambers saw 1,236 and 873 bills filed, respectively. This session's bills are beginning to be referred to policy committees as well, another sign things are truly getting underway. Despite the uptick in action, don’t expect too many floor votes on bills just yet. Speaker Moore doesn’t expect to hold any voting sessions until Wednesday and Thursday of next week. On those days, leadership anticipates mostly taking up time-sensitive, priority legislation, such as a COVID-19 technical funding bill. Read the full report.

Legislative Report January 18, 2021

The General Assembly kicked off the 2021-2022 biennial session on Wednesday, January 13th with opening day speeches, organizing and the approval of the rules that will be used throughout the session. Just like everything else in our world, this day was unlike previous first days as family and friends were not present and the usual celebratory mood was muted. The legislative complex is open to the public, but social distancing rules are in effect and temperature checks are required before entering the building. Masks are not required but were more common among legislators than in the spring and it appears that the leadership of both chambers are highly encouraging members to wear them.  Read the full report

2020 Final Legislative Update

Frankly, I have run out of words to describe what is happening in our country and our state – unprecedented, extraordinary, once in a lifetime, shocking, unbelievable. Read the full report.

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