This week in legislative oversight committees, legislators looked at topics including virtual charter schools, judicial redistricting and updates from state agencies. Meanwhile, thousands of North Carolinians headed to the polls to vote in municipal elections across the state.

Legislative Oversight Committees Meet

Capital Improvement Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Capital Improvements met on Wednesday. First, the committee received a presentation from NC National Guard Major Kent Caldwell on the status of three projects being funding by the Connect NC Bond. Then, Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services Rod Davis updated the committee on the construction of the new Broughton Hospital, which was supposed to open in fall of 2014, and has been delayed until September 2018. Finally, Fiscal Analyst Daniel Sater presented to the committee on properties that are leased by the state. The state currently has 712 leased properties across the state, with a value totaling $30 billion.

Education Oversight

On Tuesday, the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee held their first meeting of the interim.

The committee first heard an update from Chancellor of the NC School of Science and Math (NCSSM) Todd Roberts on the school’s progress opening a western campus. The school will open in Morganton.

The committee then received updates from two virtual charter schools that have been operating in NC as part of a four-year pilot program that is slated to expire at the end of the 2018-19 school year. NC Connections Academy and NC Virtual Academy presented highlights to the committee, including parent, student, and teacher satisfaction rates, increased extracurricular activities, and individual student successes. Both schools provide entirely online curriculums, which allows an alternative pathway to education for students in special circumstances. Superintendent of Connections Academy Nathan Currie asked the committee to consider removing the pilot status of these programs, and to look at funding, as virtual charter schools receive less funding than traditional public and brick and mortar charter schools. NC Virtual Academy Head of School Joel Medley noted that the school is meeting all of the State Board of Education’s requirement for a ten-year charter renewal.

Finally, the committee received an update on the transfer of the apprenticeship program from the Department of Commerce to the State Board of Community Colleges, which was completed on November 1.

All documents from the meeting can be found here.

Energy Policy Commission

North Carolina is eligible to receive roughly $92 million from the $14.7 billion settlement between Volkswagen and the US Environmental Protection Agency. On Wednesday, the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy received information from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as well as stakeholders on the settlement. The funds from the settlement must be spent to remediate nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions, Director of the Division of Air Quality Mike Abraczinskas overviewed the ten types of eligible projects the state may undertake.

The committee also heard several presentations on electric vehicles, including a look at developments in industry technology, infrastructure needs to support electric vehicles and the impacts of electric vehicles on the grid. Project Manager at Advanced Energy Lisa Poger noted that there are 7,416 electric vehicles currently registered in the state and stated that an increase in charging stations in NC has led to increased sales of electric vehicles in the state. Additionally, it was presented to the committee that increased charging infrastructure is necessary for NC to be a player in 21st century infrastructure as transportation becomes more autonomous, electrified and shared. The committee also discussed the impact of electric vehicles on the state’s grid, with presentations from Duke Energy, Dominion Power, NC Electric Membership Corporation and ElectriCities. Because most electric vehicle drivers charge their cars when at home, and in the evening, electric companies discussed strategies to reduce impact on the grid, including encouraging customers to charge later at night in exchange for a reduced rate.

To view all documents from Wednesday’s meeting, click here.

General Government Oversight

On Tuesday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government met to receive updates from a number of state agencies.

First, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) Secretary Larry Hall, Assistant Secretary James Prosser, and Scholarship Coordinator Angela Heilig, provided an update on the state’s Children of Wartime Veterans Scholarship program. DMVA is requesting an additional $1.5 million annually to restore a room and board allowance in certain classes of the scholarships.

The Committee then received an audit from State Auditor Beth Wood on the state’s vehicle seizure program. In her presentation, Auditor Wood said that contractors cannot account for 234 vehicles and recommended that the Department of Administration:

  • Monitor contractor performance on a regular basis.
  • Determine to what extent the contractors are able to provide these services under current and future state contracts.

The presentation was met with some criticism from the committee. Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) said that he questioned the thoughtfulness and accuracy of the audit. The committee will be reviewing the audit further at a future meeting.

To view all documents from the committee, follow this link.

Information Technology Oversight

Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology held their first meeting of the interim. The committee received an update from Department of Information Technology (DIT) Secretary Eric Boyette, who noted the internal transitions DIT has undergone in recent years, the Department’s focus on cyber security, and the state’s efforts to implement enterprise resource planning in state agencies. Additionally, Chief Information Risk Officer Maria Thompson provided an update on the Department’s efforts to protect state data. DIT was awarded $2 million in the 2017 budget to complete security assessments across state executive agencies. Thompson told the committee that some agencies are at risk because they are under compliant with state security requirements.

To view documents from the committee, click here.

Judicial Redistricting

Roughly a month after the House approved HB 717: Judicial Redistricting & Investment Act, the Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting Meeting held their first meeting on Wednesday. During the meeting, senators debated HB 717, which bill sponsor Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) says is necessary to clean up the states maps that have not been redrawn for more than 50 years. Opponents to the plan have called it partisan gerrymandering and say that the plans will not hold up in court if they are passed into law. The Senate is also expected to consider merit-based models of judicial selection, which would require an amendment to the state constitution.

Transportation Oversight

The Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee convened on Thursday. During their meeting, legislators heard from several officials at the Department of Transportation (DOT).

First, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner Torre Jessup updated the committee on DMV reform efforts, including efforts to improve customer service and the state’s compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.

Then, Highway Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey presented to the committee on projects in Highway Division 9, which includes Stokes, Forsyth, Davie, Davidson and Rowan Counties. Ivey informed the committee that staffing is one of the greatest challenges for his Division because they cannot compete with salaries in the private sector.

The committee also heard from DOT Chief Operating Officer Bobby Lewis, who spoke to the committee about efforts within the Department to expedite project delivery and reduce the Department’s cash balance.

To review all committee documents, follow this link.

Municipal Elections

On Tuesday, nearly 600,000 North Carolinians headed to the polls to vote in municipal elections across the state, which represents 16.74% voter turnout. To review the results of Tuesday’s municipal elections, including a spotlight on the Charlotte elections from Tricia Cotham, who is headquartered out of McGuireWoods’ Charlotte office, follow this link.

A Look Ahead to Next Week

Next week, the following legislative meetings will be held:

Monday, November 13

2:00 PM House Select Committee on Disaster Relief

Tuesday, November 14

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice

Wednesday, November 15

9:30 AM Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform

Thursday, November 16

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety

Friday, November 17

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services, Subcommittee on Aging