The North Carolina General Assembly will convene this week for the third special session of the 2017-2018 legislature. Legislative leaders have told lawmakers to be prepared for a session that begins on Wednesday and will likely end on Thursday or Friday. Both the House and Senate convene on Wednesday, October 4 at noon.
Capitol watchers have been uncertain what topics lawmakers will tackle in the session. The best guidance on what lawmakers will address was outlined in the July adjournment resolution, Resolution 2017-15, Senate Joint Resolution 692, approved by both houses and passed on August 31st. Some of the topics lawmakers are expected to address include:
- Judicial Redistricting
- Legislative Redistricting Proposed Amendments to the NC State Constitution
- Legislation vetoes by the Governor
- Gubernatorial Appointments
- Appointments of the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate
- Bills relating to Impeachment (Article IV of NC State Constitution)
- Litigation challenging the legality of elections
- Local Bills
Judicial Redistricting – Having approved a plan for legislative redistricting, Republicans in the House and Senate have developed a plan for redistricting election districts for local judges and prosecutors. According to government experts, judicial districts haven’t been updated since 1955, the year when the modern North Carolina court system was formed. Republican advocates say the review is needed to create more uniform maps and account for population movements that created population inequities across districts. Democratic critics say more time is needed to study the plan and its impact.
Veto Overrides– Legislators will likely consider two bills vetoed by Gov. Cooper; S-16 (Business Regulatory Act of 2017) and H-56 (Amendments to various environmental laws). Three-fifths of each chamber (House and the Senate) must vote to override the Governor’s veto for the bill to become law.
Budget Technical Corrections– Included in the Special Session is a technical corrections bill. The bill includes necessary changes to the budget bill and other legislation. Because of its noncontroversial nature, the technical corrections bill has been a favorite place to insert pet projects that legislators want passed.
Appointments Bill – HB 256 (S.L.2017-75)– A catch-all appointments bill for various boards and commissions. Passage conveys legislative approval of the appointment to designated offices.
Local Bills. Among other possibilities are what are called local bills. These bills are – as the name implies – primarily local or regional in scope. Local bills do not need to be signed by the Governor to become law. Two local bills that may get consideration involve allow involve the posting of government legal notices and allowing towns to operate their own charter school. (HB 514) introduced by Rep. Bill Brawley, would allow two Mecklenburg County towns to operate their own charter schools.
Earlier this year, the bill was approved by the House on a vote of 79-39. However, the Senate failed to take action. The bill was introduced at the request of resident of two Mecklenburg County towns, Matthews and Mint Hill, who feared they would be adversely impacted by Mecklenburg County’s student assignment plan. Educators and school board members area watching the legislation closely.
A second bill involves a proposal to end the obligation on municipal and county governments to post legal notices in local newspapers. New legislation limited the exemption to place notices on government web sites to four communities. Final legislation limited the legislation to Guilford County. As you might expect, local publishers were against the bill saying it compromised the public’s right to know and cost the newspapers another source of revenue. Revenue from the bill was expected to help fund teacher pay supplements. The final version of the bill was limited to Guilford County and put forward by Senator Trudy Wade (R-Guilford). Opponents say the bill was intended to target the Greensboro News & Record in Guilford which had been critical of Wade. The bill passed the House and the Senate before going to Cooper for signature.
Other Possible Topics. While these are the likely topics for consideration, it doesn’t mean discussion will be limited to these subjects. Public school advocates are hoping lawmakers will consider fully funding class size requirements enacted two years ago. Some educators say class size requirements are pinching school district budgets and making less funding available for subjects such as physical education and art. Often missing from the discussion is that earlier this year lawmakers passed legislation (HB 13). The legislation gave school districts additional flexibility in meeting school caps and classroom requirements. It’s unknown whether lawmakers will take up classroom funding as part of the special session.
The Special Session begins Wednesday, October 4th. Count on Civitas to cover major developments and provide analyses as to how legislation impacts the lives of North Carolinians.
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