On Friday the Republican majority in the NCGA gave final approval to the state budget, which includes several provisions that Democrats find highly problematic. Governor Cooper said he would allow the budget to become law without his signature. The passage of the budget means Medicaid expansion in North Carolina will now be able to go into effect. See each section below for other notable budget provisions.
Multiple governance provisions were included in the budget. A state oversight committee, called GovOps, was given sweeping powers to investigate state and local governments and private companies and charities, allowing them to charge “uncooperative” people with crimes. Critics decried the provision, noting that the broad powers assigned the committee would be ripe for abuse. The budget also includes provisions to allow lawmakers to refuse public records requests at will, changes appointment powers for the Judicial Standards Division, and allocates more power to the Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court. Finally, the budget includes raises for state employees and raises for the governor and the Council of State.
On Thursday Representative Terrence Everitt (D-Wake) received notice from NC House Speaker Tim Moore that his legislative office had been moved to a basement supply closet. While he was waiting to vote on the new budget, someone boxed up his things in his old office. Everitt said the sudden forced move was likely a retaliation from Moore for Everitt’s request to the Wake County District Attorney to investigate Moore over a salary increase given to a state employee with whom he was having an affair.
The state budget repeals the law requiring draft maps and other redistricting records to be made public after districts are approved. Along with a broader provision exempting lawmakers from public records requests, this change means all redistricting records can be hidden, something Democrats say there is no reason to do.
On Tuesday the NC House voted along party lines to approve a Republican bill to transfer election board appointment power from the governor to the state legislature. SB 749 would allow the legislature to select all members of state and local elections boards, with selection split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. In the case of an evenly split decision by the state board on picking a chairman or executive director, legislative leaders would have the power to break the tie. Governor Cooper is expected to veto the bill, but with the Republican supermajority, it is likely his veto will be overturned and the issue will end up in the courts. In 2017 a similar proposal was struck down as unconstitutional in a court case.
The NC House passed another elections bill Tuesday that would make people’s ballots a public record. HB 770 would allow outside groups to request access to all of the state’s ballots to conduct their own audits. The bill was originally introduced by far-right representatives in response to false claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, but the final version passed with bipartisan support after significant revisions.
The new state budget includes many education provisions. These include an increase of $100 million each year for private school vouchers, an average raise of 7% over two years for teachers, a transfer of power over the community college system to the state legislature, an increase in free lunch eligibility for students, increased pay for school bus drivers, an extension of the deadline for schools to implement the so-called “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” and a ban on school or college COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
The budget speeds up planned personal income tax cuts, bringing rates down year by year to 3.99% in 2026. Notably, the final budget did not include multiple gambling provisions that had stalled negotiations in recent weeks, including the licensing of four new casinos and legalizing of video gambling.
The budget includes several environmental provisions. These include limitations on emissions regulations, including preventing the state from requiring cap-and-trade offsets for utilities, an exemption for all counties except Mecklenburg for emissions tests in annual auto inspections, and a ban on emissions requirements for new vehicles. In addition, the budget bans municipalities from restricting plastic bag use, provides funding for PFAS cleanup, and increases licensing fees for electric vehicles to offset gas tax losses.
On Friday the NCGA passed its near-annual regulatory reform bill, HB 600. Critics of the bill said it would harm water quality by allowing water quality permits to be issued without considering federal water quality regulations. In addition, the bill approves a pipeline to transport natural gas into Alamance County and allows poultry farmers to compost dead animals without Department of Environmental Quality oversight.
Health Care Policy
In addition to Medicaid expansion, the new budget includes $320 million for a new children’s hospital and $210 million for rural health clinics. The budget also includes expanded eligibility for prison medical release, funding for digitization of birth records, and changes in classifications for UNC and ECU health care workers.
Legal Aid lawyers carved out of tuition assistance program in latest budget – Kelan Lyons, NC Newsline
NC lawmakers vote to require age verification on pornographic websites – Travis Fain, WRAL