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September 4, 2019

The General Assembly is on Labor Day recess until Monday, September 9th at 7pm. That doesn't mean there is not a lot going on. The most recent news is the 357-page ruling by a three-judge NC Superior Court panel that many districts created in the 2017 redistricting process are unconstitutionally drawn, based on partisan gerrymandering. Republicans had to redraw certain districts in 2017 because the 2011 maps were racially gerrymandered and thus ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. The 2017 Republican NC House majority leader stated they believed partisan gerrymandering was constitutional. (The US Supreme Court recently declined to rule on the issue of partisan gerrymandering).

The current case was based on state law and can be appealed only to the seven-member NC Supreme Court that is currently comprised of 6 Democrats and 1 Republican. The judges ruled that General Assembly had to submit new maps for both the NC House and Senate in two weeks. The map drawing process has to be public and will be overseen by the courts. The judges reserved the right to reject the maps and, if necessary, delay the scheduled December 2 candidate filing period and the March 3, 2020 Primary Election dates.

Senator Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the Senate has stated he will not appeal the ruling. It is unlikely House Republicans would appeal on their own. House Speaker Tim Moore has announced a meeting of the House Redistricting Committee on Monday, 1-2pm in 643 LOB. You can listen in on a computer. Select Audio on the top banner and 643 at https://www.ncleg.gov.

Roughly 40 of the 120 House districts are affected. Although they are currently held by about half Democrat and half Republican members, Democrats stand to be favored in most of the cases.

HB 966. The State budget stalemate moves to a new stage. Republicans seem to have accepted that they can't over-ride the Governorís veto of the State budget. Rather than negotiate, they are bringing forward a series of smaller bills dealing with sections of the budget as well as key policy issues. If they pass enough individual spending bills, they can adjourn the long session without a formal budget. The Governor will sign some bills and allow others to go into effect without his signature. He will veto any bill that is not consistent with his compromise offer. This budget by piecemeal approach could make it harder to hold NC House and Senate Democrats together.

The long-term goal, of course, is the 2020 election. If Republicans were to convince enough Democrats to override the Governor's veto, that would weaken him and the entire 2020 Democratic slate. However, the tense atmosphere and the court ruling on the 2017 district lines have solidified House and Senate Democrats behind the Governor. House Republicans are also united behind their leadership. Despite the stalemate, last week both claimed victory.

Finally, Some Compromise and Progress: Last week, Republicans moved four bills forward that were the same as or better than the Governor's compromise proposal. House Democrats joined with Republicans to pass these bills. The Governor signed them into law.

HB 609, Salary Increases and Special Annual Leave to State Adult Correctional Facility Employees. This bill provides a 5% salary increase over next two years for correctional officers and professional level employees. Correctional officers in high-need correctional facilities having the highest number of vacancies will receive a supplement of $2500/year for up to two years. The salary increase is the same as the Governorís budget; the supplement is new.

HB 126, Pay Increase/State Highway Patrol, provides a 5% salary increase over the next two years for state employees serving as State Highway Patrol officers. This is consistent with the Governorís proposal.

HB 226, Pay Increase/State Employees, provides a 5% salary increase over the next two years for all full-time state employees. The increase is pro-rated for part time employees.

HB 777, Pay Increase/SBI & ALE, provides a 5% salary increase over the next two years for full time state employees that serve in the State Bureau of Investigation or Alcohol Law Enforcement.

In addition to signing the above four bills, the Governor vetoed several others.

HB 555, Medicaid Transformation Implementation. The Governor wants a comprehensive approach to improving health care services that includes Medicaid Expansion. His veto of this bill delays the schedule that will move our Medicaid system from a fee for service model that is managed at the State level to a system that is contracted out to private sector managed care organizations (MCOs).

HB370, Require Co-operation with ICE Detainers. This bill requires law enforcement officers to keep detainees in jail until ICE checks their immigration status. Democrats voted against the bill because it does not follow the U.S. Constitutionís mandate to get a warrant for an arrest. The bill also allows removing a sheriff from office for refusing to cooperate. If this bill became law, sheriffs could be removed from office both for enforcing it and for not enforcing it.

