As the state braces for its second winter storm warning for this weekend, Governor Cooper has signed a state of emergency declaration to activate state resources if necessary. “This storm will bring significant impacts from snow, sleet and freezing rain in different parts of the state, with likely power outages and travel disruptions,” Cooper said.
Following the appearance of the first confirmed case of the omicron variant, COVID cases have continued to rise. As of this morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 44,833 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. There are 4,275 individuals hospitalized, and sadly, 19,850 confirmed deaths. 74% of the total adult population has been vaccinated with at least two shots.
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.
A three-judge Superior Court panel ruled this week that legislative and congressional lines redrawn by the Republican-led General Assembly can be used beginning with the 2022 elections. The maps are expected to give Republicans wide majorities in both the congressional and legislative delegations. The challengers in the cases immediately announced after the ruling that they plan to appeal, which is likely to go directly to the state Supreme Court which has a slim Democratic majority.
Clean Energy Order
Over the last year, a major priority in North Carolina state government, shared by both the Republican-led General Assembly and Democrat Governor Roy Cooper’s administration, has been reforming the state’s energy sector to be more resilient and accommodating for a clean energy future. The swiftness in which both branches of government have moved on this priority is aided by energy utilities who have advocated for renewable energy resources. Last Friday, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 246 to direct his agencies to undertake steps in the state’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create “green jobs” throughout the state. In 2021, the Governor signed House Bill 951, a bipartisan law that implements steps for utility providers to reduce carbon emissions by 70% from 2005 levels by the year 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The Executive Order mostly targets the Department of Transportation. It directs NCDOT to develop a North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan for decarbonizing the transportation sector through reductions in vehicle miles traveled, and an increase in zero-emission cars, trucks, and buses. The Order calls for an increase in registered zero-emission vehicles to at least 1,250,000 by 2030 and for 50% of sales of new vehicles in North Carolina to be zero-emission by 2030. NCDOT can do this by collaborating with transportation experts, auto manufacturers, auto dealers and utilities to develop a strategy. The Order specifically includes a focus on transitioning medium and heavy-duty vehicles to zero-emission vehicles.
Additionally, the Executive Order takes steps to emphasize environmental justice and equity in the state’s transition to using renewable energy sources. Cabinet agencies will be required to consider environmental justice and identify an “equity lead” who will work with leads in other agencies to coordinate on activities and increase awareness among agency leadership and staff on the current impacts of environmental, economic, and racial justice.
A top priority for North Carolina Democrats did not end up in the final budget passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor this year; however, it is not the end of the road for Medicaid Expansion. While the budget did not include expansion, it does create the Joint Legislative Committee on Access to Healthcare and Medicaid Expansion. The committee is made up of nine members appointed by Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and nine members appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
The nine House members appointed to the committee are Rep. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus), Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly), Rep. Donna McDowell White (R-Johnston), Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort), Rep. William Richardson (D-Cumberland), Rep. Brian Farkas (D-Pitt), and Rep. Charles Graham (D-Robeson). Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) has been appointed as Co-Chairman and Rep. Larry Potts (R-Davidson) has been appointed as Vice Chairman.
On the Senate side, the nine members that have been appointed to the committee are Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), Sen. Danny Britt (R-Robeson), Sen. Lisa Stone Barnes (R-Nash), Sen. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon), Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake), Sen. Kirk deViere (D-Cumberland), and Sen. Mike Woodard (D-Durham). Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) has been appointed as Co-Chair.
The committee will be tasked with studying various ways to improve access to health care and health insurance for North Carolinians, including, but not limited to, Medicaid Expansion. The committee will meet this year during the interim and will be allowed to propose legislation.
Review of Regulatory Reform Bills in 2021
The House and Senate were busy this year as members continued their work on regulatory reform bills to clean up and streamline parts of state code that were in need of change. Regulatory reform bills this year included a great deal of changes to the medical, alcoholic beverage, water/wastewater, and design industries. Legislators were not able to accomplish everything they wanted this year in terms of regulatory reform, but read on to see highlights of many of their accomplishments during the 2021 long session.
