North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review - September 2020 #3

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This week, Governor Roy Cooper announced that outdoor venues such as stadiums and other large outdoor entertainment venues would be able to reopen at 7% capacity. The new modification will go into effect Friday, October 2, as long as the state's COVID data continues its downward trend. Currently, it only applies to venues that seat 10,000 or more patrons. State officials continue to monitor the trends of the virus across the state and are expected to make another announcement next week. North Carolina remains in Phase 2.5 of Governor Cooper's reopening plan which expires October 2 at 5:00PM. Phase 2.5 allows playgrounds to open, museums and aquariums to open at 50% capacity, fitness facilities and gyms to open at 30% capacity, and increases the mass gathering limit to 25 people indoors, 50 people outdoors. 

As of Thursday morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 198,189 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 2,870,190 completed tests, 3,356 deaths, and 902 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 less than 40 days until Election Day, our McGuireWoods Consulting's bipartisan team is hosting a free, virtual panel discussion on the 2020 elections, including insights into the governors, attorneys general and state legislative 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 1 from 1:00PM - 2:00PM ET. To register, click here


Transportation Funding 

The House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions met Monday, September 21. The committee chaired by Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), is charged with studying the future of federal and state revenues, technology advancements, corridor development, and any other transportation-related issues that the committee deems relevant. During Monday's meeting, the committee heard presentations from the NC FIRST Commission and the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce. 

The NC FIRST Commission consists of 13 members and is co-chaired by Nancy McFarlane, Former Mayor of Raleigh and Ward Nye, President and CEO of Martin Marietta. The mission of the Commission is to advise the Secretary of Transportation of the potential components of a sustainable, long-range transportation investment strategy that will provide the critical and necessary resources to build and maintain North Carolina's economic vitality and competitiveness in the future. The goal of the presentation was to provide the committee with the Commission's findings regarding new revenue sources for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). 

Pre-COVID, NCDOT faced cash shortfalls due to unprecedented spending on storms, Map Act claims, and maintenance. The Department has since found itself in a better financial position after help from the General Assembly, but still struggling due to the impacts of the pandemic. The Commission found a lack of diversity in NCDOT's three main revenue sources: gas tax, motor fuel tax, and DMV fees. They argue that these funding sources are outdated and have been significantly impacted by the pandemic as more people stay home and choose not to drive. North Carolina owns 75% of its roads, which ranks second highest in the country for state maintained road miles. Former Mayor McFarlane pointed out that the state received a "C" for overall infrastructure health and would need to invest about $8 billion to receive an excellent rating. The Commission agreed on five principles that the state should work towards to achieve its goal: find solutions to address the shortfall but avoid near-term harm, develop durable revenue and finance options, diversify and broaden funding streams, support user pays principles, and adhere to principles of fundamental fairness.

The NC Chamber followed with a presentation of findings and recommendations from their coalition, Destination 2030. The Chamber, along with a coalition of 70 business partners, aims to modernize North Carolina's infrastructure through sustainable and diversified revenue streams to complement the population growth of the state by 2030. The study found that the existing motor fuels tax does not yield sufficient revenues to meet the growing need and demand of infrastructure. Additionally, the study found revenue diversification is critical to fund the necessary modernization projects. Chamber staff told the committee that new transportation projects and the ability to fund them create positive economic impacts to the surrounding communities. The study recommended the following four new revenue options for future consideration:

  • Implement a Road User Charge Program – Assess a rate of 2.0 to 4.0 cents per mile
  • Phase out the state motor fuels tax – Replace gas tax and coincide this
    replacement with a permanent road user charge program
  • Adjust the highway use tax to a competitive rate – Raise to 4% to align with
    other states
  •  Dedicate a fraction of the statewide sales tax to transportation (0.25-1.0%)

The committee plans to take up these recommendations when the General Assembly returns in 2021. 


Election Roundup

There are just 40 more days to go before voters across the country cast their ballots for who they would like to serve as their elected officials, from President to Congress and Governor to state legislators. Over the last few weeks, our team has highlighted races happening in November from around the state, along with other election resources to keep everyone informed not just on what's happening in Raleigh, but all over North Carolina, 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.