SB 438, Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019. This bill modified the Read to Achieve program for children testing at-risk in reading through grade 3. Despite having spent $150 million on this program over several years, the students receiving the services did no better than students in two control groups. The Governor called the program ďcostly and ineffective.Ē He supports early childhood education programs.

SB 392, Various Charter School Changes. This bill would have moved the authority to approve bonds to finance or re-finance charter schools from the State Board of Education (SBOE) to the State Superintendent. The Governor supports leaving this authority with the SBOE.

HB 645: Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws. This bill removed the authority of local governments to control where outdoor advertisers can place billboards along major roads. The Governor favors maintaining local control of all billboard placement.

SB 86: The Governor allowed the Association Health Plan bill to go into effect without his signature. The initiative for this bill stared with a Presidential Executive Order allowing small business owners in similar industries across the state or any small business owners in the same geographic region to band together to form larger groups. These plans are less expensive but also offer a lower level of coverage. They work well for people that are in good health. But, when a member gets a serious illness, they find themselves seriously underinsured. These plans drive up rates in the traditional plans that end up with the more seriously ill participants.

Voting Machine Issues: I'll send a separate mailing on the recent vote by the NC House to allow 22 counties to use their aging Direct Record Electronic Machines (DREs) for the 2020 election. The bill has not yet passed in the NC Senate. Iíll also comment on the recent decision by the NC Board of Elections to approve the S&S Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) for purchase in years to come to replace the DREs. The S&S BMDs record the vote in a bar code that cannot be reviewed by the voter or used directly to audit the machine count.

For those of you interested in budget issues, below is justification for the Governorís veto, some details on his compromise proposal and a link to a comprehensive review.

HB 966, passed on June 27. The Governor vetoed it on June 28. On July 9th, he sent a compromise budget to Republicans. For the next two months, they did nothing but criticize the Governor for not signing the initial, unacceptable, version and trying to convince House Democrats.

The Republican budget left $900 million on the bottom line. They still want to return about $700 million of that to taxpayers by sending a one-time check for $125 to individual filers. Couples filing jointly would receive a one-time check for $250. About 5.5 million filers would receive a check. The cost for the mailings alone would cost the state about $5.5 million.

Governor Cooper proposed an 8.5% teacher increase over two years to bring them close to where they were in 2007 with inflation. The Republican budget gave teachers a 3.8% increase and a one-time bonus over two years. The Governor would also restore extra pay for masterís degrees, providing substitute teacher pay instead of docking the classroom teachers, increase funding for early childhood education and restore cuts to Medicaid and other state agencies.

The Governor's compromise included a 5% raise for all state employees, non-certified school personnel and UNC employees, a 4% increase for community college employees and a 2% COLA for retirees. The Republican budget had only 27% of state employees getting a 5% raise. Non-certified school personnel had a 2% raise and retirees a one-time bonus. For more detail: https://governor.nc.gov/news/governor-cooper-and-democratic-leaders-offer-responsible-compromise-state-budget

How to Engage

It's tough to keep track of what is happening. Here are some ways to stay involved.

1. Call me or my legislative assistant Young Bae at 919-733-7208 or email me at Inskola@ncleg.net with How can I get involved in the subject line.
2. Follow us on Twitter at @verlainsko and Facebook at Verla Insko.
3. Visit ncleg.net where you can see bills, listen to session, and see daily calendars.
4. Help us spread the word on social media or by forwarding this newsletter and other alerts or key news items.

As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.

Verla Insko

Please remember that you can listen to committee meetings and press conferences on the General Assembly's website at www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, select "Audio," and then make your selection Ė House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room.

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Verla Insko, NC House · 300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 502 LOB · Raleigh, NC 27603-5925 ·
Phone (919) 733-7208 · Mobile (919) 618-9889 · E-mail verla.insko@gmail.com or verla.insko@ncleg.net