H68 GSC Licensing Boards and Comm’ns/Rule Crimes — Eliminates provisions that broadly criminalize violations of rules of certain licensing boards and commissions and makes technical and conforming amendments in the surrounding language
H223 Bd. Of Architects/Interior Designers - Amended the State Board of Architects to include Registered Interior Designers and established a process for registration of Interior Designers as well as authorizing registered IDs to stamp and seal their own designs
H224 Occupational Therapy Interstate Compact — Allows occupational therapists with Compact privileges to practice remotely across state lines
H336 Regulatory Reform Act of 2021 — Amends state laws related to state and local government, agriculture, energy, environment, natural resources, and other various regulations by doing the following:
- Increases limits on public employees benefitting from public contracts
- Requires the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to study expanding their express permitting program
- Establishes which projects should be prioritized by DEQ to receive a loan or grant from the Wastewater Reserve or the Drinking Water Reserve
- Requires the Department of Revenue (DOR) to provide information to the Revenue Laws Study Committee related to property taxation of outdoor advertising signs
- Prohibits local governments from making certain masonry requirements for manufactured homes
- Requires the Division of Emergency Management of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to study the needs of law enforcement and first responders to improve access to the interstate system
- Clarifies that proof of mailing is sufficient proof of notice for certain insurance policy or renewal cancellations by the insurer
- Allows distilleries to sell spiritous liquor produced by the distiller directly to consumers in other states
- Directs the Insurance Commissioner to develop eligibility criteria to conduct certain inspections required by the NC Building Code as remote inspections
H351 Clifford’s Law — Requires the Secretary of DHHS to establish visitation protocols that would be in effect during declared disasters and emergencies and when a facility suspends or restricts normal visitation
H415 Update Chiropractic Laws — Repeals portions of Chiropractic code and allows the Board of Chiropractic Examiners to adopt, ament, and appeal rules
H489 2021 Building Code and Dev. Reg. Reform — Makes various changes to laws applying to general contractors, the State Building Code, and development regulation, including authorizing criminal background checks, requiring economic cost-benefit analysis on changes to the Code, limiting requirements for erosion control plans, requiring transportation improvements changes, etc.
H624 North Carolina Regulatory Sandbox Act — Create as "regulatory sandbox program" under which an applicable State agency (either the Office of the Commissioner of Banks or the Department of Insurance) is authorized to waive statutory or regulatory requirements to permit a program participant to offer an innovative financial, insurance, or emerging technology product or service to consumers for a limited time under the agency's supervision
H629 Physician Asst/Nurse Practit./STOP Act Clar — Amends the conditions under which a physical assistant or a nurse practitioner are required to consult with the supervising physician when prescribing a targeted controlled substance
H734 Dept. of Health & Human Services Revisions — Makes various changes to the laws regarding the Department of Health and Human Services and prevents the operation of unlicensed mental health facilities
H829 Private Residential Rentals — Clarifies the prohibition on a local government's ability to require permits or a registration system for residential real property rentals
H890 ABC Omnibus Legislation — Makes several changes to laws concerning ABC stores, including allowing online orders, allowing personalized labels, providing mixed beverage permits for certain event centers, eliminating some licensing requirements, establishing a NC Spiritous Liquor Council, revising winery and distillery law, expanding allowable growler size, amending tour requirements for distilleries, increasing the amount of alcoholic beverages individuals may purchase at stadiums and event centers, allowing ABC stores to sell refrigerated beverages, clarifying restaurant definitions, authorizing social districts, and a number of other changes
H951 Energy Solutions for North Carolina — Requires the Utilities Commission to move towards a 70% carbon reduction by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050; authorizes the Commission to change regulation methods for electric public utilities; requires financing and other changes for electric public utilities, etc.
S103 Reduce Reg. To Help Children with Autism — Establishes a new article for Behavior Analyst licensure and a corresponding board to certify and regulate the profession of Behavior Analysis
S126 Clean Up Obsolete Boards — Abolishes a number of state boards and commissions and makes changes to others
S146 Teledentistry/RDH Admin Local Anesthetic — Establishes standards for teledentistry, allow dental hygienists to administer local anesthetics while under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist, allows certain dental hygienists to practice without a licensed dentist physically present, allows licensure by credentials for certain dental instructors, and adds the ECU School of Dental Medicine to the NC Caring Dental Professionals Board
S208 Labor Law Changes — Eliminates an unnecessary advisory council, clarifies rules around safety issues falling under the Department of Labor
S257 Medication Cost Transparency Act — Requires pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to be licensed and establishes certain regulatory rules for the operation of PBMs
Tuesday, January 18
1:00PM: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Capital Improvements