North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review - October 2020 #1

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This week, Governor Cooper announced that the state has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases. The increase comes days after North Carolina moved into Phase 3, which allows bars to operate for outdoor service only at 30% capacity, or 100 people, whichever is less, as well as movie theaters and conference centers at 30% capacity. Phase 3 of reopening also allows large outdoor venues to open at 7% capacity, smaller outdoor venues at 30% capacity, and outdoor amusement parks at 30% capacity. The order keeps the mass gathering limits at 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen urged citizens to double-down on safety precautions to help move the state forward. The order expires October 23 and it is unclear which direction the state will move in at that time. 

As of Thursday morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 225,397 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 3,262,720 completed tests, 3,716 deaths, and 1,051 current hospitalizations. 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.

With just 25 days until Election Day, our McGuireWoods Consulting's bipartisan team is hosting a free, virtual panel discussion on the 2020 federal elections, including insights into the presidential, U.S. House and Senate races. This webinar will provide a landscape view of our nation's political scene and insights on potential shifts in the tide in states across the country. Join us on Thursday, October 22 from 12- 1 p.m. ET. To register, click here.


Joint Legislative Oversight Committees 

A few legislators made their way back to Raleigh this week for committee assignments. The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government and Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee both met Tuesday, October 6. 

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government  heard presentations from the Department of Revenue on tax collection management, North Carolina Finance Housing Agency on the pandemic's effects on affordable house, the Local Government Commission, and the State Board of Elections on how they plan to conduct safe elections during the pandemic.

Notably, the Local Government Commission (LGC), told the committee that many small towns, cities, and municipalities are in danger of failing to repay on their debt and ceasing to exist at all. The LGC monitors the fiscal health and statutory compliance of 1,300 units of local government in the state. The LGC also can assume the fiscal affairs of a unit that has or will fail to re-pay debt. Due to the pandemic, many smaller towns, cities, and municipalities have not collected sufficient revenues from utilities and other sources of traditional income. The LGC stated that they will need additional money to hire new staff to address the potential overload of work. The LGC warned that as reserves shrink, the need for fiscal takeover will grow. 

The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee heard presentations from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and digiLEARN. DPI presented the committee with an update on remote instruction plans. DPI has found successes and challenges during the transition to increased remote learning. Feedback from across the state praised teachers for their ability to embrace the change, issuance of devices, and the improvement of digital learning content. Still, the Department continues to battle the lack of internet connectivity across the state. DPI told the committee that they continue to look at innovative ways to expand connectivity to some of the most vulnerable communities across the state. Committee members remained concerned that rural students would get left behind due to the lack of broadband access in their communities. 

Following that presentation, former Governor of North Carolina Bev Perdue, updated  the committee on her non-profit digiLEARN. Gov. Perdue told members that digiLEARN strives to develop a state-recognized system of competency-based micro-credentials that promotes and is integrated with a high-quality system of teacher professional learning. Micro-credentials are a digital form of certification. Through the program, educators identify competencies they want to master, then they are able to complete those lesson on their own time. The hope is to boost teachers' skills and create an affordable way to be paid more for certain skills. Some committee members were skeptical on how much the program would translate into improved student outcomes. Others wondered how the state would pay for each teacher that chose to complete such a program.


Board of Transportation 

The North Carolina Board of Transportation held its monthly meeting Thursday, October 8. The Board officially welcomed former Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) who joins former Senators Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) and Andy Wells (R-Catawba) as the third former legislator appointed to the board. The board was restructured earlier in the year through House Bill 77: DOT 2020-2021 FY Budget/Governance which expanded Board membership and increased financial oversight.

North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Secretary Eric Boyette told members that the Department has officially turned a corner in its cash balance. NCDOT finds itself in a better financial position due to a new conservative spend plan, federal dollars, and the approval of the sale of $700 million in Build NC bonds The bonds will give NCDOT the flexibility to fund 45 existing projects that have been stalled due to lack of funding. NCDOT is now required to report its cash balance each month. Secretary Boyette reported that at the end of August the Department reported a closing balance of $617 million, which is in its target range and above the legislatively mandated minimum balance of $267 million.

Chairman of the Board Mike Fox along with other members expressed their happiness with the work the Department has done to regain financial stability. Chairman Fox also noted that the board will remain steadfast in their increased financial responsibilities to ensure projects are completed on or under budget. The Board will meet again November 5. 


Elections Roundup

With just 25 days to go before voters across the country cast their ballots for who they would like to serve as their elected officials, McGuireWoods Consulting is bringing you a comprehensive 2020 election website - your one-stop resource for this year's presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, attorneys general, and state legislative races. Complete with concise information about how elections are shaping up around the country - including snapshots of primary results and hot-button ballot initiatives - our site provides a landscape view of our nation's political scene and insights on potential shifts in the tide. Click here to visit MWC's 2020 election website. 

Interested in even more election insight? Over the last few weeks, our team has highlighted races happening in November from around North Carolina, along with other election resources to keep everyone informed not just on what's happening in Raleigh, but all over the state, region by region. For more information on how to register or how to vote in North Carolina, click here or here for national registration and voting information. 

To catch up on all of the races happening in North Carolina, you can check out some of our recent editions of Week In Review. For an overview of North Carolina's US Senate and Council of State Races also happening this year, click here. For races taking place in the Western part of the state, click here, for Central North Carolina races, click here, and for US House and Eastern North Carolina races, click here


Lieutenant Governor's Race

The Lieutenant Governor is the second highest elected official in the state of North Carolina. Current LT. Gov. Dan Forest (R) has held the office since 2013 and is now campaigning to become the next Governor of North Carolina. Not only does the LT. Gov. serve on various boards and commissions but he also holds the position of Senate President. Traditionally, presiding over the Senate is largely ceremonial due to Republican super-majorities and majorities. Depending on the outcomes of Senate races across the state, the next LT. Gov. could play a vital role in tie-breaking votes. This race will make North Carolina history as one of the candidates will become the first African American to take the office. 

Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley (D) 

A native of Raleigh, Rep. Holley, has represented District 38 (Wake) for four terms in the North Carolina House of Representatives. After graduating from Howard University, she returned back to North Carolina to begin a 25-year career as a state employee. Rep. Holley won the seven-person Democratic primary garnering 309, 274 votes (26.6%). Her win surprised some as she defeated well-funded opponents, including Sen.Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe). This past session, Rep. Holley served as Vice Chair of the House Select Committee on Regulatory Reform. During her time in the General Assembly, she has touted her ability to work across the aisle.

If elected, Rep. Holley would push for criminal justice reform, stricter gun legislation, clean energy, and Medicaid expansion. 

Mark Robinson (R)

A native of Greensboro, Mark Robinson is a political newcomer who won the crowded Republican primary with over 30% of the vote. Robinson has become a rising star in the Republican Party after winning a primary filled with seasoned politicians such as former State Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba), former State Rep. Scott Stone (R-Mecklenburg), N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, and former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. A recent poll conducted by East Carolina University shows Robinson leading 43% to 40% over Rep. Holley. Robinson will continue to make the race interesting as he travels the state speaking to groups of conservative voters in rural areas who reject the more liberal agenda of Rep. Holley.

If elected, Robinson would like to see less restrictive guns laws, expand school choice, enact Voter ID laws, and restrict Medicaid expansion. 


Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

10:00 AM: House Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement and Justice

10:00 AM: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services

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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