North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review - October 2021 #3

McGuireWoods Consulting

As lawmakers continue to negotiate with the Governor on a state budget, all the best legislative cartographers on both sides of the aisle have taken to the public terminals in the Legislative Office Building to draw Congressional and legislative district maps. While there is no concrete deadline to adopt new maps, Republican lawmakers have said they hope to finish the process by late October or early November, well before the December filing deadline for 2022 candidates.

The COVID-19 case count continues to decline but remains deadly. As of this morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 3,761 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 2,208 individuals hospitalized, and sadly, 17,410 confirmed deaths. There have been 11,362,089 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

Some groups, including educators, state employees, and retirees, are frustrated there is no state budget more than three months into the fiscal year. If a budget is enacted, it would be the first time many of these groups see salary increases or bonuses since the last state budget was enacted in 2017. Still, there is reason to be optimistic for a budget to be passed this year. Republican House and Senate leaders are negotiating privately with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. It marks a significant change in negotiating strategy from 2019, when the General Assembly passed their budget without the Governor’s input and ultimately ended with a standoff between the two branches when Cooper vetoed the measure.

The main disputes still being discussed between Blount and Jones Streets are corporate tax cut reductions, Medicaid expansion, and school funding.

Energy Bill

This week Governor Roy Cooper signed a sweeping energy reform bill into law, making the Tar Heel State one of only a handful of states to put its clean energy goals into law. Lawmakers from both political parties heralded the bill’s signing as a success. Sen. Mike Woodard (D-Durham) called the bill’s process a “model effort” that was worked on by the Governor, legislators, and advocacy groups.

House Bill 951 sets 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.

Some lawmakers, particularly Democrats representing rural or minority-majority districts, voted against the bill because of the inevitable increase in utility bill rates. During a Senate committee meeting last week, Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) said the ratepayer impact will ultimately be decided by the carbon plan process decided on by the Utilities Commission. Under the bill, utility companies have the ability to ask the Utilities Commission to set a multi-year rate increase, instead of requesting increases each year, in order to achieve long-term carbon reduction goals.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, October 18

9:00AM House: Redistricting

Tuesday, October 19

3:00PM House: Judiciary 1

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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