Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Old North State Report, a non partisan newsletter featuring the latest news and on-the-ground intelligence in North Carolina state government and politics.
Preparing for Short Session
Because of lingering cold temperatures and the particularly harsh winter this year, experts are predicting a late and more rapid flowering of plants and trees in North Carolina this spring, as opposed to the usual more gradual blooming that comes with the change of seasons. Like the state wildlife, this year's legislative session in North Carolina will start later and is expected to move quite rapidly in a short period of time.
The regular session of the 2013-2015 North Carolina General Assembly adjourned July 26, 2013. The legislature is scheduled to reconvene May 14, 2014 for a more abbreviated work period known as the "short session." Although the House and Senate are not meeting in their official capacities, this interim period between sessions can hardly be considered a time of rest.
Numerous legislative committees and subgroups meet on a regular basis in the interim to provide ongoing oversight and to further study policy issues and consider possible future legislation. Many bills filed during session each year are the direct products of recommended legislation from the work of an interim committee. Click here to see a comprehensive list of committees with links to each groups website.
The official legislative committees that are permitted to work in the interim can be roughly categorized into two groups: standing oversight committees and special short-term study committees. The standing committees remain in tact year after year to provide ongoing oversight of state government. These include groups such as the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee, the Revenue Laws Study Committee and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services. In contrast, there is a number of specialized and usually short-term study committees authorized each biennium as a function of one of the oversight groups. The Legislative Research Commission (LRC) typically authorizes several smaller, issue-specific legislative studies that may be conducted in the interim by small groups of legislative appointees.
The LRC authorized a total of 20 specialized studies for 2013-2015: eight joint commissions and 12 House-only commissions. These non-standing study groups are authorized to meet a maximum of four times and may submit a final report of recommendations, including draft legislation, to the full LRC prior to the start of session for potential consideration (these groups are authorized to submit a report prior to the 2014 short session or to the 2015 long session). For legislation to be considered in the 2014 short session, LRC study committees must submit recommendations to the full LRC by Friday, April 25, 2014 (view 2013-14 LRC rules here). See below for a complete list of study committees. For full details including scope and membership, view the 2013-14 LRC authorization letter here.
Market Based Solution & Elimination of Anti-Competitive Practices in Health Care
Treasurer Investment Targets & State Employee Retirement Options
Health Care Provider Practice Sustainability & Training/ Additional Transparency in Health Care
Property Owner Protection and Rights
Banking Law Amendments
Assessment of Regulated & Non-Regulated Industry Utility Fees
Mechanics Liens and Leasehold Improvements
Common Core State Standards
Cultural and Natural Resources
Chowanoke Nation Recognition
Omnibus Foster Care and Dependency
Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Civilian Credit for Military Training & State Adjutant General Selection Criteria
Public Enterprise System and Use of Funds
Wetland and Stream Mitigation
Food Desert Zones
Judicial Efficiency and Effective Administration of Justice
Funeral and Cemetery Regulation
2014 Short Session
As previously stated, the North Carolina legislature operates on a two-year biennium, convening in January of odd-numbered years for the regular session, which typically adjourns around mid-summer after writing and passing a new state budget for the next two fiscal years. It then convenes in the second, even-numbered year of each biennium to make necessary adjustments to balance the budget based on actual revenue and expenditure data.
There are no statutory limits to how long session may last in North Carolina and in recent history deliberations and stalemates have caused the extension of session well into the fall. This session, which begins May 14, is not likely to extend too far beyond early to mid July (new fiscal year begins July 1), but one can never predict with certainty.
As usual in the short session, there are a limited number of legislative matters that are considered eligible in the short session (see bullets below)
Budget bills: bills directly and primary affecting the State budget, including the budget of an occupational licensing board, for fiscal year 2014-2015
Crossover bills: bills and resolutions introduced in 2013 that passed its originating chamber and were received in the non-originating chamber
Study committee bills: bills and resolutions implementing recommendations of interim study commissions, select committees or authorities
Noncontroversial local bills: a bill affecting less than 15 counties with certification from primary sponsor that bill requires no hearing, is noncontroversial and is approved by all members of each chamber whose district includes the area to which the bill applies,
Joint resolutions authorizing introduction of a bill
Bills authorized by the aforementioned resolutions (resolutions must pass by a two-thirds majority of each chamber)
Pension or retirement bills
Election law bills
Bills to disapprove rules
House, Senate or Joint resolutions
Bills amending the State Constitution
A complete list of eligible bills compiled by the General Assembly's Research Division may be found at this link.
