The General Assembly began discussions of some of the more controversial subjects this week. Bills debated in committee included proposals to expand gaming options in the state, to require sheriffs to cooperate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and to study changes to the State Health Plan. The Appropriations committees concluded their joint overview meetings and will now split off to begin work separately on the budget. The House works on a budget first this year and expects to have its version on the floor by late April. A total of 177 bills were filed this week – 90 in the House and 87 in the Senate.
State and Legislative Issues
The issue of legalized gambling or gaming in North Carolina popped up in several different places over the last few weeks.
- With the country in the grip of March Madness, many in North Carolina may be surprised to learn that NCAA bracket betting pools are illegal in North Carolina. Sen. Rick Gunn has introduced legislation that would authorize the practice so long as all the amounts paid in to the pool are either paid out to participants or donated to an eligible nonprofit organization.
- House Bill 130 received final approval in the House this week and has moved on to the Senate. The bill would authorize certain nonprofit organizations along with some employers and trade associations to operate “game nights” where games of chance are played and prizes are awarded by raffle at facilities serving alcoholic beverages.
- Senate Bill 154 was up for discussion only in the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday. That bill would include “sports wagering” in the list of gaming activities that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are allowed to conduct on the reservation. The definition of “sports wagering” was amended to include betting on horse racing as well as on professional and collegiate sports.
- In Washington, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has introduced legislation that would clear the way for the Catawba Nation (based in South Carolina) to acquire land in Kings Mountain, NC for a proposed casino.
Health care remained a focus of the General Assembly on several different fronts this week.
A bill that would create a joint legislative committee to study the State Health Plan cleared its first hurdle this week. On Tuesday, the House Health Committee passed House Bill 184. The bill came about as the result of opposition from numerous parties in the health care sector to a proposal by State Treasurer Folwell to change how the State Health Plan handles reimbursements to providers.
Bill to review State Health Plan clears first hurdle; controversy over proposal continues (Winston-Salem Journal)
On Tuesday, Senate leaders proposed an expansion of a Medicaid waiver program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in lieu of broader Medicaid expansion proposals offered by Democrats or some House Republicans. Senate Bill 361 would also repeal the state’s Certificate of Need law and would enter North Carolina into PsyPact, an interstate compact that allows mental health providers licensed in one state to provide services to patients in other states, either in person or via telemedicine.
Senate Bill 387, filed on Wednesday, would add a work or community engagement requirement for certain Medicaid beneficiaries. The bill would apply to non-disabled adults and would be similar to the requirements imposed under SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Local Issues – Charlotte
Senate Bill 191 passed the Senate unanimously this week and has moved to the House. The bill, filed by Sens. Waddell (D-Mecklenburg) and Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), would allow the City of Charlotte to contract with out-of-state law enforcement agencies and out-of-state law enforcement officers to provide security for the Republican National Convention in 2020. Cities already have the authority to enter into similar agreements with in-state law enforcement agencies. The proposal is similar to one adopted in 2012 for the Democratic National Convention.
Local Issues – Triangle
Triangle Light Rail
On Wednesday, the GoTriangle Board of Trustees voted to discontinue the proposed light rail project between Durham and Chapel Hill. In recent months, the project faced multiple challenges – opposition from Duke University and certain downtown businesses over the proposed route, a failure to reach agreements with the North Carolina Railroad over several issues, and looming deadlines to secure state and federal funding. The cancellation of the Durham-Orange Light Rail project does not necessarily affect the pending proposal for commuter rail between Wake and Durham Counties.
GoTriangle ends Durham-Orange Light Rail project. Advocates call it a ‘tragic loss‘ (Raleigh News & Observer)
Almost seven months out from election day (Raleigh municipal elections are held in October instead of November), the race for mayor is beginning to heat up. Two weeks ago, Mayor Nancy McFarlane announced she would not seek re-election to a fifth term. This week, former Wake County Commissioner Caroline Sullivan and former Raleigh City Council Member Mary-Ann Baldwin announced their candidacies for the position. They join Raleigh attorney Charles Francis, who lost to McFarlane in a run-off election in 2017.
- The Supreme Court does not like gerrymandering (Economist)
- Lawmakers want to make it easier for the governor to revamp I-77 toll contract (Charlotte Observer)
- Why these state senators want ban on new wind farms in eastern NC (Charlotte Business Journal)
- Federal Judge Blocks North Carolina Ban On Abortions Later Than 20 Weeks (NPR)
- WakeMed in Raleigh is the spot as UPS makes its first deliveries with drones in the U.S. (Raleigh News & Observer)
- Bird and Lime scooters to cease operations in Raleigh (WRAL)
- Asheville area lawmakers propose North Carolina ban on LGBT ‘conversion therapy’ (Asheville Citizen-Times)