The North Carolina House and Senate convene today in Special Session at noon to take up a variety of topics. It was initially hoped that this would be a short session. However recent events are leading many to believe it may last longer than expected. A few topics lawmakers are likely to address include:
Congressional Redistricting. A three panel of federal judges recently ruled North Carolina’s redistricting proposal for thirteen U.S. Congressional Districts as “unconstitutional” because the districts constituted “partisan gerrymandering.” The Court gave lawmakers until January 29th to fix the problem. The legal process has dragged on for months and is now close to the time when candidates must declare their intention to run. Whether these realities expedite the process, only time will tell.
Judicial Elections. Lawmakers are expected to develop new maps for judicial election districts and local district attorneys. The House approved some maps in October. However, Senate proposals to replace head-to-head elections with appointment and retention elections still need to be approved.
Appointments. Probably one of the less controversial subjects that lawmakers will address. Lawmakers will hopefully act on approving a backlog of appointments for state boards and commissions for Governor Roy Cooper, as well as for House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Phil Berger.
Health and Environment. In response to the state’s response to the GenX chemical spill in Bladen County, House Republicans and Senators want the legislature to direct State health and environmental officials to study the effects of unregulated chemicals in drinking water statewide. Passing the study may be the easy part. The difficult part may be deciding whether to back the testing bill with money (how much?) and equipment, something Governor Cooper is advocating.
Class Size. Public school advocates are pressing lawmakers to develop a proposal to address the concern that class size requirements will result in the loss of music and art teachers. A committee of lawmakers is currently working on a solution. Still, it doesn’t sound like the legislation is likely to be taken up before the May session.
As with most special sessions, other topics may be added and the timing is open-ended. In this case, the flexibility may work to help the legislature hone in on a number of complex subjects like redistricting and judicial selection. Such sentiments are counterbalanced by the fact that 2018 is an election year and lawmakers want to campaign, raise money and be in session only as long as it takes to get their business done and then leave.
How that happens — and when — are questions we are all waiting to see answered.