After wrapping up a third “special session” last week, legislators will likely be back in town next week to consider Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of SB 656: Electoral Freedom Act of 2017. Meanwhile, a number of oversight committees met this week and municipal elections were held in 26 counties.

From the Governor’s Office

Gov. Cooper took action on both of the bills that were sent to his desk at the conclusion of last week’s special session.

On Monday, Gov. Cooper vetoed SB 656: Electoral Freedom Act of 2017, which proposes to ease ballot access requirements for third party candidates and would eliminate judicial primaries in the 2018 election cycle. Gov. Cooper’s concerns with the bill focus on the latter provision; in his objection message, the Governor states that the bill “takes away the right of the people to vote for the judges of their choices.” Legislators will likely return to Raleigh next week to consider the Governor’s veto; SB 656 passed with veto proof majorities in both chambers last week.

Gov. Cooper signed SB 582: Budget & Agency Technical Corrections on Sunday. The bill makes a number of agency requests and technical changes to existing state laws, including:

  • Ordering the Attorney General’s Office not to delegate criminal appeal duties to local district attorneys.
  • Correcting a provision in the budget which would have resulted in pay cuts for long-serving principals.
  • Eliminates the sunset for the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund, which was set to expire in July 2020.

Interim Committee Meetings

Capital Improvements Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Capital Improvements met on Wednesday to receive updates from the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) and the UNC General Administration on projects being funded by the Connect NC Bond. OSBM budget Analyst Mark Bondo presented an overview of the $2 billion bond package, which is funding projects in the University and Community College systems, state and local parks and the NC Zoo, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Will Johnson, Associate VP for Finance and Capital Planning from the UNC General Administration presented an update on the 21 bond projects in the university system, which include 11 new STEM buildings, a western campus for the NC School of Science and Math, two new business school buildings and seven targeted building renovations. The average cost per square foot for all 21 projects is $398, however, lawmakers questioned the variable costs between projects, and called for more standardization in construction.

Emergency Management Oversight

On Thursday, the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee met to discuss the state’s ability to respond to manmade and natural disasters. The committee discussed the state’s electricity grid and received presentations from Duke Energy, NC Cooperatives and Electricities on their efforts to protect the state’s grid. Additionally, Section Chief of the Division of Public Health, Chronic Disease and Injury Section Dr. Susan Kansagra updated the committee on the opioid crisis. Three North Carolinians die from an opioid related overdose every day, however, Dr. Kansagra noted that that statistical trends show that number will soon increase to four. Lastly, Director of Emergency Management Michael Sprayberry presented to the committee on the Division of Emergency Management’s State Emergency Response Team’s disaster preparedness plans.

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

Health and Human Services Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services met on Tuesday.

First, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Mandy Cohen provided remarks to the committee, in which she highlighted the 25% increase in opioid related deaths in 2016 compared to the prior year.

Then, Deputy Secretary for Human Services Susan Perry-Manning, Assistant Secretary for Human Services Sam Gibbs and Deputy Secretary for Technology and Operations Michael Becketts of DHHS presented updates on the implementation of three state laws designed to improve child welfare in NC: Implementation of the Federal Program Improvement Plan, NC FAST Child Welfare Case Management, and the Rylan’s Law/ Family-Child Protection and Accountability Act.

Finally, Deputy Secretary for Medical Assistance Dave Richard presented an overview of the Department’s investigations into Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions, the largest LME/MCO in the state after an audit in May reported extravagant spending at the executive level. In their responding statement, Cardinal reported that there are “factual inaccuracies” in the state’s reports and that the Board is working to address the state’s concerns.

