On Tuesday four Republicans in the NC House announced their sponsorship of a bill to display the phrase “In God We Trust” in both the House and Senate chambers of the NCGA. Rep. Ben Moss (R-Richmond), one of the bill’s sponsors, said the motto would remind lawmakers that their votes are “an act of service to the Lord.”
On Thursday the US Supreme Court requested additional briefs from parties in Moore v. Harper – the case in which Republicans argued for the so-called independent state legislature doctrine. Because the NC Supreme Court has chosen to rehear arguments in the gerrymandering case, there is a possibility the US Supreme Court case will be rendered moot. Parties must submit new briefs by March 20.
On Wednesday the NC House Judiciary 2 Committee unanimously approved a bill that would put on the ballot a constitutional amendment to repeal the literacy test for voting that remains in the NC Constitution. HB 44 would take out the phrase “Every person presenting himself for [voter] registration shall be able to read and write any section of the constitution in the English language,” which was added to the NC constitution in 1899 to stop Black citizens from voting.
On Friday the NC Supreme Court issued a ruling reversing a decision the court made four months ago related to the Leandro school funding case. In a 5-2 ruling, the court said that the state controller did not have to transfer $1.75 billion to comply with the Leandro decision, as Superior Court Judge David Lee had previously ordered him to do. The recent NC Supreme Court decision had upheld this order, but last month a lawyer for the current controller, Nels Roseland, told the court he was worried that making the transfer could cause him to face legal penalties.
This week a committee in the NC House approved a bill that would protect American Indian students who wish to wear culturally significant regalia to their high school graduations. HB 166 and SB 139 originally required students to be permitted to wear objects of cultural significance “including bird feathers and plumes,” but the committee amended the bill to specify that only bird feathers and plumes are considered protected objects of cultural significance.
Economic and Housing Policy
On Tuesday the NC Senate Agriculture, Energy, and Environment Committee unanimously approved a bill that would increase civil and criminal penalties for attacking utilities. SB 58 would define “injuring an energy facility” as a new crime and would make it a Class C felony or, if the attack causes someone’s death, a Class B2 felony. The bill was written in response to a series of attacks on utilities in North Carolina and other states late last year.
Health Care Policy
On Thursday the Republican leaders of the NC House and Senate announced that they had reached a deal to expand Medicaid in the state. The final compromise bill will include some provisions the NC Senate had wanted to include, such as a partial repeal of the state’s certificate of need rules, but not a provision to allow highly trained nurses to take on additional duties without the supervision of a doctor (see update below). Also, the expansion of Medicaid would not go into effect until the passage of the state budget. Governor Cooper, who has long pushed for Medicaid expansion along with Democratic lawmakers, celebrated the decision but called for it to be effective immediately.
On Tuesday identical bills were filed in the NC House and Senate to enact the SAVE Act, which would allow advanced practice registered nurses (nurses with at least a master’s degree and sometimes a doctorate) to offer additional patient services without a doctor’s supervision. Nurses currently have to pay doctors as much as tens of thousands of dollars for supervision that nursing and advocacy groups say is not necessary. SB 175 and HB 218 are expected to have broad support in the NCGA, though a provision that would have made the same changes to regulations was taken out of the compromise Medicaid expansion agreement.
On Tuesday the NC Senate passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. SB 3, which would allow for the prescription of marijuana for specific medical conditions, including cancer and PTSD, but not others such as glaucoma or opioid addiction, passed in a 36-10 vote. On Wednesday the Senate gave final approval to the bill and sent it to the House.
This week Republican legislative leaders filed a motion to intervene in a case challenging North Carolina’s restrictions on the prescription of mifepristone, an abortion drug. NC Attorney General Josh Stein had said he would not defend the state’s regulations of the drug; Berger and Moore say that they should be allowed to defend the state’s abortion pill laws given that Stein will not. The suit in question was brought by Dr. Amy Bryant, who says NC’s restrictions are preempted by the FDA.
A bill filed in the NC House would allow cities to employ civilian traffic crash investigators. Such investigators would not be allowed to issue citations or make arrests, and they would only be allowed to investigate property damage. A similar bill was filed last year in the NC Senate, but it didn’t pass.