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This Week in Raleigh

The North Carolina General Assembly was flooded with families, friends, and moving boxes this week as the new legislative body was sworn in. About a quarter of the 50-member Senate and a fifth of the 120-member House are newcomers. Members who were not re-elected have moved out, leaving room for others to move into their offices - and chairmanships.


While the House has not officially announced the membership of its committees, it did release the chairs of the following committees:

*Members listed in bold are new to their positions as chairs of that committee.

House Appropriations Committee Chairs

Representative Jason Saine (R - Lincoln) [Senior Chair]
Representative Donny Lambeth (R - Forsyth) [Senior Chair] 
Representative Linda Johnson (R - Cabarrus) [Senior Chair] 
Representative Dean Arp (R - Union) 
Representative Bill Brisson (R - Bladen)
Representative Josh Dobson (R - McDowell)
Representative John Faircloth (R - Guilford) 
Representative Chuck McGrady (R - Henderson) 

In the absence of Representative Nelson Dollar (R - Wake), former Senior Appropriations Chair, the Speaker has filled the role by appointing three senior chairs - Representatives Saine, Johnson, and Lambeth. Representative Saine was until recently chair of the House Finance Committee. Some other new faces in the chairmanship positions are Representatives Dobson and Brisson. Representative Brisson had previously served as a vice-chair to the committee, and changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 2017.

House Finance Committee Chairs

Representative Julia Howard (R - Davie)
Representative Mitchell Setzer (R - Catawba) 
Representative John Szoka (R - Cumberland) 

To call Representative Howard a "new" chair to the finance committee is a bit misleading, as she served as senior chair of the committee from 2011 - 2014. She served as chair of banking in the 2015-16 cycle, before returning to the finance committee.

House Rules Committee Chair

Representative David Lewis (R - Harnett) 

No change here. Representative Lewis has served as the House Rules Chair since former rules chair, Representative Tim Moore, ascended to Speaker of the House in 2015.


Today, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R - Rockingham) announced the following appointments to Senate standing committees for the 2019-2020 biennium:

Committees with a * beside their name have new leadership.

Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources

Chairs: Norman W. Sanderson, Andy Wells 
Members: Brent Jackson, John M. Alexander, Jr., Tom McInnis, Chuck Edwards, Paul Newton, Vickie Sawyer, W. Ted Alexander, Jim Burgin, Eddie Gallimore, Jeff Jackson, Mike Woodard, Harper Peterson, Wiley Nickel, Don Davis

Appropriations/Base Budget

Chairs: Harry Brown, Kathy Harrington, Brent Jackson 
Members: Warren Daniel, Bill Rabon, Norman W. Sanderson, Andy Wells, Dan Bishop, Danny Earl Britt, Jr., Rick Gunn, Jerry W. Tillman, Rick Horner, Jim Davis, Joyce Krawiec, Deanna Ballard, Dan Blue, Erica D. Smith, Paul A. Lowe, Jr., Terry Van Duyn, Jay J. Chaudhuri, Mike Woodard 

Appropriations on Department of Transportation

Chairs: Jim Davis, Tom McInnis 
Members: Bill Rabon, John M. Alexander, Jr., Mike Woodard, Kirk deViere, Michael Garrett

Appropriations on Education/Higher Education*

Chairs: Deanna Ballard, Jerry W. Tillman
Members: Rick Horner, Todd Johnson, W. Ted Alexander, Chuck Edwards, Don Davis, Erica D. Smith, Joyce Waddell, Wiley Nickel

As none of the former chairmen of the education committee are returning to the legislature this year, Senator Tillman has taken back his position as chair. He had served as co-chairman of the committee in 2015, before moving to chairman of the senate finance committee in 2017. Senator Ballard has moved up from her position as a committee member to a committee chair.

Appropriations on General Government and Information Technology*

Chairs: John M. Alexander, Jr., Rick Horner
Members: Carl Ford, Bob Steinburg, Ben Clark, Valerie P. Foushee, Sam Searcy

Senator Horner is new to the committee as a member, and has now been appointed as co-chair.

Appropriations on Health and Human Services*

Chairs: Dan Bishop, Joyce Krawiec, Louis Pate
Members: Ralph Hise, Jim Burgin, Floyd B. McKissick, Jr., Gladys A. Robinson, Terry Van Duyn, Paul A. Lowe, Jr.

With Senator Hise, former HHS Chairman, moving to finance - Senator Bishop has moved into his seat as chair on the committee.

Appropriations on Justice and Public Safety*

Chairs: Danny Earl Britt, Jr., Warren Daniel, Norman W. Sanderson
Members: Bob Steinburg, Dan Blue, Milton F. "Toby" Fitch, Jr., Jeff Jackson

Senator Britt is an attorney serving in his second term and is a new chair of the Appropriations JPS Committee.

Appropriations on Agriculture, Natural, and Economic Resources*

Chairs: Chuck Edwards, Rick Gunn, Andy Wells
Members: Paul Newton, Vickie Sawyer, Eddie Gallimore, Mujtaba A. Mohammed, Jay J. Chaudhuri, Natasha R. Marcus, Harper Peterson

Senators Edwards and Wells are new to the committee as chairmen.

Commerce and Insurance*

Chairs: John M. Alexander, Jr., Chuck Edwards, Rick Gunn
Members: Harry Brown, Norman W. Sanderson, Tom McInnis, Paul Newton, Vickie Sawyer, Todd Johnson, Bob Steinburg, Paul A. Lowe Jr., Gladys A. Robinson, Ben Clark, Valerie P. Foushee, Erica D. Smith

Senators Alexander and Edwards previously served as committee members before moving up into their role as chairs.

Education/Higher Education*

Chairs: Deanna Ballard, Rick Horner, Jerry W. Tillman
Members: Norman W. Sanderson, Joyce Krawiec, Chuck Edwards, Paul Newton, Todd Johnson, Kathy Harrington, Tom McInnis, Don Davis, Gladys A. Robinson, Jay J. Chaudhuri, Valerie P. Foushee, Sam Searcy

Senators Tillaman and Ballard, at the helm of the Education Appropriations Committee, are joined by Senator Horner as co-chair of the Senate Education Committee. All three Senators are new chairs of this committee.


Chairs: Ralph Hise, Paul Newton, Jerry W. Tillman
Members: Harry Brown, Warren Daniel, Jim Davis, Rick Gunn, Kathy Harrington, Brent Jackson, Bill Rabon, Joyce Krawiec, Andy Wells, John M. Alexander, Jr., Chuck Edwards, Dan Bishop, Floyd B. McKissick, Jr., Dan Blue, Ben Clark, Joyce Waddell, Milton F. "Toby" Fitch, Jr., Mike Woodard 

Senator Hise, former HHS bigwig, has moved into the finance committee chair position. He is joined by Senator Newton, who just began his second term at the legislature.

Health Care*

Chairs: Dan Bishop, Joyce Krawiec, Louis Pate
Members: Jim Davis, Ralph Hise, Deanna Ballard, Vickie Sawyer, Carl Ford, Rick Horner, Jim Burgin, Don Davis, Valerie P. Foushee, Gladys A. Robinson, Terry Van Duyn

Again, with Senator Hise gone to the finance committee, Senator Bishop has moved into the chairman role in Senate HHS.


Chairs: Danny Earl Britt, Jr., Warren Daniel
Members: Jerry W. Tillman, Harry Brown, Jim Davis, Kathy Harrington, Brent Jackson, Dan Bishop, Rick Horner, Paul Newton, Jeff Jackson, Terry Van Duyn, Milton F. "Toby" Fitch, Jr., Natasha R. Marcus, Mujtaba A. Mohammed

Senator Britt is serving as judiciary chair in addition to his new role as chair of appropriations JPS.

Pensions and Retirement and Aging

Chairs: Bill Rabon, Andy Wells 
Members: W. Ted Alexander, Danny Earl Britt, Jr., Eddie Gallimore, Ralph Hise, Rick Horner, Todd Johnson, Louis Pate, Bob Steinburg, Jay J. Chaudhuri, Kirk deViere, Floyd B. McKissick, Jr., Wiley Nickel

Redistricting and Elections

Chairs: Ralph Hise, Dan Bishop 
Members: John M. Alexander, Jr., Danny Earl Britt, Jr., Harry Brown, Warren Daniel, Kathy Harrington, Brent Jackson, Paul Newton, Bill Rabon, Dan Blue, Michael Garrett, Natasha R. Marcus, Floyd B. McKissick, Jr.

Rules and Operations of the Senate

Chair: Bill Rabon 
Members: Deanna Ballard, Dan Bishop, Harry Brown, Chuck Edwards, Rick Gunn, Kathy Harrington, Ralph Hise, Brent Jackson, Joyce Krawiec, Vickie Sawyer, Jerry W. Tillman, Andy Wells, Dan Blue, Ben Clark, Don Davis, Paul A. Lowe, Jr., Floyd B. McKissick, Jr., Joyce Waddell 

State and Local Government

Chairs: John M. Alexander, Jr., Rick Horner
Members: W. Ted Alexander, Jim Burgin, Carl Ford, Eddie Gallimore, Tom McInnis, Louis Pate, Norman W. Sanderson, Bob Steinburg, Jeff Jackson, Mujtaba A. Mohammed, Harper Peterson, Sam Searcy

Senator Horner added another gavel to his collection by becoming co-chair of the state and local government committee.


Chairs: Jim Davis, Tom McInnis 
Members: John M. Alexander, Jr., Deanna Ballard, Danny Earl Britt, Jr., Warren Daniel, Carl Ford, Rick Gunn, Kathy Harrington, Bill Rabon, Kirk deViere, Milton F. "Toby" Fitch, Jr., Michael Garrett, Erica D. Smith, Joyce Waddell

The legislature will begin its normal session on Wednesday, January 30th. 

Making Headlines
With newcomers sworn in, NC legislature now includes 44 women and 126 men - News & Observer
A snapshot of this year's (more) diverse legislative body.

NC governor: Shutdown hurting hurricane recovery efforts - The Hill
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Wednesday called for an end to the partial federal government shutdown, saying it is hampering hurricane recovery in his state.

Reading the tea leaves on NC’s top elections - News & Observer
"The next election and jockeying for the right position is closer than you think. Just ask Charlotte radio show host Pat McCrory."

Airports contribute $52 billion, 307,000 jobs to N.C. economy - WTKR
The report, North Carolina: The State of Aviation, underline the economic impacts of the state’s public airports and the related aviation and aerospace assets that support North Carolina’s aviation economy.

On the Record: What the U.S. economy means for N.C. in 2019 - WRAL
Brad Johansen speaks with NC State University economist Mike Walden and WRAL statehouse reporter Travis Fain about the 2019 economy.


Here's a multibillion-dollar question as the General Assembly comes back into session: Will North Carolina expand Medicaid this year?

"Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, a senior appropriations chairman and someone who has supported a modified expansion plan for years, put the chances at 50/50 Wednesday.

He's pitched a plan called "Carolina Cares" since 2017.

The bill sat in committee the last two years. But Democrats broke Republican super-majorities in the House and Senate in November's elections. Republicans maintain comfortable majorities, but suddenly Gov. Roy Cooper's veto has new meaning, giving him more negotiating power.

Cooper is almost certain to put expansion in his budget proposal when it rolls out around March 1, setting up a stalemate if the majority of Republicans in either chamber continue to oppose the plan over long-standing cost concerns.

House Speaker Tim Moore said House members are "having a lot of conversations about the Carolina Cares approach that Rep. Lambeth has worked on.

"If there's something that we can do to help the working poor, I think that's something that we ought to try doing," said Moore, R-Cleveland.

The Senate has always been the bigger lift for this plan, and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger remains unmoved.

"I think we will continue to talk about Medicaid expansion," said Berger, R-Rockingham. "Me personally, I've yet to see a specific proposal on Medicaid expansion that, in my view, does not create significant fiscal hurdles for the state down the road. And that, for me, is kind of the key."

Expansion would extend taxpayer-funded health insurance to hundreds of thousands of people in North Carolina, most of them the working poor. Thirty-six states have done some sort of expansion, including Virginia last year after Republicans barely retained their legislative majorities there.

Carolina Cares would cover people earning 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less. It includes a number of measures meant to make the program more palatable to Republicans: Participants would generally pay an annual premium set at 2 percent of their household income, and there would be work requirements with some exceptions.

The bill had five House Republican sponsors last year, and all five won re-election.

Most expansion costs are borne by U.S. taxpayers, but state governments have to put up matching funds. The state portion under Carolina Cares would be funded by a hospital assessment, often called a bed tax.

Lambeth said state projections show the plan saving state government millions as the need to subsidize health care through other programs diminishes. He said Cooper has asked him to meet on the issue in early February.

"It has literally zero state money," Lambeth said.

Other Republicans have concerns about the future, though, and whether the federal government will make good on a promise to cover the lion's share of expansion costs in perpetuity. The bill would also require a waiver from the federal government to change Medicaid rules.

"It's a conversation," said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, Berger's deputy in the chamber and a Senate leader on health care issues.

"There are more conversations coming from the House," Hise said, adding that this won't be an issue settled easily or early in the session.

Making expansion part of the budget could cause that entire debate to drag on, but it won't force any sort of shutdown if talks go past the July 1 beginning of the state's new fiscal year.

That's because Republicans passed legislation in 2016 that keeps the government operating at the past year's funding levels if a budget is not in place by the start of a new fiscal year, which takes some brinksmanship off the table.

Cooper said Tuesday that state leadership must "find a way to make sure people have expanded access to health care and better quality health care."

"I think that there are ways that we can do that and ways that we can work together to do that," he said. "At the end of the day, I think we're all going to have to, somewhat, agree on a budget. There will be things in there that both sides don't like."

Moore said he wants to find a way "to help those that are working but are having trouble paying."

"What we don't want to do is simply expand a, just a hand out, and be a discouragement for folks to get jobs," he said." (Travis Fain, WRAL, 1/9/19)

What's Next

The legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, January 30th, to begin regular session.

To see archived weekly state updates, please click here.


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