Updated: Apr 10
Republican leaders in the NC House released their budget plan on Wednesday. The plan includes a minimum 7.5% raise for state employees over the next two years, an average 10.2% raise for teachers over both years, and a permanent 1% increase in pensions for retired state employees. Also included are Republican-supported policy measures such as a ban of COVID-19 vaccine requirements, bans of environmental policies such as cap-and-trade, “academic transparency” provisions that would require teachers to post all course materials on school websites, and funding to establish new public defenders offices in eight NC counties. (See WUNC for more details about implications of the budget for education policy.)
A bill filed in the NC House Monday would establish a pilot program to subsidize child care for preschool-aged children of full-time child care teachers. HB 483 would allocate $10 million each year for two years of the pilot program, with counties chosen for the pilot program based on how many child care workers they have lost over the past decade.
On Tuesday the NC House Education Committee approved a bill that would loosen requirements for school nurses. HB 382, which would remove the requirement that nurses must be nationally certified within three years of working in schools, is designed to address a shortage of school nurses. The committee also approved HB 172, which would require schools to form “medical condition action plans” for students diagnosed with disorders that could lead to emergencies, and HB 253, which would require schools to provide “character education” and resources and information about abuse and suicide prevention.
On Tuesday a committee in the NC House approved a bill that would increase penalties for teachers who engage in sex with students or take indecent liberties with them. HB 142 would increase these offenses from a Class I to a Class G felony (punishable by up to 47 months in prison), and would class superintendent or school leaders’ failure to report such incidents as a Class I felony.
On Wednesday NC Senate Republicans filed a bill that – at an increase of $1.3 billion over 7 years – would represent the largest-ever expansion of North Carolina’s private school voucher system. SB 406 would remove any income cap for receiving a voucher and would increase voucher amounts for families making less money, with awards offered on a sliding scale and tied to the state’s per-pupil spending on public schools. Democrats have criticized the voucher program for taking money away from the state’s public school system.
On Thursday a group of Republicans in the NC Senate filed a bill that would ban participation trophies in youth sports leagues. SB 430 would instead require trophies to be awarded “based on identified performance achievements.”
On Tuesday the NC House approved a bill legalizing sports betting. HB 347, which would allow electronic betting on college and professional sports, passed in a 66-45 vote. Democrats tried to include amendments to slow or soften the bill, but all eight proposed amendments were rejected. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by Governor Cooper.
On Tuesday the NC Senate Insurance Committee approved three bills changing state insurance laws. SB 134 would require insurance companies to finish underwriting investigations in 90 days, protecting homeowners from surprise claim denials. SB 123 would close a loophole that has allowed some contractors to refuse to pay their subcontractors. SB 319 would cut taxes for a type of insurance company called a risk retention group from 5% to 1.85%, even lower than the 2% tax the industry had asked for.
On Tuesday a bill was introduced in the NC House that would freeze building codes until 2031. HB 488 would prevent the Building Code Council from adopting the International Energy Conservation Code, a set of energy efficiency standards developed by the International Code Council that – if adopted – would increase energy efficiency in NC homes by around 18%. Both the Building Code Council and the NC Department of Insurance raised concerns about the bill.
Health Care Policy
On Monday Governor Cooper officially signed Medicaid expansion into law. Medicaid expansion, which is tied to adoption of the state budget, would extend health coverage to around 600,000 North Carolinians.
On Tuesday the NC House Health Committee declined to vote on a bill that would allow Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to restructure. HB 346 would allow the company to create a nonprofit parent holding company that would not fall under the same regulations as the insurance company, and which they could use for investing assets. Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey criticized the bill in the committee hearing, and members of the committee remained skeptical.
“Proposed NC abortion ban is unlikely to become law but worries advocates, doctors” - The News and Observer
“Three House Republicans filed a bill this week that would make abortion illegal in North Carolina at any stage of pregnancy, except if it risks the life of the mother. Without the support of Republican leaders — who have said this legislation does not reflect the group’s consensus — the bill is unlikely to get very far.”
Gun Violence Prevention
On Wednesday the NC House voted 71-46 to override Governor Cooper’s veto of the bill repealing the state’s pistol permitting regulation. The vote to override the governor’s veto broke along party lines, and it was successful because the absence of two Democratic representatives gave Republicans a three-fifths majority. The law now allows people to purchase pistols without receiving a permit from a sheriff, opening up a loophole for pistol sales at gun shows or online.
On Tuesday the NC House approved a bill that would require sheriffs to cooperate with ICE. HB 10, which would require sheriffs to report immigration status of any person charged with a felony or violent crime, is similar to bills Governor Cooper vetoed in 2019 and 2022. Civil liberties advocates and immigration groups have advocated against the bill
On Tuesday the NC Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill that would allow victims of domestic violence to testify remotely in criminal proceedings. SB 51, called “Kayla’s Act” in honor of Kayla Hammonds, who was fatally stabbed by an ex-boyfriend, would also expand the statute of limitations for misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from two to 10 years.
On Thursday a group of NC House Republicans introduced a series of bills to crack down on drunk driving. HB 148 would lower the allowed blood alcohol content from .08 to .05, and four other bills would change fee structures, sentencing, and license restoration procedures for drunk driving.