This Week

Governor McCrory addressed a joint assembly of House and Senate Wednesday evening for the biennial State of the State address. The Governor used his 80-minute speech to focus on a number of issues that he has addressed over the last several weeks as well as a few new proposals. He outlined his visions for job growth and economic development such as increasing funds for job and industry recruitment and renewing the historic preservation tax credit. Another goal which seems to have the support of lawmakers is raising the base salary for North Carolina teachers to $35,000.

The Governor again pointed to the need for more efficiency in Medicaid. He stressed that any Medicaid reform must be a North Carolina specific plan, and praised DHHS Sec. Wos’s efforts in trying to implement such a plan. He stopped short of calling for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, although both he and Sec. Wos have previously hinted that it may be necessary.   

In line with his goals of streamlining state government, Gov. McCrory proposed the creation of two new departments: the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Information Technology. The Division of Veteran’s Affairs is currently housed in the Department of Administration and each agency handles its own IT. Under the proposal, IT for each of the cabinet agencies would be housed in the new department.   

He also addressed his desire for the approval of two bonds, a $1.2 Billion transportation bond and a $1.2-1.4 Billion bond to update state buildings and infrastructure among other things. If either or both bonds are passed by the General Assembly, which together total around $2.5 Billion, each would have to be put on a statewide ballot for voter approval.   

Sen. Berger was interviewed following the State of the State address. The News & Observer has provided a video of his comments here.

McCrory outlines his vision for North Carolina – N&O  In State of the State, McCrory wants 'best of everything' for NC – Citizen-Times  Gov. Pat McCrory’s roads, buildings bonds would go to statewide vote – N&O  Governor’s ‘Project Phoenix’ could pump $1.4B into state building projects – TBJ  McCrory State of the State address: Quotes and reactions – N&O  North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory's 2015 State of the State Speech (Text and Video) – Governing Magazine   

Aside from the State of the State address, there was little legislative activity with both chambers moving only one bill each over the course of the week. Next week however, a number of joint appropriations meetings have been scheduled, indicating that the real work of the session is about to begin.

On Wednesday evening the Senate approved Senate Bill 14, sponsored by Sen. Brown (R-Onslow). The bill would transfer $100,000 from the Department of Public Instruction's legal fund to cover litigation costs for the Rules Review Commission, which is being sued by the Board of Education. The bill would also take $275,000 in unused funding for vacant positions, to cover staff costs for the Academic Standards Review Commission. The bill passed the Senate on both second and third reading's and has been sent to the House. Senate approves funding fixes - WRAL

The only action in the House this week was in regard to the House Bill 3 sponsored by Rep. McGrady (R-Henderson). The bill is a proposed constitutional amendment which would prohibit the taking of private property by eminent domain except for a public use. The bill received unanimous support in the House Judiciary II committee on Wednesday and on Thursday the full House handily gave the bill initial approval with a vote of 111-4. The bill will have its final reading in the House on Tuesday before crossing over to the Senate where similar legislation died after passing the House last session. House tries again to limit eminent domain - WRAL 

Redistricting Reform

A group of lawmakers held a press conference on Tuesday to promote legislation that would create a nonpartisan commission to redraw legislative and congressional districts, a job currently tasked to members of the General Assembly. The charge is again being championed by House Speaker Pro-Tem Rep. Stam (R-Wake) who has supported redistricting reform for his entire tenure as a state legislator.

Since the press conference multiple bills have been filed regarding the issue, along with Rep. Stam's bill which would affect the next redistricting in 2020. Rep. Jeter (R-Mecklenburg) introduced a constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to conduct the 2030 redistricting. By delaying the effective date, Rep. Jeter hopes to gain support in the Senate, when very few, if any, current members will be affected by the 2032 election. A two-thirds majority is required in each chamber for a constitutional amendment to be put before the voters.

Redistricting reform legislation overwhelmingly passed the House last session but his a roadblock in the Senate. Even with some accommodation, it seems the same will happen this session as well after upon inquiry, Senate Rules chairman Sen. Apodaca (R-Henderson) remarked, "It's dead". Redistricting bills face resistance in NC Senate; 'It's dead' - Charlotte Observer