COVID-19 | NC Legislative Update May 2

COVID-19 | NC Legislative Update

Updated May 4, 2020

The General Assembly met on Saturday, May 2, to vote on compromise legislation for the state’s initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The legislation passed in two bills, one that primarily included appropriations and one that included other policy changes.  Gov. Roy Cooper signed the COVID-19 relief package into law Monday, May 4. Highlights of the two bills are below.

The General Assembly also passed an unrelated bill, House Bill 1041, that made appointments to various boards and commissions.

Speaker Tim Moore announced plans for the rest of session, which includes the House holding skeletal sessions for the next two weeks.  During that time, the House Select Committee on Covid-19 will meet to continue looking at the State’s response to the pandemic.  The Speaker expects that regular meetings of the House will then resume during the week of May 18.  He indicated that the House would no longer allow proxy voting at that time, but would continue to allow longer time periods for members to vote.  It is unclear if the Legislative Complex will be open to people other than members, staff, and the media.

House Bill 1043 – Pandemic Response Act

This is the bill that includes the appropriations.  In total, the bill appropriates $1.4 billion for the 2019-20 fiscal year.  Highlights include:

  • $300 million for the General Maintenance Fund at the Department of Transportation, if allowed by federal law.
  • $150 million for local governments.
  • $125 million for small business loans.
  • $95 million for grants to hospitals.
  • $85 million for various institutions of higher learning for testing and research related to development of treatments or vaccines for Covid-19.
  • $75 million for school nutrition programs.
  • $70 million for continuity of operations at State agencies.
  • $70 million to the Department of Public Instruction for summer learning programs.
  • $51.5 million for various IT support programs at the Department of Public Instruction.
  • $50 million to purchase personal protective equipment.
  • $50 million for grants to healthcare providers in rural and underserved communities.
  • $44 million for The University of North Carolina system.
  • $25 million for the North Carolina Community College system.
  • $25 million for facilities providing care under the State-County Special Assistance program.
  • $25 million for new initiatives related to testing, contact tracing, and trends tracking.
  • $20 million for behavioral health and crisis services.
  • $20 million to offset lost receipts at various State agencies, if allowed by federal law.
  • $20 million to the Department of Health and Human Service to support additional healthcare workforce needs.
  • $15 million to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for animal depopulation and disposal.
  • $9 million to the Department of Information Technology for rural broadband grants.
  • $6 million for food banks.
  • $5 million for free and charitable clinics.
  • $5 million for community health centers.
  • $5 million to develop a marketing campaign for tourism.
  • $2.25 million to increase payments for foster children by $100 month.

A longer summary of House Bill 1043 prepared by legislative staff can be found here.

Senate Bill 704 – Covid-19 Recovery Act

This is the bill that includes policy changes.  Among other things, the bill:

  • Adjusts tax law to mirror relief provided by the IRS.  This includes delaying the personal and corporate income tax filing and payment deadlines from April 15 to July 15 and waiving interest for payments received after April 15.
  • Makes changes to the unemployment insurance program to provide additional flexibility.
  • Provides modifications to or waivers of numerous education requirements including student testing, teacher evaluations, teacher and school personnel training, teacher and school personnel licensure, and school report cards.
  • Requires a study with respect to maintaining a State stockpile of personal protective equipment.
  • Requires a study of issues affecting the healthcare workforce during a pandemic.
  • Provides temporary liability protection for healthcare workers providing services with respect to Covid-19.
  • Provides temporary civil liability immunity to essential businesses for injuries or death resulting from customers or employees contracting COVID-19 at the business.
  • Allows for remote notarization and witnessing of legal documents.
  • Amends the State’s anti-mask law to provide a temporary exception for public health reasons.
  • Extends for five months the validity of numerous licenses and authorizations from the Division of Motor Vehicles that would otherwise expire during the state of emergency.
  • Permits release of communicable disease information from the Department of Health and Human Services or local health departments to law enforcement under certain circumstances.
  • Reauthorizes counties and municipalities to issue special obligation bonds and notes.
  • Authorizes remote public meetings during periods of declarations of states of emergency.
  • Delays the effective date of the new consolidated land use planning statutes, Chapter 160D of the General Statutes, from January 1, 2021, to August 1, 2021.
  • Directs State agencies to exercise regulatory flexibility.
  • Provides that for any development approval that is current and valid at any point during the period beginning March 10, 2020, and ending April 28, 2020, the expiration date of the period of development approval and any associated vested rights is extended for five months.

A longer summary of Senate Bill 704 can be found here.