COVID-19 | NC Legislative Update April 30

COVID-19 | NC Legislative Update

Updated April 30, 2020

Thursday, April 30, was the third day of the legislative short session.  The session has dealt almost exclusively with the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved its response proposal by a vote of 48-0.  In addition to making numerous statutory changes in response to the epidemic, the Senate proposal includes a spending plan of about $1.3 billion.  Yesterday, the House gave final approval to a separate bill that included appropriations of approximately $1.7 billion.  The House vote was 117-1, with the sole “no” vote coming from Rep. Michael Speciale.

House and Senate leaders are negotiating a final package for the State’s initial response and expect to vote on compromise legislation Friday, May 1.

Many of the policy proposals in the Senate bill are identical or nearly identical to provisions in the House bill.  The House proposal includes significantly more policy changes than the Senate bill.  The biggest differences come from spending priorities.  The following are some of the big areas of difference between the two proposals.

  • The House and Senate each set aside $300 million for the Department of Transportation, but there is an important distinction between the two.  Federal law currently prevents the use of federal funds for revenue replacement.  The funds must be allocated to new spending items.  The House proposal appropriates theses funds contingent on a change in federal law, whereas the Senate proposal sets this amount aside and states that it is the intent of the General Assembly to appropriate these funds if there is change in federal law.  The difference between the two approaches is that if there is a change in federal law, then the funds would be appropriated under the House proposal without requiring further action by the General Assembly but not under the Senate proposal, which would require further action by the General Assembly.
  • The House proposal would appropriate $350 million to local governments, whereas the Senate proposal would appropriate $150 million to local governments while setting aside an additional $150 million for future use.
  • Both the House and Senate would appropriate a significant amount for loans to small businesses administered by the Golden L.E.A.F.  The Senate proposal would appropriate $125 million for this program whereas the House version would appropriate $75 million.
  • The House proposal would provide $110 million to educations of higher learning for research related to Covid-19.  The Duke University Human Vaccine Institute, the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC, the Brody School of Medicine at ECU, and the Wake Forest School of Medicine would each receive $25 million under this proposal and the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine would receive $10 million.  The Senate would provide $15 million for these purposes to be administered by the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory at UNC.  The Senate proposal would also provide an additional $15 million to the Duke University Human Vaccine Institute for work to develop a safe and effective vaccine and $20 million to Wake Forest University Health Services to continue its study to include syndromic surveillance and representative sample antibody testing to provide policymakers with more data.
  • The Senate proposal would provide $61 million to rural hospitals.  The House proposal would provide $75 million to rural hospitals and another $50 million to non-rural hospitals.
  • The House proposal includes an additional $40 million for Medicaid.  That proposal would also temporarily expand Medicaid to cover individuals up to 200% of the federal poverty level with respect to Covid-19 prevention, testing, and treatment only.  The Senate proposal does not include those provisions.

Legislators are expected to hash out their differences overnight and then to vote on two packages tomorrow.  These bills would then head to the Governor for his approval.

Once completing their work tomorrow, the General Assembly is expected to adjourn until some time later this year.  Earlier, legislative leaders had indicated they might adjourn until later in the summer.  This week, several key legislators have made comments suggesting that legislators could be coming back in matter of a few weeks to address additional issues.   We’ll know more about the schedule tomorrow.