The General Assembly took the week off, but there was no shortage of news in the state capital during this week that began with a national holiday and ended with a hurricane.
A major decision on redistricting will likely consume the General Assembly on their return next week and Medicaid transformation will be delayed due to the budget standoff.
Meanwhile, the continuing story of North Carolina’s two open Congressional seats took an unusual twist this week as early voting ended abruptly in some counties in advance of Hurricane Dorian’s arrival.
State & Legislative Issues
A three-judge panel of state judges in North Carolina have ruled that the current legislative districts run afoul of the State Constitution as a partisan gerrymander. A few months ago, in a similar case involving North Carolina’s congressional districts, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state’s congressional districts and ruled that the federal courts could not police what was essentially a political question. The U.S. Supreme Court left open the possibility that state constitutions might provide a mechanism for ruling on the issue.
In a 357-page ruling, the panel ruled that the current legislative maps violated the State Constitution’s clauses guaranteeing free elections, equal protection under the law, and freedom of speech and assembly. The panel gave the legislature two weeks to draw new maps – imposing a deadline of September 18.
Although disagreeing with the decision, Sen. Berger, the leader of the Senate, stated that legislative leaders did not intend to appeal the decision. The panel also ordered a more transparent process for the new round of map-making, while stating that some claims about the process used in the previous round of redistricting were “highly improbable”.
Judges order transparency for new NC maps, citing ‘highly improbable’ GOP assurances (Raleigh News & Observer)
The first phase of a major transformation of the state’s Medicaid program has been delayed due to the ongoing budget impasse. North Carolina is transitioning from a fee-for-service system to a managed care system for its Medicaid program. The first phase of this transformation was set to roll out in November. Funding to implement the transition has been held up by the budget impasse. Implementation of the transition is now scheduled for February 2020, but DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen stated that timeline would also be in danger if funding was not approved by mid-November.
Last week, the General Assembly sent Gov. Roy Cooper a stand-alone bill that would have provided the necessary funding for the transition, but that bill was quickly vetoed by the Governor. The bill passed without a single supporting vote from a Democrat in either chamber of the General Assembly, which would make it difficult for Republicans to gain the 60% majority needed to override the Governor’s veto.
NC Medicaid overhaul rollout pushed back by budget impasse (Charlotte Observer)
Early voting is underway in the elections in the 3rd and 9th Congressional districts, but not in all counties. Early voting normally runs through the Saturday before the election, but many eastern North Carolina counties ended or suspended early voting due to the approach and arrival of Hurricane Dorian. At least 14 counties adjusted their early voting schedules. Election Day for the two races is Tuesday, September 10.
Local Issues – Charlotte
Affordable Housing Funding
The Foundation for the Carolinas announced that Charlotte businesses exceeded a goal $50 million in donations to fund affordable housing initiatives. The Foundation last year called on the private-sector to match the $50 million in public money that voters approved through a 2018 bond referendum. $250 million of public and private donations have been committed since spring of 2018, and the city plans to seek an additional $50 million on the 2020 ballot.
Private donations for affordable housing in Charlotte exceed goals (Charlotte Observer)
Local Issues – Raleigh
On Tuesday, the Raleigh City Council approved a rezoning request that will dramatically alter Raleigh’s skyline. The Council approved a request to allow a building of up to 40 stories on a site near the intersection of Peace Street and Capital Boulevard on the northern edge of downtown. Approval by the Council came with the condition that the project include affordable housing. There are no plans currently available and it’s not clear if the building would go as high as 40 stories, but if it does, it will become Raleigh’s tallest building by a substantial margin. The project will be the third phase of the Smokey Hollow development by developer John Kane. The first phase of that project is scheduled to open next year and will include a Publix grocery store.
Raleigh approves rezoning for 40-story tower, with affordable housing, in downtown (Raleigh News and Observer)
- Hurricane Dorian makes landfall in the Outer Banks as a Category 1 storm (Raleigh News & Observer)
- NC Gov. Roy Cooper signs law eliminating more than 20 tests given to students (Charlotte Observer)
- NC state employees will get raises; Gov. Cooper vetoes Medicaid transformation bill (Raleigh News & Observer)
- For the first time in five years, opioid overdose deaths declined in NC in 2018 (Charlotte Observer)
- A man watched on doorbell camera as a tornado from Hurricane Dorian destroyed his home (CNN)