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

Justice & Public Safety Oversight

Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety met to discuss medical treatment in state prisons and county jails. Deputy Secretary for Administration of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice Joe Prater presented an overview of inmate health care, including reorganization strategies implemented to meet what Prater called “the new day.” Prater emphasized that the inmate population is aging, more chronically and mentally ill, and has been effected by the opioid epidemic, all of which drives health care costs up, while resources remain stagnant. Eddie Caldwell, Executive Vice President of the NC Sheriff’s Association, and Steve Lewis, Construction Section Chief, Health Service Regulation, DHHS, addressed health services in county jails, and noted how inmates are evaluated upon intake for mental and physical health needs.

Medicaid Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice met on Tuesday to hear Medicaid enrollment and financial updates from Deputy Secretary for Medical Assistance Dave Richard as well as an update on the status of the state’s 1115 Waiver application, which was submitted to the federal government in June 2016. Medicaid enrollment has roughly tracked in line with forecasts and is 4% higher than last year and Medicaid expenditures are 1.9% favorable to the authorized budget. Along with Richard, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen overviewed the Department’s proposed managed care design, which Secretary Cohen’s administration released in August. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has not progressed NC’s waiver application.

To view all committee documents, click here.

State Lottery Oversight

Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the NC State Lottery met to review recent legislative changes to the NC State Lottery and to hear an update from the Alice Garland from the NC Education Lottery. The committee also reviewed and accepted proposed legislation to increase the allowable percentage of annual lottery revenues that may be used for advertising from 1% to 2%. According to Garland, net proceeds from the state lottery since inception in 2006 surpass $5.2 billion and earned $622.5 million for education in the 2017 fiscal year. Additionally, Garland updated the committee on the state’s implementation of Keno gaming systems, which goes live on October 19 and is expected to increase lottery proceeds by partnering with social establishments.

To review all committee documents, click here.

Municipal Election Results

Nonpartisan municipal elections were held across the state on Tuesday, here’s a look at the results in mayoral races:

Mayoral incumbents dominated the ballot in most municipalities:

  • With 53.32% of the vote Burlington Mayor Ian Baltutis, warded off two challengers.
  • Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer received 77.05% of the vote to defeat three challengers.
  • New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw secured 63.57% of the vote against two challengers.
  • Mayor of Greensboro Nancy Vaughan secured 61.41% of the vote in a race against two challengers.
  • Mayor of Erwin Patsy Carson ran unopposed, and secured 73.72% of the vote, there were 36 write-ins, including 34 for a local man named Michael Jackson.
  • Mayor of Mooresville Miles Atkins secured 74.08% of the vote in a four-way race.
  • Mayor of Roxboro Merilyn Newell secured 74.91% of the vote against one challenger.

There will likely be runoff elections next month. Under state law, runoff elections are required if no candidate receives a substantial plurality, 41% of the vote, or a second primary can be demanded by the trailing candidate within nine days of the election, unless the leading candidate receives 50% or more of the vote:

  • In an open race for mayor of Hickory, Will Locke held a comfortable lead against his opponents with 33.18% of the vote, as Lou Wetmore will seek a recount of his second-place race with Hank Guess. Guess currently leads Wetmore by 23 votes. Locke and the official second-place finisher will head into a runoff on November 7.
  • In a four-way open race in Fayetteville, Mitch Colvin, who secured 45.03% of the vote, and current Mayor Nat Robertson, who finished with 31.6% of the vote, may head into a November runoff if it is requested by Robertson.
  • In a seven-way open race in Durham, Steve Schewel secured 51.21% of the vote and will head into a runoff election next month against Farad Ali, who secured 29.13% of the vote, if it is requested by Ali.
  • In Statesville, incumbent Costi Kutteh secured 37.98% of the vote in a five-way race and will face Michael Johnson, who followed with 34.14% of the vote.
  • In Raleigh, incumbent Nancy McFarlane secured 48.45% of the vote and will face challenger Charles Francis, who followed with 36.67% of the vote. Following Tuesday’s elections, Francis indicated that he is strongly considering asking for a runoff.

City council and town council seats were also on municipal ballots, as well as a $206.7 million transportation bond in Raleigh, which passed with 72.1% of the vote.

To view municipal elections results by county, click here.