Legislative Update: The Budget, Redistricting, and Beyond
For weeks, leaders from the N.C. House and Senate and the governor’s office have negotiated in private with a goal to agree on a biennial budget for North Carolina. It seems North Carolinians may soon have some more concrete answers about the details of that budget. That’s because, while both legislative and executive branch leaders continue to express optimism that a deal will be reached soon, legislators have also reported their intention, in the absence of such a deal, to bring their own budget proposal to a vote sooner rather than later.
Throughout session, the NC Chamber’s advocacy team has stayed firmly engaged with legislators and other key decision-makers to ensure major items on your 2021 legislative agenda move forward. These priorities include franchise tax reform, transportation and infrastructure modernization, broadband development, educational continuity, workforce revitalization, and small business support, all of which we expect to see addressed in some form in the state budget. It remains to be seen exactly how policymakers will address each issue, with some state-level decisions tied up in yet-to-be-resolved federal priorities, including the ultimate fate of a landmark, bipartisan infrastructure bill. In the meantime, our team continues to advocate for your interests at the General Assembly even as we develop strategies to build on this session’s successes in 2022.
The NC Chamber, like so many others, is also tracking new developments in the once-a-decade redistricting process occurring at the General Assembly, which has been the main focus of late for many legislators. With the results of last year’s U.S. Census giving North Carolina an additional U.S. House seat to draw into our congressional map, interested parties within and beyond our state are watching this process closely to see how our fourteen congressional districts – and our 120 N.C. House and 50 N.C. Senate districts – will take final shape. Legal hurdles have been an expected development with redistricting, and already several lawsuits have been filed challenging the process in our state. As map-making continues to advance this week, you can follow along and access key resources from this page hosted on the General Assembly’s official website.
Of course, the Chamber is focused on much more than the budget and redistricting. Here are a few of the priorities our team has been working hard to address beyond the budget in recent months:
Supporting value-driven health care:
The health challenges created by COVID-19 have only reinforced the need to enhance access to high-quality, lower-cost health care options for employers and their workers.
- NC Chamber-backed Senate Bill 85, which aims to simplify health care administration and reduce costs for employers while expanding options for employees, was signed into law in mid-October after earning unanimous support in the General Assembly. The bill broadens the definition of hospital service corporations and allows these entities to offer vision service plans in addition to their primary coverage offerings.
- Another Chamber-supported health care bill, Senate Bill 228, was signed into law in early September after passing the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support. It expands health coverage options and promotes lower costs for small businesses by allowing them to offer exclusive provider benefit plans (EPOs) to their employees.
Streamlining remote business:
The pandemic forced many businesses to find new ways to conduct vital operations remotely, but it also accelerated existing trends toward a digital world; trends that will only continue to exert greater and greater impacts on the future of work, and the needs of business.
- House Bill 776 remains in a House-Senate conference committee after the House voted not to concur with the Senate’s changes to the bill. It would give job creators in our state much-needed freedom to conduct remote online notarization. The NC Chamber continues to urge our leaders to pass a version of House Bill 776 that ensures North Carolina employers enjoy the same high degree of flexibility over online notarization afforded to job creators in many of our competitor states.
- The Chamber also put strong support behind another remote business bill, House Bill 320. The bill, signed into law earlier this session, gives corporations and certain other business entities in North Carolina the necessary flexibility to conduct shareholder meetings and other important items of official business remotely.
Removing artificial impediments on job creation:
It’s always important to guard against unnecessary regulatory and legal restraints overburdening job creators – but it’s absolutely vital when we’re battling back from a pandemic.
- House Bill 103 – still in a conference committee after the House voted unanimously not to concur with Senate changes in mid-October – would, in its Senate-amended form, implement a multitude of onerous changes related to certain automatically renewing consumer contracts entered into in North Carolina. These changes would impact job creators in multiple industries. We are continuing to work with aligned partners to ensure these problems are addressed in the final version of the bill.
- Senate Bill 357 is a bill impacting North Carolina laws related to third-party litigation funding that is still active in its chamber of origin. It was amended by the Senate in September to include harmful changes that would open new pathways for certain entities to fund abusive litigation in the state. Bills like Senate Bill 357 raise the specter for more frivolous lawsuits targeting employers in our state as well as the potential for higher costs across our tort system. The NC Chamber stands firmly opposed to Senate Bill 357.