The Start of the Legislative Session

By Skye David

On May 16, the North Carolina General Assembly will return to Jones Street, and the 2018 short session will convene. Legislators and staff have been publicly stating that this session will be a quick six-week session, and then legislators will be out in time to fundraise and campaign for the November midterms. While this seems promising for most, those who are familiar with General Assembly happenings will proudly inform you that this is what legislators say every year.

The short sessions are meant for making adjustments to the budget, but other issues do and will come up in the meantime. The governor will release his budget, which the legislative branch will pretend to read, and then the legislators will release their versions of their budget adjustments. Highlights of budget adjustments expected this year include: school safety funding, emergency management, and the consideration of increasing correctional officer pay.

When looking ahead for the issues that may concern Government & Public Sector Section attorneys, there are a couple of themes that will continue to be pertinent during session. One is judicial redistricting. The newest version of judicial redistricting maps came out on Friday, and the House seems more than determined to pass these new maps. However, the Senate has shown little to no interest in taking up a judicial redistricting bill in an election year. Sen. Berger’s Chief of Staff Jim Blaine has said that the Senate is looking at “all solutions” related to redistricting and judicial elections generally. Aside from judicial redistricting, the legislature has also been looking into transferring the Governor’s judicial appointment power to the legislators. We expect that these discussions will continue and heat up as the session gets under way.

Aside from judicial issues, because of the GenX debate and the study of emerging contaminants, the legislature will likely continue to look to the funding they appropriated to UNC-W on emerging contaminants. While that the Cape Fear GenX contaminants are below the state’s health advisory levels, there are other unknown compounds in the water.  Due to the heightened awareness of chemicals in the water, legislators will continue to hold committee meetings on river quality and will discuss the potential effects on municipalities and citizens. The 2018 short session may see some input and asks for concrete standards to prevent future contaminations similar to GenX.

Although there are plenty of uncertainties while heading into this 2018 legislative session, one thing is for sure: We are always in for a few surprises. Because it is an election year, expect to see some partisan fights, some feel-good bills, and plenty of entertainment.