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Old North State Report

August 23, 2019

Old North State Report – August 23, 2019

A “Piece-ful” Solution

Over the next week, the legislature will tackle the budget stalemate in a “piecemeal” fashion by passing separate funding measures for state employee pay raises and other time-sensitive items. Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) told reporters during a news conference Wednesday that the legislature is looking at what sections of the budget are "broadly agreed to" and passing them through individual bills. The first of those bills were unveiled in committees on Wednesday and cover correctional officer pay raises and funding for Medicaid transformation implementation. The PCS for HB609 would give state employees who work in prisons a 2.5% pay increase for each year of the 2019-21 fiscal biennium and an additional five days of special annual leave.  It would also provide a bonus of at least $2,500 annually to employees serving in high-need correctional facilities.  HB555, originally filed as a bill to modernize Medicaid telemedicine policies, has been reworked and renamed “Medicaid Transformation Implementation.” The proposed committee substitute to the bill would speed up a $218 million appropriation for the Medicaid transformation initiative, while also including a budget cut for DHHS. Language for both of these bills is included in the state budget vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper in June – however, that veto has yet to be overridden by the GOP-led legislature.   The Governor’s office  responded to news of the GOP budget strategy by saying Republican lawmakers simply don’t have the votes to override the veto, and piecemeal budgeting is just another way for them to get a budget they want without any negotiating.  Meanwhile, DHHS leaders released a statement addressing HB555 calling the proposed Department cuts “crippling,” and adding that it comes at a time when DHHS is taking on the most “significant and complex change in its history with the transition to managed care.”  These bills face additional action in the Senate next week, while in the House, Speaker Tim Moore said his chamber focus on moving bills to cover pay raises for state employees and teachers.

Early Voting

Early voting kicked off Wednesday for the election that will decide who will fill the vacant seats in North Carolina’s 3rd and 9th Congressional Districts. In the 3rd, a special election was called to fill the unexpired term of the late Rep. Walter Jones, who died in February several months after beginning a 13th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. After two primary elections, voters are now deciding which of the candidates will be elected to complete the remainder of the two-year term.  On the ballot: Allen Thomas (Democrat) , State Representative Greg Murphy (Republican), Greg Holt (Constitution Party), and Tim Harris (Libertarian).  In the 9th, the special election became necessary when the State Board of Elections nullified an apparent 905-vote victory by Republican Mark Harris in the 2018 general election, finding the results could not be trusted because of fraud associated with absentee ballots, primarily in Bladen County.  Harris dropped out of the race, and Bishop won a crowded GOP primary in May.  On the ballot: State Senator Dan Bishop (Republican), Dan McCready (Democrat), Jeff Scott (Libertarian), and Allen Smith (Green Party).  The general election for both Congressional seats will take place on Tuesday, September 10th. 

“Marsy’s Law”

Legislation to implement the "Marsy's Law" victims' rights constitutional amendment is on its way to the House floor after a new version addressed concerns from its supporters.  SB682, “Implement Crime Victim Rights Amendment,” details the expanded list of crimes that will now have victims' rights protections, and it calls for law enforcement to provide victims with a form that explains their rights. But, an earlier version of the bill prompted opposition from many of the victims' rights advocates who pushed for the amendment.  Last month, advocates said that the bill "takes the state backward by stripping crime victims of both long-standing statutory rights and the constitutional rights newly enshrined by Marsy's Law."  At issue was the process for victims to ask a judge to intervene when they feel their rights are violated by law enforcement or prosecutors.  Marsy's Law's lobbyist, former Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, blamed district attorneys for what he said was "a huge step backward for crime survivors."  The section in question was revised in a new PCS that passed the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.  SB682 now sets out a process where victims first make their complaints to the district attorney or law enforcement agency. "If they're not able to correct it, the victim may file a motion on a form provided by the court system that explains to the judge what they feel is deficient," Willoughby explained. The bill was on the House calendar for a vote earlier this week, however Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham) filed an amendment that would address the rights of juveniles during the planning process for post-release supervision. Speaker Tim Moore said there were questions about whether Morey's proposal was "germane" to the bill and raised questions that needed to be considered.  After a 45 minute recess, the amendment was temporarily displaced and the bill was re-calendared for next Monday.  The delay pushes the process even closer to the deadline to pass implementing legislation for the constitutional amendment, which is set to take effect on August 31st.

NO Old North State Report next week

Please note that due to the Labor Day Holiday weekend, there will be no Old North State Report published next week.