KTS Strategies brings years of experience providing clients in a diverse range of industries with comprehensive policy and advocacy advice before federal, state, and local agencies. In North Carolina, we advise local municipalities, corporate transportation entities, nonprofit organizations, statewide associations, government vendors, and Fortune 500 companies before the North Carolina General Assembly and executive branch.

Below is an update on the activity at the NC General Assembly this week. Please feel free to contact a member of the teamwith any questions or visit ktsstrategies.com to learn more about our services.

Governor’s Budget Proposal

Governor Cooper released his recommended biennial budget for FY 2023-2025 on Wednesday. The proposal includes an average 18 percent teacher raise over the biennium, maintains the corporate tax rate at 2.5 percent, and implements an 8 percent raise for all state employees over the biennium. The plan would also allocate over $1 billion for mental health, $1.5 billion in new funding for childcare and early childhood education needs, and $6.8 billion in reserves.

House and Senate leadership characterized the Governor’s proposal as “reckless.” As part of his full response, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) stated, "Governor Cooper’s budget proposal takes the same reckless approach to spending that his fellow Democrats have taken in Washington. Unfortunately, this kind of runaway spending has resulted in a failing economy that has left millions of Americans behind." You can read Senator Berger’s statement on the budget proposal here.

The Governor’s proposed budget is the first official step in the state budget process. The legislature alternates in which chamber the budget starts every biennium. This year, the House will begin the process. The House has already been working on their proposal and plans to have their version passed in early April. The Senate will then pass their version (likely in May) and the two chambers will negotiate in a conference committee until a final compromise has been reached. The goal is to have a budget completed before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Opioid Epidemic

This week, the Senate considered S189, Fentanyl Drug Offenses and Related Changes. The bill would increase the fines for trafficking heroin, fentanyl, or carfentanil from a baseline of $50,000 to $500,0000. It would also provide limited criminal immunity to someone who possesses less than one gram of any controlled substance if the person is seeking medical assistance for an overdose, and establish a new Task Force on Enforcement of Fentanyl and Heroin Drug Violations. S189 passed unanimously on the Senate floor Tuesday. This bill is one of many that have been filed so far this year related to the opioid epidemic. We anticipate additional measures to address the crisis to be considered this session.

Gun Legislation

This week, the House considered S41, Guarantee 2nd Amendment Freedom and Protections. This bill would remove the requirement to obtain a pistol purchase permit from the sheriff’s office prior to the purchase or receipt of a pistol. Criminal background checks would still be required prior to purchase of a pistol from a federally licensed dealer. The bill would also authorize concealed carry for certain law enforcement facility employees and authorize carrying a handgun in a place of religious worship that is also educational property under certain conditions. Additionally, it would create a statewide firearm safe storage awareness initiative to educate the public about safe firearm storage, facilitate the distribution of gun locks, and provide local communities with a toolkit to launch local firearm safe storage initiatives.

The bill moved through the House Judiciary and Rules Committees this week. On Wednesday, it passed on the House floor (70-44) with three Democrats voting in favor. It will now head to the Governor for consideration. We anticipate the Governor to veto the bill.