The latest data released March 28 puts North Carolina's average unemployment rate below the federal average for the first time in at least a year. North Carolinas unemployment rate for February is 6.4 percent, a drop of 0.3 percent from January. This is 0.3 percent lower than the national February unemployment rate of 6.7 percent. See most recent jobless data here.
The Department of Commerce is continuing to take steps to implement organizational reform of the state's economic development efforts even though enabling legislation was stalled from passage in the final hours of the 2013 session. Over the interim, the Department has moved forward with the enactment of preliminary measures that do not require legislation to create the new "Economic Development Partnership of NC," a nonprofit public private partnership housed in the Dept. of Commerce. The enabling legislation, SB 127, is eligible in the short session and is expected to be considered again.
Another tax bill is expected to be considered in the short session that will tweak state tax statute and include provisions to address implementation issues with various pieces of the tax reform legislation passed in 2013 (see summary of tax law changes effective July 1). These discussions and the rollout of legislative proposals have taken place primarily in the Revenue Laws Oversight committee.
One of the first initiatives rolled out by Governor McCrory when he first took office in early 2013 was an aggressive plan to reform the state's Medicaid program. Now over a year later, discussions around the initial reform plan, which McCrory titled the "Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina," are in a very different place. The initial plan emphasized the concept of Medicaid privatization and had a very aggressive implementation timeline. This initial announcement was met with much public skepticism and went through an intense public and stakeholder vetting process. The official plan rolled out by the Department of Health and Human Services on March 17 addresses reform in three categories: physical health, mental health and long term services and supports. The complete reform proposal may be viewed here. Enactment of any Medicaid reform plan would require legislative approval.
The unpredictability of the state Medicaid budget continues to be a point of frustration for legislators and budget writers in North Carolina. Although measures have been put in place to get accurate projections and anticipate potential problems, lack of certainty remains. This year, a team of expert staff members within the General Assembly Fiscal Research division has been instructed to take on Medicaid budget predictability and is currently working to develop an accurate projection using comprehensive formulas and budget methodology models in concert with staff within DHHS and the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM). At the most recent oversight commission where budget shortfalls were discussed, all three entities gave predictions on the Medicaid budget and can be seen below.
Latest Medicaid budget shortfall estimates for current fiscal year:
Since the close of the official filing period with the State Board of Elections on February 28, North Carolina candidates are gearing up for a very active election season across the state. Among the offices on the ballot this year in NC are each of the 170 single-member state House and Senate seats, as well as one US Senate seat (Hagan seat) and each of NC's 13 US House seats.
A total of 155 incumbents, 44 of 50 Senators and 111 of 120 House members, filed for reelection. While there is expected to be a number of competitive races, there are also a fair amount of NC legislative candidates that are already winners by default; 11 Senate and 42 House candidates are unopposed in both the primary and general elections.
This year, North Carolina's primary election will take place on Tuesday, May 6, just eight days before the start of the NC General Assembly short session on May 14. State candidates may not raise money while the legislature is in session.
A candidate must secure over 40 percent of the votes to be considered the winner of the primary contest (if two candidates get over 40 percent, the victory goes to the candidate with the higher percentage). In the case that no one candidate receives the necessary allocation of votes, a runoff is necessary to determine the victor.
Incumbent members of the NC legislature not seeking re-election are:
Sen. Austin Allran (R-Catawba) retiring
Sen. Neal Hunt (R-Wake) retiring
Sen. Michael Walters (D-Robeson) retiring
Sen. Malcolm Graham (D-Mecklenburg) candidate for US House 12 (Watt seat)
Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover) retiring
Rep. Winkie Wilkins (D-Person) retiring
Rep. Joe Tolson (D-Edgecombe) retiring
Rep. Alma Adams (D-Guilford) candidate for US House 12 (Watt seat)
Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford) candidate for US House 12 (Watt seat)
Rep. Jim Fulghum (R-Wake) candidate for NC Senate 15 (Hunt seat)
Rep Mark Hollo (R-Alexander) retiring
Rep. Andy Wells (R-Catawba) candidate for NC Senate 42 (Allran seat)
Rep. Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) candidate for US Senate (Hagan seat)
Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) retiring
Not included on this list is the late Senator Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe), who sadly lost his battle with cancer on March 6, 2014. Sen. Nesbitt's career of public service in the NC Legislature spanned over 30 years, and he served most recently as the Senate Minority Leader until announcing his departure of the post to focus on his illness on March 4. Veteran Senator Dan Blue (D-Wake) will serve as Minority Leader for the remainder of this term. The obituary for Senator Nesbitt may be viewed here.
Please direct any questions about information in this report to Allison Waller.
For informational purposes only. Past success does not indicate the likelihood of success in any future legal representation.