Competitive Senate Races 

This week we will highlight competitive North Carolina General Assembly Senate races based on campaign intel, knowledge of candidates, and the partisan district index (PDI) from our friends over at NC Free. The ratings take into account factors such as the two-party vote margin for 2018 General Assembly races, gubernatorial races, presidential elections, registered voters, and redistricting. The following North Carolina Senate races are touted as competitive: 

Senate District 1

(Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, Washington)

NCFREE PDIR+2

Bob SteinburgIncumbent Sen. Bob Steinburg (R)

Overview: Incumbent Sen. Bob Steinburg is a retired businessman who previously served three terms in the NC House. Sen. Steinburg currently faces a challenge in November due to redistricting in his district. He did not face a challenger during this year's primary, and after spending time in Raleigh looks to maintain his seat in November. 

Priorities: Lowering taxes, small business growth, increased teacher pay, and smaller government.

Tess JudgeChallenger Tess Judge (D) 

Overview: Tess Judge is a small business owner who previously ran for NC House District 6 in 2018. She lost to now Rep. Bobby Hanig 55% to 45%. 

Priorities: Education investment, healthcare, equality, infrastructure.  

Senate District 7

(Lenoir, Wayne)

NCFREE PDI: R+2

Jim PerryIncumbent Sen. Jim Perry (R)

Overview: Incumbent Senator Jim Perry faces his first general election in November. Sen. Perry has a background in the healthcare industry and currently serves as an executive in the aviation industry. Sen. Perry defeated his primary challenger 66% to 34%. He has served in the Senate since 2019 after being appointed to fill the seat previously held by Sen. Louis Pate. 

Priorities: Agriculture and agribusiness, economic development, education, healthcare, and keeping North Carolina veteran and military friendly. 

Donna LakeChallenger Donna Lake (D)

Overview: Donna Lake currently serves as a clinical nurse professor at East Carolina University. She is a retired Air Force Colonel who received two Bronze Stars. She is a political newcomer and did not face a primary challenger. 

Senate District 9

(New Hanover)

NCFREE PDI: R+0

Harper PetersonIncumbent Sen. Harper Peterson (D)

Overview: Sen. Harper Peterson is a first-term incumbent who previously served as Mayor of Wilmington. In the 2018 general election, Sen. Peterson defeated former Sen. Michael Lee (R) by less than 300 votes. The two will face each other in what will be one of five repeat races in November. 

Priorities: Safe drinking water, environmental awareness, public school investment, access to affordable healthcare, and restoring incentives for the film industry. 

Michael LeeChallenger Michael Lee (R)

Overview: Lee previously served in the NC Senate from 2015 to 2018. He lost to Sen. Peterson by less than 300 votes in 2018. Known as a business-friendly legislator, the race will most likely come down to a few hundred votes again. 

Priorities: Restoring incentives for the film industry, increased school funding, clean water, independent redistricting, and mitigating storm impact. 

Senate District 11

(Johnston, Nash)

NCFREE PDI: R+3

Lisa BarnesRep. Lisa Stone Barnes (R)

Overview: Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes is currently finishing her first term in the NC House. The seat was previously held by retiring two-term Sen. Rick Horner (R). The district is rated as the 11th most impacted by redistricting, which has shifted it in favor of Democrats. She is well known in the district, but faces an uphill battle due to the new demographics of the district. 

Priorities: Lowering taxes, agriculture, healthcare, education, and maintaining second amendment rights. 

Allen WellonsAllen Wellons (D)

Overview: Allen Wellons previously served in the NC Senate from 1996-2002. Wellons, an attorney, is also well known across the newly-redrawn district. This race will come down to the wire.

Priorities: Public school investment, expanding workforce training, expanding access to broadband internet in rural areas, infrastructure investment, and practical tax polices. 

