North Carolina NOW Legislative Update—June 3, 2019
It’s going to be a long, hot summer. The Senate has passed its budget and virtually excluded Democrats from any participation in the process. Before discussing what the Senate budget contains, it will be helpful to review the entire budget process. The process begins with three budgets: (1) the budget that Governor Cooper proposed; (2) the budget passed by the House; (3) the budget passed by the Senate. The final product will be a single budget that House, Senate, and Governor accept.
The first step in the process is to work out the differences between the House and Senate budgets. This is done by a conference committee containing members of both houses who will work together to draft a budget to send to the Governor for his signature. When the governor receives this budget he will either sign it or veto it. If he vetoes it, a new round of negotiations will take place between representatives of the governor and the legislature to arrive at a budget acceptable to all parties and which the governor will sign.
Passing the Senate budget was contentious. It was written by Republicans behind closed doors in a process that completely excluded Democrats. When it was debated, all major amendments offered by Democrats were rejected. Rejected amendments included expansion of Medicaid; restoring funds for Vidant Health, a hospital in Greenville; eliminating a provision to relocate the Department of Health and Human Services from Raleigh to Granville County; re-directing millions of dollars for crisis pregnancy centers to women’s health programs, excluding funding for abortions; and restoring cuts to Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s staff, a measure that was defeated during the initial budget debate but restored the next day. Senator Terry Van Duyn introduced the amendment to include Medicaid expansion in the budget and asked for a suspension of the rules to allow her to speak longer on this critical issue. When she continued speaking after her request was denied, the Speaker cut off her mike, an unprecedented action for Senator Berger. See: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2019/06/01/nc-fact-check-reports-born-alive-abortion-scenario-rare/1312609001/
Now that both houses have passed budgets, the next step will be to appoint a conference committee. At this stage, nothing is firm yet, and there will be many changes before agreement can be reached on a final budget to send to the governor.
The governor is expected to veto the budget because it does not reflect his priorities. The biggest stumbling block is that neither the House nor the Senate budget contains a provision to expand Medicaid, which Governor Cooper has named as one of his highest priorities. As an alternative to including Medicaid expansion in the budget, the legislature could pass a bill to expand Medicaid, but so far there has been no action on that front even though bills to accomplish this have been introduced by both Republicans and Democrats.
The House veto override vote on SB359, Born Alive—Abortion Survivors Protection Act, scheduled for May 29, was rescheduled yet again for June 5. This time there is reason to hope that there really will be a vote. Speaker Moore has been getting a lot of bad press for constantly rescheduling the vote. The charge that he was exploiting Rep. Sydney Batch’s difficulty attending sessions because she is a breast cancer patient recuperating from a mastectomy stung especially hard. This time he personally announced the upcoming vote and claimed that the bill’s sponsors’ had secured “the best case scenario”—which could well be different from securing the votes needed to override. Contact your pro-choice House representative to be present for the vote on June 5. For a history of the bill, including the most recent development, see: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article230949593.html.
See the whole legislative update here.