The 2019 Long Session of the General Assembly is now in full swing. As a result of last November’s elections, Republicans maintained majorities in both Senate and House but lost their super-majorities in both chambers. This means that the Democratic minorities have the numbers to sustain vetoes Governor Roy Cooper might stamp on bills sent to him by the General Assembly. One of the unanswered questions for this session is whether this modest shift in power will inspire more cooperation between Democrats and Republicans and between the legislature and the Governor or will lead to total gridlock with little or nothing getting enacted into law.
The following bills were among those introduced during the first week for new legislation:
HB 5/SB 3 – Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap
These identical bills are short, only a little over a page long, but they would initiate the process of letting North Carolina provide Medicaid health insurance coverage to as many as a half-million people. The bills have three parts:
- The first would repeal a law passed in 2013 by the Republican-led majority and signed by Governor McCrory, which prohibited NC from taking part in the Medicaid expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- The state’s Department of Health and Human Services would be required to provide coverage for those meeting the following criteria, as defined in the bills:
- An income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level.
- Between the ages of 19 and 65
- Not enrolled in Medicare
- Not otherwise eligible for Medicaid.
- The bills state a legislative intent to cover the non-federal (i.e., state) part of this coverage through an assessment on hospital providers, though there are no provisions in the bills to actually implement this intent. Under terms of the ACA, 90% of the costs would be paid by the federal government.
Introduced by Reps. Adcock (D-Cary), Cunningham (D-Charlotte), Insko (D-Chapel Hill), and Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson) and by Sens. Clark (D-Raeford), Blue (D-Raleigh), and Robinson (D-Greensboro). The House bill has been referred, sequentially, to the House Health, Appropriations, and Rules Committees. (A sequential referral means it goes first to Health and, if it gets a favorable report there, then to Appropriations and, if favorable there, to Rules.) The Senate bill has been referred to Senate Rules, which often serves as a graveyard for bills not supported by the chamber’s leadership.
HB 10/SB 19 — Repeal 2015 Law Related to Monuments
These identical bills would simply repeal the law, passed in 2015 by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed by Gov. McCrory, that made it much more difficult to remove Confederate monuments, such as Silent Sam at UNC-CH, from state property.
Introduced in the House by Reps. Harrison (D-Greensboro), Terry (D-Winston-Salem), Morey (D-Durham), and Alexander (D-Charlotte) and in the Senate by Sens. Lowe (D-Winston-Salem) and Foushee (D-Hillsborough). Referred sequentially in the House to State and Local Government, Judiciary, and Rules, and in the Senate to Rules.
This bill addresses the Silent Sam issue more directly by requiring UNC-CH to transfer all of the monument to the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which is then instructed to place it in a cemetery that is the burial place of a “significant number of Confederate soldiers”.
Introduced by Rep. Alexander (D-Charlotte). Referred sequentially to House State and Local Government, Education – Universities, and Rules.
SB 28 – Restore Master’s Pay for Certain Teachers
Prior to the 2013-14 legislative session, teachers who had earned master’s degrees were rewarded with increased pay. In that session, legislative leaders who thought pay should be based on performance, not credentials, did away with most of the pay increases going forward. (Teachers already getting the supplement or who had started degree programs that would have qualified them for a supplement when completed were grandfathered/mothered in.) S 28 would reinstate the supplements for teachers who don’t currently qualify for the grandfathered/mothered benefits but who spend at least 70% of their time in classroom instruction related to their graduate studies.
Introduced by Sens. Britt (R-Lumberton) and Horner (R-Wilson) and referred to Senate Rules.
Several of you have noted in our recent survey that you’d like more specific guidelines on suggested action on bills. We will do our best to provide that information. But, first, here are some preparatory steps you can take:
- Review the Council’s Grassroots Advocate Toolkit — https://ncchurches.org/take-action/grassroots-advocacy-toolkit/
- To prepare for the new legislative session, do the following:
- Be sure you know who your state senator and state representative are. You can confirm that information by going to https://www.ncleg.gov/RnR/Representation and entering your address. In the resulting search report, you can click on the names of your representative and senator and be linked to their pages.
- On your legislators’ pages, you will find their email addresses and phone numbers. Bookmark this information so you can contact them quickly when you need to.
- There you can also see which committees your legislators have been assigned to. Bill summaries in Raleigh Report will include the committee to which a bill has been assigned. If your senator or representative is a member of that committee, communications with your legislator will be most timely.
- If you have a network of legislative advocates, either in your congregation or in the community, encourage them to take these steps and then be ready to receive information and suggested action from you.