North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review - October 2021 #2

McGuireWoods Consulting

After a few slow weeks, the committee rooms in the General Assembly were again filled with Senators and Representatives this week as redistricting began to take off. A few Senators on the Redistricting Committee have already drawn maps that could possibly become the new Congressional and legislative districts ahead of the 2022 election. Expect a final map proposal within the next several weeks, well ahead of the December filing period for candidates.

The COVID-19 case count continues to decline but remains deadly. As of this morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 3,781 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 2,514 individuals hospitalized, and sadly, 17,019 confirmed deaths. There have been 11,272,800 doses of the vaccine distributed in NC, which is about 70% of the total adult population.

As we all continue to feel the effects of the global pandemic and adjust to a new normal, we want to highlight a few ways our clients across North Carolina have worked to support residents and make this time a little easier for those throughout the state. Read more about what our clients are doing to help by clicking here.

For more information on COVID-19 in North Carolina, click here to visit the Department of Health and Human Services website, and be sure to stay up to date on the latest federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by clicking here.

Budget Update

Budget negotiations continue in earnest between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Last week the legislature finished their compromise between the two chambers and sent their budget proposal to the Governor. According to news reports this week, Cooper sent a counteroffer back to the legislature. No details of the negotiations have become public, but the main sticking points for the Governor seem to be Medicaid expansion and increasing funding for public education. On the other hand, the legislature, and specifically the Senate, want a reduction in the corporate tax rate. Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), a senior House budget writer, said this week, “Medicaid expansion and tax cuts are probably going to be at odds with each other, and that’s something we’re talking through.”

Energy Bill

A compromise was reached this week between Governor Cooper, the legislature, and the major utility companies in the state on a comprehensive energy bill. House Bill 951 would set a 70% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, with a goal of reducing dependence on fossil fuels altogether by 2050. The Utilities Commission – a public rule-making body made up of energy experts – would maintain the authority to determine ratios of desired energy sources, but would be bound to determine those ratios using a least-cost formula. Additionally, selected energy sources would be bound to measurable reliability and redundancy standards. Earlier this year, the Colonial Pipeline hack, as well as the ice storms in Texas, showed the fragility of the energy grid and the importance of reliability.

Unlike the House version, the Senate proposal restores power to the Utilities Commission to utilize performance-based rate making, instead of restricting their authority to review rate hikes as the House version would have done. This was a sticking point for several Democratic House members Thursday who voted for the bill. Rep. Mary Belk (D-Mecklenburg) said she had to vote against the bill because multi-year rate making will hurt people, especially low-income people, who already struggle to pay their electric bills. Rep. Meyer (D-Orange) said he would vote for the bill but urged his Republican colleagues to maintain their commitment to the “long-term climate health” provided in the bill.

Some Republicans were also uncomfortable with the bill. Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) said on the House floor that a 70% reduction is a “useless and unworthy cause,” and went on to stress that Co2 is a necessary part of the atmosphere. Earlier this year, some House Republicans were uncomfortable with the solar energy requirements, which were removed from the Senate version.

The bill passed the House 80-20, with 12 Democrats and eight Republicans voting in opposition. Since the bill already passed the Senate earlier this week, it is now on its way to Governor Cooper’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, October 11

9:00AM House: Redistricting

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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