Senate District 13

(Columbus, Robeson)

NCFREE PDI: D+2

Danny BrittIncumbent Sen. Danny Britt (R) 

Overview: Two-term incumbent Sen. Danny Britt, an attorney and former Robeson County District Attorney, will face what has been highlighted as a spotlight race by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. In 2018, Sen. Britt defeated his Democratic general election challenger 62.5% to 37.5%. The district was not impacted by the latest round of redistricting. Sen. Britt currently serves as Chairman of the Justice and Public Safety Appropriations Committee. 

Priorities: Hurricane relief for Columbus and Robeson Counties, rural development, and addressing the opioid crisis.  

Barbara YatesChallenger Barbara Yates-Lockamy (D)

Overview: Barbara Yates-Lockamy is a retired educator and life-long resident of Columbus County. She faces a potential up-hill battle against the established and well-funded Sen. Britt. 

Priorities: Medicaid expansion, investment in public education, and job recruitment for a better economy.

Senate District 19

(Cumberland)

NCFREE PDI: D+3

Kirk DevierIncumbent Sen. Kirk Deviere (D)

Overview: Sen. Kirk Deviere is a first-term incumbent who defeated former Sen. Wesley Meredith (R) by less than 500 votes in 2018's general election. The district was not impacted in the latest round of redistricting. Sen. Deviere currently serves as President of a public relations firm. He has been touted as an up- and-comer in the Senate Democratic Caucus. 

Priorities: Medicaid expansion, public school investment, and affordable housing.

Wesley MeredithChallenger Wesley Meredith (R) 

Overview: Wesley Meredith served in the NC Senate from 2010-2018. After facing defeat in 2018, Meredith looks to regain his seat in a competitive district. He is well known but faces an uphill battle against a Democratic incumbent this time around. 

Priorities: Lowering taxes, fiscal responsibility from the state, education, and economic development.

Senate District 24

(Alamance, Guilford)

NCFREE PDI: R+5

JD WootenJ.D. Wooten (D)

Overview: J.D. Wooten, an attorney and Airforce veteran, seeks to fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of Sen. Rick Gunn. Wooten is a first time political candidate running in district that leans Republican. 

Priorities: Affordable healthcare, economic development, and independent redistricting.

Amy GaleyAmy Galey (R) 

Overview: Amy Galey, an attorney, is also a first-time political candidate. She currently serves as Chair of the Alamance Board of Commissioners. The seat was not impacted by the latest round of redistricting.

Priorities: Quality education, economic development, and agricultural preservation. 

Senate District 27

(Guilford)

NCFREE PDI: D+0

Michael GarrettIncumbent Sen. Michael Garrett (D)

Overview: Sen. Michael Garrett is a first-term incumbent who defeated former Sen. Trudy Wade by less than 1,000 votes in 2018. The district was impacted very little by the latest round of redistricting. Due to the small margin of victory in 2018, the election will come down to the wire once again in 2018. 

Priorities: Increasing teacher pay, economic development in the district, Medicaid expansion, and lowering taxes on working families. 

Sebastian KingChallenger Sebastian King (R)

Overview: King currently serves as Vice President of a local golf publication located within the district. Previously, he served as a Policy Advisor to Rep. John Hardister (R-Guilford). Due to the makeup of the district, he could potentially pull the race closer as November approaches. 

Priorities: Economic development, public safety, and government efficiency. 

Senate District 31

(Davie, Forsyth)

NCFREE PDI: R+4

Joyce KraweicIncumbent Sen. Joyce Kraweic (R)  

Overview: Sen. Joyce Kraweic is a three-term incumbent who has risen to Chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Appropriation Committee and the Committee on Healthcare. Despite prominence in the General Assembly, Democrats have targeted her seat as the one that could potentially flip the Senate. The district was impacted during redistricting, becoming more favorable to Democrats but still leaning Republican. 

Priorities: Second Amendment protection, run government as a business, strong education, and ban abortion. 

Terri LegrandChallenger Terri LeGrand (D)

Overview: Terri LeGrand currently works in higher education. Despite never before running for public office, she finds herself in the middle of what could be the most- watched NC Senate race come November. 

Priorities: Affordable healthcare, education, clean air and water, and ethical government. 

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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