The House and Senate will convene May 16. While most of the summer agenda has not been publicly released, policy analysts within North Carolina have a good idea of what issues will be the most important for the General Assembly.
“The budget is always the most important bill that the legislature passes every year,” said Rob Schofield, director of NC Policy Watch.
Once the budget is passed, it is typically in effect for two years. These bills are especially important in recession years where financial projects can be misconstrued, but more recently these bills have more accurately portrayed the correct amount of government spending.
Schofield said there is also a chance the General Assembly would propose potential constitutional amendments to go on the ballot. Some of these issues include introducing voter ID laws as well as lowering the state income tax.
While the North Carolina Senate approved a bill in 2017 to cap the state income tax level at 5.5 percent, Schofield said there is some talk to make this cap permanent for everyone, including wealthy individuals. Historically, this cap has been more flexible to account for extra expenses the state may need to account for.
Legislators will also be looking for solutions to GenX, a contaminant that has been found in the Cape Fear River and is a major source of drinking water for those in southeast North Carolina. GenX is connected to various manufacturing processes and has been previously unregulated. The long term effects of GenX on human health are currently unknown.
Another critical issue for the legislature will be November’s midterm elections. Members of the General Assembly will be keeping in mind that their actions could impact whether they get reelected. Primaries for the midterm elections will be May 8.
Smith said there was a possibility that conversations to begin redistricting some of the larger school districts could begin this year, although it was not a current priority.
There has also been mention of some additional gerrymandering discussions. Republicans have redrawn congressional districts since they had a legislative majority in 2010 and have also attempted to redraw judicial and county districts.
Schofield said there was a possibility the Democrats could gain a substantial amount of seats in the midterm elections. At the very least, they expect to eliminate the supermajority that the Republicans currently have.
Smith said if Democrats are able to pick up enough seats, they would be able to sustain Gov. Cooper’s veto ability, which would help restore some of his power.
“I do think there’s a possibility that there could be another short session after the election,” Smith said. “There are some new districts this year in the next elections, so there’s a possibility that Democrats in state House could pick up seats.”