The NC General Assembly convened as scheduled on April 28, but met for just a few days and focused on addressing the use of federal pandemic funds and related regulatory issues.
The legislative package agreed to by the state House and Senate (and passed unanimously) allocated $1.6B of the $3.5B Congress provided to the state, and provided some regulatory tweaks deemed necessary to help government agencies and businesses cope with COVID-19.
Governor Cooper signed the legislation into law on May 4th.
Having taken off the week following that, the state legislature came back to work on Monday May 18th. The announced plan is to work until the end of June to address any remaining pandemic related funding issues, attend to a few other pressing legislative items, and then adjourn for the year. Whether the General Assembly returns again to Raleigh later in the year remains to be seen.
State government is still operating without a full budget in place, and initial estimates are the pandemic’s impact on the state economy may result in a $4B hit to state revenue collections this year. However, the fuller picture on that won’t be clear until after July 15th, the date that tax filing deadlines was extended to.
The legislature continues to work mostly on COVID-19-related business regulatory and funding issues, as both the state House and Senate have rolled out ‘mini budget’ proposals to address various state funding unmet due to the budget impasse between the Republican led General Assembly and Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) indicated more of these small appropriations bills should be expected. He told reporters Thursday that having federal approval to use an unspent $1.9 billion in federal CARES Act money to fill budget shortfalls would be a ‘game changer’ given the expected $5 billion revenue shortfall due to the economic impact from the virus-prompted shutdown. ‘We haven’t gotten to the point that we’re pulling the cushions out of the sofas out here looking for change, but that might be next,’ Moore said.
While it appears there will be no further discussion on Medicaid expansion this year, as the Senate GOP leadership remains in strong opposition to Governor Coopers on this issue (or the House ‘modest’ expansion that includes a work requirement).
There are two bills current moving through the legislature that may be of interest:
House Bill 678 that seeks to extend for a year the healthcare related provision in Governor Cooper’s emergency order to allow healthcare facilities or medical practices to keep expanded bed counts or a shift of resources to other locations, or who added out-of-state personnel, or to continue to treat vulnerable patients at home rather than in a congregant care setting, and House Bill 471, which allows primary care physicians to offer direct primary care, charging a monthly retainer for healthcare without charging their insurance.