The 2019 Session of the NC General Assembly

With the start of the new year, it’s time for those who won their state legislative race in November 2018 to come to Raleigh and start … well … legislating!

For the purposes of getting everyone officially sworn in to office, elect House and Senate leaders, and provide the ‘freshmen’ members orientation on the legislative process, the General Assembly convened on January 9th in Raleigh – but the real start is January 30th, when lawmakers return to the capital for the 2019 Session.

In the odd-numbered years, our legislature meets for what’s called the Long Session, that convenes in January and has a primary focus on enacting a biennial state budget (the goal is to get that done by the July 1st start of state government’s fiscal year) and taking up substantive state public policy matters the legislature feels need addressing.

There is no set adjournment date, but the Long Session has concluded as early as July or as late as September or October.

FYI – the even-numbered year convenings are called Short Sessions that start in May, with a primary focus on adjusting the revenue or expenditure (or both) parts of the two-year state budget as may be needed (it’s really only been in the past few decades that the NC Generally regularly has a Short Session – in theory, if no budget adjustments are needed, the legislature does not have to meet).

For the 2019 Long Session, Republicans have a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, but a slightly smaller advantage than they previously held. The 2018 Elections results yielded 65 Republicans and 55 Democrats in House seats, and 29 Republicans and 21 Democrats in the Senate – these numbers are below the necessary ‘super majority’ held by Republicans that allowed them to override a gubernatorial veto on a party-line vote.

Both House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) spoke on January 9th to a desire to have more bi-partisan cooperation and agreement this session, given their smaller majority means whether Democratic Governor Roy Cooper supports or opposes a bill that passes the General Assembly will be a more significant factor.

But, with the 2020 elections right around the corner (candidate filing opens in December, with the primary election moved up last year to March in 2020 to make NC a more significant battleground in the presidential primary contest), partisan politics is still likely to cast a long shadow over the public policy process.

Among key items this legislative session, Governor Cooper will likely continue his push to expand Medicaid (as allowed for under Obamacare), seek an increase in public school teacher pay to bring it closer to the national average, and Speaker Tim Moore has announced intentions to advance a proposal to issue $1.9 billion in bonds for K-12, community college and UNC system construction needs.

Both Moore and Senate leader Berger have expressed a desire to bring forward further regulatory modernization proposals, continue realignment of state tax policies to better promote economic growth, work to address the state’s significant infrastructure needs, and address the consequences of the urban-rural divide resulting from the explosive population growth of our metro areas.

IIANC in the GA!

All that aside, there is reason for IIANC members to celebrate the 2019 legislative session: there are three IIANC member agency owners who won election in 2018 who will be serving their first term in the General Assembly.

Those three new state senators – Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell), Todd Johnson (R-Union), and Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) – are joining IIANC member Representative Kevin Corbin (R-Macon), who is starting his second term in the state House. Additionally, while not an independent agent, Allstate agency owner Representative Chris Humphrey (R-Lenoir), is also serving his first term in the state House.

Needless to say, the perspective of insurance agents is certainly well represented now in the North Carolina General Assembly!

During the session, your Governmental Affairs team will be monitoring all legislation that impacts the independent insurance agency business model. And, we will be working closely with the Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey and his team at the Department of Insurance on their package of adjustments to insurance laws and regulations, once it is put forward.

Our weekly Raleigh Report Legislative Update that comes out every Friday while the legislature is in session will keep you updated and informed of all bills of interest.

#HandsFreeNC

The top item on the IIANC legislative agenda is passage of a hands-free law for North Carolina, allowing the use of a mobile device but prohibiting holding it in your hands while operating the vehicle. This mirrors what Georgia enacted last year, which produced an almost immediate decline in accidents and injuries on their roads.

Representative Corbin has stepped up to take a strong leadership role on this effort during the 2019 Long Session, and is working now to refine the language for the legislation he plans to introduce. He is working closely on this with Georgia Representative John Carson (R-Marietta), the champion of hands-free legislation there.

The goal of this effort is enactment of an enforceable hands-free law that creates an appropriate combination of legal sanction and economic consequence that serves as a strong disincentive for drivers to engage in this dangerous distracted driving behavior at all.

If the law we get enacted means NO ONE gets a hands-free violation ticket EVER because no one is doing it, that would be a great victory for highway safety in North Carolina.

Behind the scenes, IIANC has been working within a coalition of insurance carriers, law enforcement, families of distracted driving victims, and other organizations – including AAA Carolinas, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the America Property and Casualty Insurance Association of America (their #HandsFreeNC campaign is the public face of our grassroots effort) – in a collaborative partnership on this effort.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has come out in support of a hands-free law, and has signaled his intentions to be a strong advocate for passage of the legislative during the 2019 legislative session. While nothing is ever absolutely predictable with regard to the legislative process, we are starting this 2019 Long Session in as good a position as possible to get a hands-free law enacted.

Save the date!

One final item of note, the date for the 2019 IIANC Legislative Day has been set for April 18th at the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh … watch your e-mail inbox in the coming weeks for more details on that event. And, if you have any questions or need information on any legislative matter, feel free to contact me at jstewart@iianc.com or (919) 614-0520.

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