While interim committees continued to meet this week, the legislature remains in session, though no votes were held in either the House or Senate. This week in interim committees, legislators discussed topics including safety in K-12 schools and college campuses, prison security, agency rule making and judicial reform. Legislators have been in a special session since January 10, however, no votes have been taken while redistricting suits play out in the courts. Votes are expected in early February.
Courts Weigh in on Redistricting, Elections
There are a handful of ongoing legal cases on NC’s political maps and elections in process. Here is where those cases currently stand:
Congressional Redistricting & Partisan Gerrymandering
Last week, the US Supreme Court delayed a lower-court order that would have required legislators to redraw the state’s congressional maps this week while two similar cases are considered by the Supreme Court. The delay remains in place while the case is appealed.
Judicial Elections & 2018 Primaries
Yesterday, arguments were heard by US District Court Judge Catherine Eagles on a request to restore NC’s 2018 judicial primaries, which were cancelled by a law passed in 2017.
Legislative Redistricting & Special Master’s Maps
Last Friday, a panel of federal judges ordered lawmakers to use the maps drawn by a special master in this year’s legislative elections, filing for which is set to begin on February 12. Lawyers for the GOP filed a request with the US Supreme Court to block that decision earlier this week. Until a ruling is made, likely in early February, lawmaking will remain at a standstill.
Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee Reviews Rules Review Proposal
Yesterday, the House Select Committee on Administrative Procedure Oversight met to discuss portions of HB 162: Amend Administrative Procedure Laws that were added by the Senate during the long session.
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The bill would enact a number of changes to administrative procedure, including requiring the General Assembly to approve of most administrative rules. In June, the House voted not to concur with the changes made in the Senate. During the meeting, members had a chance to discuss the bill with Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba), who sponsored the changes made in the Senate. Members, including Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) supported the concepts behind the bill, such as increasing accountability and reducing regulatory burdens on businesses, but had concerns with the complexities the legislation may cause and the number of rules that may require legislative approval as a result. HB 162 is eligible for consideration in the short session or potentially in any special sessions leading up to that.
Emergency Management Committee Discusses Safety in Schools
On Thursday, the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee received presentations on measures to increase safety at K-12 schools and on community college campuses.
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The committee received updates both the NC Community College System and the Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) on efforts, to increase school safety on their respective campuses. NCDPI Chief Financial Officer Ben Matthews reported on efforts including increased training and a requirement for all local boards of education to have a school risk management plan. NC Community College System Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Grovenstein noted that authority over law enforcement at community colleges rests in the hands of local boards of trustees.
Judicial Redistricting Committee Releases New Maps
On Monday, the Joint Legislative Committee on Judicial Redistricting & Reform held their second meeting on Monday where members where presented a redistricting proposal similar to HB 717: Judicial Redistricting & Investment Act , which was passed by the House in October.
Democrats have criticized the maps and questioned how districts were determined. Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) noted that only population size was considered when drawing the proposed districts. The next step for the proposal would be consideration by the Senate, however, redistricting cases in the courts have largely slowed momentum on this proposal.
Justice & Public Safety Committee Reviews Prison Safety
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety received an update on prison security and reform from Department of Public Safety (DPS) Secretary Erik Hooks at their meeting yesterday.
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The Department has taken a number of actions following two incidents involving violence against prison staff in the last year. Following Secretary Hooks’ opening remarks, DPS Chief Deputy Secretary of Professional Standards Policy & Planning Pamela Cashwell highlighted efforts to enhance security policies, reduce contraband in prison facilities, improve training and increase hiring and retention. The Secretary would like to establish a Prison Reform Advisory Board to make further recommendations, and he requested that the General Assembly address safety and security needs and concerns regarding hiring and retention.
Program Evaluation Committee Receives Reports, Draft Legislation to Come
The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee held their first meeting of the interim on Monday to receive four reports from the Program Evaluation Division (PED). Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) informed the committee that they will be moving at a faster pace this year to draft and recommend proposed legislation that may be introduced in the short session based on the reports they receive.
What did the reports say?
PED briefly presented the four reports to the committee and their recommendations:
- How to increase lottery proceeds for education. The report found that NC’s lottery performance is above average and revenue could be increased through efforts including authorizing video lottery terminals and expanding the retailer network.
- Meeting current standards for school nurses may cost up to $79 million annually. PED made recommendations including updating the school nurse staffing standard and requesting a Medicaid state plan amendment to authorize Medicaid reimbursement for services for students with certain disability plans.
- PED recommended eliminating litigation costs in local education funding dispute resolution. The report found that opportunities exist to replace litigation with a default funding mechanism.
- PED recommends improving Ferry Division efficiency by reducing off-season crossings, adjusting fares and using partnerships.
A Look Ahead to Next Week
Monday, January 29, 2018
2:00 PM House Select Committee on Disaster Relief
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
1:00 PM Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
10:00 AM Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform
Thursday, February 1, 21018
9:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology