Several legislative oversight committees met this week as the interim continues and legislators consider the issues they may tackle in the upcoming short session. Meanwhile, legislative leaders sparred with a three judge federal panel over legislative redistricting and whether or not a special master should be hired to redraw the some of the state’s legislative districts.
Legislative Oversight Committees Meet
Economic Development & Global Engagement
Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Economic Development & Global Engagement Committee held their first meeting of the interim.
First, the committee received an update from Commerce SecretaryTony Copeland. Secretary Copeland spoke on the urban rural divide, which he said has been exacerbated by changes in the agricultural industry and said that while the state is making progress, job growth is slowing.
The committee then received a presentation from the Economic Development Partnership of NC (EDPNC), a public-private partnership that serves as NC’s statewide economic development organization. Chief Executive Officer Christopher Chung provided an overview of EDPNC’s mission, strategies, structure, performance measures and their goals for 2017.
Finally, Napoleon Wallace, Deputy Secretary for Rural Economic Development and Workforce Solutions, provided the committee with an update on the work of the Division of Rural Economic Development to attract investments to rural NC, including specific successful projects.
Education Finance Reform
The Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance reform held their first meeting on Wednesday. The committee, which is chaired by Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) and Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), discussed how state funds are allocated to the state’s public school system annually.
The committee first received a report from the Program Evaluation Division (PED) of the General Assembly. In his presentation, Principal Program Evaluator Sean Hamel identified twelve findings across two sections: allotment-specific issues and system-level issues. NC is one of seven states that funds schools based on an allotment formula, which Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) called outdated and complicated.
Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Adam Levinson then responded to the PED study saying that the state’s system is due for a review and that DPI will be a partner to the General Assembly through this process.
Legislative Redistricting Case Continues
The debate over legislative redistricting continued in federal court this week as Republican legislative leaders, defendants in Covington vs. The State of North Carolina, filed an objection to the three-judge panels order to appoint a special master. They argued that appointing a special master impedes the legislature’s redistricting authority and that the legislature should have another opportunity to redraw the maps instead.
The judicial panel rejected this request on Wednesday, announcing that they will go through with their plans to hire Dr. Nathaniel Persily as a special master. The order directs Dr. Persily, a law professor at Stanford University, to redraw House Districts 21, which includes portions of Duplin, Sampson and Wayne Counties, 36, 37,40 and 41 In Wake County, 57 in Guilford County and 105 in Mecklenburg, as well as Senate Districts 21, which includes portions of Cumberland County as well as Hoke County and 28 in Guilford County. The Court believes that House Districts 21 and 57, and Senate Districts 21 and 28 fail to remedy the unconstitutional use of race found in the state’s 2011 maps. Additionally, the panel has concerns that the legislature unnecessarily redrew House Districts 36,37, 40, 41 and 105. The order outlines the criteria that can be considered when redrawing the districts, and states that only those districts, and adjoining districts, may be redrawn.
Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for House and Senate redistricting chairmen Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) and Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) responded to the order, stating that Dr. Persily has “clear conflicts of interest” and that they are reviewing their legal options.
A Look Ahead to Next Week
Next week, the following legislative meetings will be held:
Monday, November 3, 2017
11:00 AM Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
9:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government
10:00 AM Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee