General Assembly returns for short session May 18

General Assembly - Raleigh - May 2020
N.C. General Assembly as seen from the grounds of the Capitol building. (A.P. Dillon, North State Journal)

RALEIGH — The day after the May 17 primary elections, lawmakers will head back to Raleigh for the start of the “short session.” 

The short session is expected to last about six weeks and follows the lengthiest long session since 1965. The long session also made history by adjourning in a different year than it originally convened in; spanning 199 days beginning in January of 2021 and running through March 11, 2022.  

Hot topics during the 2021 long session included the creation and passage of a comprehensive biennial budget, education issues, COVID-19 related legislation and a lengthy map-drawing and redistricting process. 

Likely issues to be covered in the short session include making any adjustments needed to the budgets, the legalization of medical marijuana, expansion of Medicaid, and sports wagering.  

Short sessions are also generally when the legislature will consider bill corrections, outstanding veto overrides, and take a look at the over 200 “crossover” bills that are eligible for consideration. Crossover bills are those that have passed a third reading in the chamber where the bill originated and were received by the other house without any issues or disqualifications. 

Lawmakers may also take a look at those bills sitting in conference committees. As of the end of April, five bills are in a conference committee: House Bill 64, Government Transparency Act of 2021; House Bill 103, Automatic Renewal of Contracts; House Bill 776, Remote Notarization/Gov’t Transparency; Senate Bill 336, Condo Act/Restitution/Market Title Act Changes; and Senate Bill 450, Various Education Changes. 

Medicaid Expansion has been the top priority issue for Democrats in North Carolina and has been a constant issue pushed by Gov. Roy Cooper throughout both of his terms in office. 

In the past, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) has called Medicaid Expansion a “non-starter.”
The 2021 budget created an interim Joint Legislative Committee on Access to Healthcare and Medicaid Expansion that will look into expanding various healthcare coverage and access options, including Medicaid Expansion. 

The JLOC committee has nine members appointed by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) and nine members appointed by Berger. The committee has held half a dozen meetings since the end of February and its final report is anticipated to be delivered before the start of the short session.  

The short session will likely dive back into Senate Bill 711, titled the N.C. Compassionate Care Act. The bill’s primary sponsor is state Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick). 

Senate Bill 711 would allow the sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products to qualified patients who have a debilitating medical condition via a regulated medical cannabis supply system. Such conditions could include cancer, epilepsy, HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and conditions related to end-of-life care. 

The bill also details creation of two advisory boards for oversight and regulatory purposes; a Medical Cannabis Advisory Board and a Medical Cannabis Production Commission. 

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein has been vocal on social media in support of legalization efforts. 

It’s time for N.C. to move forward on medical cannabis, decriminalization of simple possession, and expungement of criminal records,” tweeted Stein on April 20, a day known for annual cannabis celebrations. “Let’s act but let’s get it right – including strong protections for kids, no advertising, state-controlled sales, and putting N.C. farmers first. 

Lawmakers may also turn their attention to a sports wagering bill that made its way through the Senate late last summer before landing in the House Judiciary 1 Committee by November. 

Senate Bill 688, titled Sports Wagering, would authorize and regulate sports wagering in the state and includes taxation of such wagers. Licenses and regulation for sports wagering would be issued by the North Carolina Lottery Commission.  

The bill has backing from top leaders in both chambers, including Senate Leader Berger and House Appropriations Chair Jason Saine (R-Lincoln).  

The current version of the bill has a cap of 12 interactive sports wagering operator licenses. There is a half a million-dollar application fee for a five-year license with a renewal fee of $100,000. The language in the current bill would have the state collect 8% of a licensee’s revenues. Half of all proceeds would be sent to the North Carolina Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund. 

Certain tribal gaming enterprises that apply and pay the fees will automatically get an interactive sports wagering license. Licenses issued to tribal gaming enterprises would not count toward the 12-license cap. 

Restrictions include requiring participating entities to confirm an individual is 21 years of age or older prior to any wagering activity. 

About A.P. Dillon 656 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_