A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision coming out of a North Carolina case was released on Thursday with profound impacts on how legislative and Congressional districts may be drawn. Also on Thursday, the House and Senate ratified a State budget, sending it to the Governor for action. Gov. Roy Cooper announced plans to veto the legislation on Friday. This will set up a high-stakes veto override attempt at the General Assembly.
Expect a quiet week in Raleigh next week, as the House takes the entire week off for the Fourth of July holiday, while the Senate plans to meet on Monday and Tuesday only.
In local news, another Fortune 100 company is bringing jobs to Charlotte as Lowe’s announced this week that it has selected the Queen City as the future home of its global tech hub.
State and Legislative Issues
In a ruling issued on Thursday with respect to cases out of North Carolina and Maryland, the Supreme Court of the United States, while expressing reservations about the practice, held that drawing Congressional district lines to favor one political party was a political issue and beyond the power of the federal courts to address. The decision lets North Carolina Congressional districts drawn in 2016 stand. The decision could have major impacts across the nation. Lower courts had ordered that district lines be redrawn in Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio prior to the 2020 elections. Those orders will likely be dismissed unless there is another issue in the specific case. The decision also raises the stakes across the country ahead of legislative elections in 2019 and 2020. In most states, legislatures are responsible for drawing districts maps. The party that wins control of a state legislature in the next election will have to power to draw district maps after the 2020 census.
High court’s ruling shifts gerrymandering focus to states (Washington Post)
On Thursday, the House and Senate each gave final approval to a two-year state budget and sent the legislation to the Governor for action. Highlights of the $24 billion annual spending plan include raises for State employees and teachers, corporate tax cuts, the relocation of the headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services from Raleigh to Granville County, and a plan for State spending of $4.4 billion on public school construction over the next decade. Noticeably, but not surprisingly, absent was an expansion of the state Medicaid program.
The General Assembly did not have to wait long for the Governor’s response. In a press conference Friday morning, the Gov. Cooper announced his intent to veto the legislation officially later in the day.
Roy Cooper will veto GOP-backed state budget. Will lawmakers override him? (Raleigh News & Observer)
On Thursday, the Senate gave final approval to HB 370, Require Cooperation with ICE Detainers. The bill would require local law enforcement to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with respect to persons in their custody. Failure to cooperate could result in termination of employment or removal from office. The bill had previously passed the House and is back in that chamber for concurrence with changes made in the Senate. The House has not yet taken the issue back up. The Governor has argued that the bill is unconstitutional. The votes in both the House and Senate fell along party lines, with all Republicans present voting for it and all Democrats present voting against it. If the General Assembly gives final approval to the legislation, this would likely set up another veto from the Governor.
Death by Distribution
On Thursday, the General Assembly gave final approval to HB 474, Death by Distribution. The bill would create new criminal offenses for “death by distribution” and “aggravated death by distribution” of controlled substances. The bill would impose additional criminal penalties on dealers of illegal substances when the substance results in the death of the user. Proponents see it as an important tool in combatting drug crimes in the state, but opponents fear it might result in more deaths as associates might be less willing to call for medical assistance, due to a fear of prosecution, when someone is in a crisis. The bill passed with bipartisan support in both chambers and now heads to the Governor for consideration.
Bill Toughens Penalties for Drug Dealers in Overdose Deaths (U.S. News & World Report)
Local Issues – Charlotte
Lowe’s Jobs Announcement
Lowe’s announced this week that it will bring about 2,000 jobs to the South End neighborhood of Charlotte where Lowe’s will occupy most of a new 23-story office building, known as the Design Center Tower. Construction is slated to begin later this summer. In the interim, Lowe’s tech professionals will be located Uptown. The news follows a December announcement that the company would be investing heavily in its technology transformation.
Local Issues – Raleigh
A packed house showed up for a discussion of housing issues in Raleigh. The conversation centered around gentrification. It’s been a hot issue in Raleigh, as growth and redevelopment in the downtown area has led to significant and ongoing changes in many neighborhoods to the south and southeast of downtown. Some fear that the historic character of the neighborhoods, many of which were traditionally home mostly to African Americans in part due to past segregationist practices, will be lost as the racial make-up shifts towards white newcomers. In addition, some worry that the neighborhood will become unaffordable to many long-time residents. Others welcome the focus on redevelopment of a neglected corner of the city and the increase in property values.
- Beer and wine sales are now possible at college stadiums and arenas in North Carolina (Raleigh News & Observer)
- NC lawmakers added a new high school graduation requirement. Why are some unhappy? (Charlotte Observer)
- Called to serve: How this small North Carolina town became #1 in military recruiting (Raleigh News & Observer)
- NC county to start 1st human trafficking court in state (Greensboro News and Record)
- ‘It came from nowhere.’ NC teachers question move to have computers test reading. (Charlotte Observer)
- Bill letting retired teachers return to work in high-needs schools goes to governor (Raleigh News & Observer)