It is a wrap for this year's long session - at least for now. Lawmakers adjourned the 2019 legislative session Thursday evening after a long week of trying to tie up any remaining loose ends. But not every lawmaker was ready to head home as many of the session's top issues remain unsettled, including a complete budget, a form of Medicaid expansion, and funding for the Medicaid transformation to managed care. The McGuireWoods team will have a full overview of unfinished business in next week's edition.
Members of both the House and Senate will reconvene on Wednesday, November 13 at 12:00 noon, just a week and a half away. During this time, SJR 694: Adjourn 2019 Regular Session to November allows lawmakers to consider bills that deal with redrawing electoral district maps, appointments, nominations, or gubernatorial nominations, and conference reports of bills already in conference committee before the adjournment. Lawmakers will then head home in time for the holidays, to reconvene again on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 12:00 noon. During the January session, legislators will be able to consider a broader range of bills, including veto override votes, appointments, confirmations of gubernatorial nominations, new district maps, conference reports, bills providing funding and oversight to the Department of Transportation, bills about access to health care, and modifications to State appropriations.
Will they or won't they was the question of the week as all eyes were on the Senate's potential vote to override three of the Governor's vetoes. HB 966: 2019 Appropriations Act had been on the calendar since Monday evening's session, but was repeatedly withdrawn and placed on the calendar for the following day. Ultimately, a vote to override the Governor's veto of the budget bill was never taken. The budget, along with SB 553: Regulatory Reform Act of 2019 and HB 555: Medicaid Transformation Implementation, were on the calendar for session Thursday but were sent back to the Senate Rules Committee before adjournment. SB 553 would make changes to a handful of state laws regulating local government as well as agricultural, energy, environmental, and natural resources regulations. HB 555 would appropriate the funds needed to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to implement the state's Medicaid transformation to managed care. The Secretary of DHHS, Mandy Cohen, has expressed to lawmakers throughout the session that without a budget by mid-November, the Department may have to start rolling back their work on the transformation.
While the opportunity for the Senate to vote to override the Governor's veto on all three bills may have come and gone for this year, there is still a chance these bills will be back on the Senate's calendar in January. Based on the adjournment resolution passed by House and Senate lawmakers on Thursday, SJR 694: Adjourn 2019 Regular Session to November, veto override votes are eligible for consideration when they reconvene on January 14, 2020. It is unclear whether Senate leadership plans to call the vote on any of the bills in January.
Despite efforts of members in both the House and the Senate, the session adjourned without the passage of a comprehensive storm recovery bill. During the House Committee on Appropriations meeting Wednesday, bill sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) presented a bill that would provide the state funds needed to be eligible for federal matching funds as well as funding for resiliency projects throughout the state. Rep. McGrady acknowledge that the resiliency project funding was a shift in policy for the House, but argued that it is something the state must do in order to prevent the same severe damage from happening to local communities over and over again. After a thorough discussion and unanimous vote out of committee, HB 1023: Storm Recovery Act of 2019 made its way to the floor where it faced a handful of amendments, all of which received strong bipartisan support. HB 1023 would provide a total of $70,812,336 to the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund for the state match of federal disaster assistance dollars. The bill would also allocate over $38 million to the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund for the state match of federal funds for Hurricane Matthew, Michael, and Dorian, $40 million to the Office of Recovery and Resiliency to fund resiliency projects, $36 million to the Department of Transportation for storm related expenses, $5 million to the Division of Soil and Water Conservation for stream debris removal, among a number of other allocations, bringing the bill's total to $280 million. The bill passed the House Wednesday night in a 109-0 vote.
Over in the Senate Thursday, lawmakers approved a bill similar to what was sent over by the House, but did not include the funding for resiliency projects. HB 200: 2019 Storm Recovery Act was first presented in the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday morning before heading to the floor Thursday afternoon. The bill would allocate $70,812,336 to be used for the state match of federal funds for Hurricane Florence, $31,673,258 to the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund for additional federal match programs for Hurricane Matthew, Michael, and Dorian, and $30,000,000 to the Department of Transportation for storm-related repairs. Additionally, the Senate included a provision that would allocate over $13 million in fiscal year 2019-2020 and over $6 million in fiscal year 2020-2021 to the Rural Health Care Stabilization Fund, contingent upon the passage of SB 537: Licensing & HHS Amends & Rural Health Stable or similar legislation. SB 537 was presented to the Governor on Friday morning.
With the resiliency funding removed, the House unanimously voted 106-0 not to concur with the Senate's version of HB 200, sending the bill into conference committee. Rep. McGrady expressed confusion over the Senate's changes to the bill as he had been in discussions with other members as well as Governor Cooper's administration over what provisions to include. The Director of Emergency Management was present at the legislative building this week as the bill was discussed, sharing with the House Appropriations Committee that the federal matching funds for the projects may run out by the end of the month. The General Assembly adjourned Thursday without taking further action on the bill. Since the bill was already placed in conference committee, it will still be eligible for consideration when lawmakers return on November 13.
A main goal of the legislature's return on November 13 will be to redraw North Carolina's 2020 congressional districts. Monday night, an injunction was issued by a panel of judges ordering lawmakers to redraw the state's 13 U.S. House of Representatives districts prior to next year's elections. The judges ruled that maps are likely to contain extreme partisan gerrymandering and should be redrawn. If the maps are not redrawn and ready by the March 3, 2020 primary, the three judge panel has the ability to delay the primaries until the legislature comes up satisfactory maps. Candidate filing for the 2020 election ends in December.
The same time that the three judge panel issued the injunction of the state's congressional districts, they also ruled that the recently redrawn state legislative district maps were satisfactory. The ruling allows the redrawn maps to stand despite some criticism over how fair and transparent the process truly was. Critics of the redrawn maps, and the process by which they were drawn, have expressed concerns that legislators were able to do too much picking and choosing of the areas included in their districts throughout the court-mandated process. Others have expressed tremendous support for the process, citing it as the most transparent redistricting process the legislature has ever experienced. Legislative leadership has noted that the congressional map redraw in mid-November is likely to look similar to the process used during the legislative district redraw.