North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review - August 2020 #4

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The North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes next Wednesday, September 2 at noon. During session, the General Assembly is expected to take up a number of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as unemployment, education, healthcare, and budgetary concerns. Legislative leaders hoped to return next week to allocate additional federal money that would have came through a new COVID-19 relief funding package. However, Congress has yet to agree on additional funding and has not yet issued further guidance on if money already received can be used as a revenue replacement. Next week will be full of committees and possibly lengthy floor sessions as lawmakers will attempt to address the multitude of needs and issues across the state.

As of Thursday morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 161,076 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 2,152,725 completed tests, 2,653 deaths, and 958 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.


Governors Budget

Governor Roy Cooper (D) released his budget proposal during his weekly COVID-19 news conference Wednesday. The budget proposal, which totals about $25 billion, includes funding for COVID-19, disaster relief, small business assistance, housing, unemployment insurance, and healthcare. Most of the budget contains items the General Assembly already agreed to, but Gov. Cooper’s proposal also lays out plans for the remaining $559 million the state has on-hand due to better-than-expected tax revenue from FY2020.

Gov. Cooper also laid out his recommendations on the use of $978 million in federal COVID relief funds, as well as his plan for Medicaid expansion and two bond proposals. The first of those two is a $988 million bond which includes funding for hospitals, prisons, long-term care facilities, broadband expansion, and a new Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) facility. This bond would not have to be approved by the public. The second bond proposal would allocate $4.3 billion towards water and sewer infrastructure, K-12 schools, community colleges, and affordable housing. This bond would have to be approved by the public in 2021.

Highlights of the Governor's budget proposal include: 

  • $2.089 billion to expand medicaid eligibility to cover an additional 600,000 individuals statewide - the non-federal share of the funding for this would not be funded by the general fund, it would instead recovered by provider contributions
  • Makes a nonrecurring reduction in unused funds from the Opportunity Scholarship private school voucher program
  • $280 million to provide one-time bonuses for public school employees who did not receive an increase last year, other than a step increase
    • $2,000 bonus to teachers, principals, assistant principals, and instructional support personnel
    • $1,000 to non-certified school personnel
  • $80 million to provide one-time $1,500 bonuses to UNC System and NC Community College personnel
  • $5 million to the Local Government Financial Assistance Fund
  • $86.5 million as a state match for FEMA disaster recovery funds to rebuild after recent hurricanes and the August 9, 2020 earthquake
  • $18 million for the One NC fund to support economic development projects
  • $10 million for the repair and renovation of state facilities
  • $14.5 million to operate new state facilities, including Broughton Hospital
  • $8.5 million to provide permanent, community-based housing for people with disabilities through the Housing Finance Agency
  • $12.5 million to the Department of Revenue to allow online filing of corporate taxes and provide IT support to the Department

Highlights of the Governor’s proposed COVID-19 Recovery Act include:

  • $49 million for state stockpile of personal protective equipment
  • $132 million to support K-12 public schools and at-risk students during the pandemic
  • $27.5 million for small business rent, mortgage, and utility support
  • $75 million to help the university system respond to the pandemic
  • $30 million to help the community college system respond to the pandemic
  • $5 million to help the independent college system respond to the pandemic
  • $50 million to DHHS to support rural and historically marginalized populations and address health disparities exacerbated by COVID-19
  • $40 million to DHHS to support childcare providers through bonuses, operational grants, PPE and sanitation supplies
  • $30 million to DHHS to provide support for mental health through efforts including telehealth, crisis intervention for law enforcement, and inpatient services for the uninsured
  • $25 million for expanded testing and contact tracing
  • $15 million to protect the aging adult population during the pandemic
  • $18 million for Historically Underutilized Businesses, to be run by the Carolina Small Business Development Fund and The Institute
  • $5 million for local government commission
  • $200 million for county and municipal governments
  • $50 million for an emergency high-speed internet grant program
  • $5 million to the Department of Commerce (DOC) for rural downtown revitalization programs
  • $8 million to DOC for early-stage technology development grants for small businesses through the One NC Small Business Program
  • $29.5 million in assistance for agricultural producers
  • $25 million to the community college system for healthcare, first responder, and workforce programs
  • $17.5 million to fund the PPE-NC Initiative to make NC a leader in PPE production
  • $5 million to DOC to create a competitive grant program to encourage businesses to develop and manufacture products to help address the COVID-19 crisis
  • $25 million to UNC-Chapel Hill for COVID-19 testing research
  • $2 million to Duke University for COVID-19 human vaccine research
  • $50 million to Food Banks and nutrition programs
  • $20 million to shore up sanitation, safety, and health measures at state parks
  • $5 million to the Department of Administration for COVID-19 needs in communities of color
  • $5 million to administer the “Hotel to Home” pilot program in central NC, which will convert unused hotels to permanent affordable housing
  • $20 million for cultural attractions and tourism industry aid

To view the Governor's full proposed budget, please click here.


Education Working Group

The House Select Committee on Education, Working Group met August 25. As session nears, the group heard an update on the Coronavirus Relief fund and heard challenges facing the Department of Public Instruction, the NC Community College System,the University of North Carolina System, and North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities

State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis told the committee that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact of the states's public school system. School districts across the state have become financially fragile due to the impact of the pandemic on their resources. Chairman Davis emphasized that the General Assembly should continue to work together with the State Board in order to keep children educated, fed, ensure teachers are being compensated for the work they are doing, expand internet access, and continue to protect the most vulnerable districts. Chairman Davis told the committee that the top funding priority is personal protective equipment and cleaning, which will cost $44,500,000. 

The University of North Carolina System, which is comprised of 16 campuses and 240,000 students across the state, told the committee that they have a $29 million unmet need through July 1. The system estimates that they have spent about  $320 million on campus preparations, and with the abrupt transition to online classes for UNC, NC State, and ECU, they expect that number to rise. In order to combat rising cleaning costs, cyber security needs, and testing, the system asked to committee to recommend $100 million in additional funding during the upcoming session next week. 

North Carolina's Independent Colleges and Universities received $20 million in relief from the General Assembly in July. The consortium of privately run colleges and universities asked the committee to consider another funding round of $20 million. Included in the requested $20 million is $12 million for additional personal protective equipment and $4 million for increased technology licensing and equipment. 


Election Roundup

There are just 68 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.

To catch up on all of the races happening in North Carolina, you can check out our last few 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.


 nc regions

When voters cast their ballots on November 3, North Carolinians will also be voting for who will represent them in the state judicial branch. North Carolina’s state Judicial races continue to gain more and more attention as three seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court  and five Court of Appeals seats are up for election in November. Here is what the elections will look like: 

Supreme Court 

Chief Justice
Incumbent Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D) faces Justice Paul Newby (R). Chief Justice Beasley became the first black woman to serve as Chief Justice when she was appointed by Gov. Cooper. Justice Newby has served on the state's highest court since 2005. This race has been touted as highly competitive.

Seat 2
Two Court of Appeals judges will face each other for a Supreme Court seat. Judge Lucy Inman (D), will go against Judge Phil Berger Jr. (R), son of Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, in November. 

Seat 4
Incumbent Judge Mark Davis (D), faces a challenge from former state Sen. Tamara Barringer (R), an attorney. 

Court of Appeals

Seat 4
Tricia Shields (D), an attorney, will face Judge April Wood. The two seek to fill the seat left by retiring Judge Wanda Bryant (D). 

Seat 5
Superior Court Judge Lora Cubbage (D), will face Willie Gore (R), a Durham County Assistant District Attorney, in November. The two seek to fill the seat left by retiring Judge Linda McGee (D). 

Seat 6
Incumbent Judge Chris Dillon (R), faces challenger Gray Styers (D), an attorney.  

Seat 7
Incumbent Judge Reuben Young (D), will go up against Superior Court Judge Jefferey Carpenter (R). 

Seat 13
Incumbent Judge Chris Brook (D), faces 10th District Court Judge Jefferson Griffin (R). 

 


Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Tuesday, September 1
10:00AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee 

Wednesday, September 2
8:30AM Senate Select Committee on Prison Safety
10:00AM House Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement and Justice
12:00PM House: Session Convenes
12:00PM Senate: Session Convenes

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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