On March 29 a group of Democratic legislators filed HB 437, the “Fair Maps Act,” in the NC House. The bill would add to the 2022 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment to move responsibility for redistricting from the NC General Assembly to an independent commission. Because the amendment would be voted on in the 2022 election, it would not affect the current redistricting cycle, though it is possible maps drawn in the 2021 cycle could be redrawn by such a commission if they are struck down in the courts.
On March 31 Democrats in the NC House introduced HB 446, “Safeguarding Voting Rights.” The bill includes many provisions to protect voting rights, including reinforcing existing law that establishes the Tuesday before Election Day as the deadline for applying for an absentee ballot and the third day after the election as the receipt deadline for absentee ballots -- both deadlines that Senate Bill 326, introduced by Republicans, seeks to make significantly more stringent. HB 446 also includes provisions to make voter registration and updates of voter information easier, make even-numbered-year November Election Days holidays for state employees, and extend early voting hours on the weekend before Election Day.
On Friday Governor Cooper signed into law a bill that would require a phonics-based approach to teaching reading. The bill, SB 387, was sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, and is meant to fix problems with a 2012 reading instruction law he promoted that has not shown results. Cooper had vetoed a similar bill in 2019, and many experts remain skeptical of the new law. Cooper also announced the signing of another education bill Friday: HB 82, which requires that school districts offer at least 30 hours of in-person instruction, along with enrichment activities, over the summer.
“[NC] Senate Republicans on Wednesday filed a bill [SB 671] to increase school voucher awards by $2,300.” Another bill moving through the NC House [HB 32] “would increase private school vouchers available to some families.”
Republicans in the NC Senate filed a bill Wednesday that would require school districts to ensure that their curricula, professional development, and teaching standards “reflect balanced political viewpoints.” This means that if the “viewpoint of one political party” was presented in classroom materials, “the viewpoint of the alternative political party shall also be presented and given equal weight during the same instructional unit.” Charter schools would be exempt from SB 700.
Economic and Housing Policy
“Governor Roy Cooper has extended North Carolina’s statewide residential eviction moratorium through June 30th, bringing the state in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recent extension of a nationwide moratorium.”
The NC Department of Environmental Quality has fined Chemours nearly $200,000 for various environmental violations.
Health Care Policy
“A key state senator filed legislation Wednesday to legalize medical marijuana for a range of debilitating conditions.” Republican Sen. Bill Rabon, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, is one of the sponsors of SB 711.
Women’s Rights and LGBTQ Rights
“Democratic lawmakers in the state House and Senate filed four bills [on March 30] that would provide protections and equality for LGBTQ North Carolinians.”
“Two new bills filed [last] week target transgender North Carolinians, part of a wave of anti-trans legislation filed by Republicans across the country.”