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Saturday January 28th

N.C. General Assembly passes criminal justice bills, approves new budget in 2022

UNC students stand in line outside the voting area located in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History during election day on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Buy Photos UNC students stand in line outside the voting area located in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History during election day on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

The North Carolina General Assembly has nearly completed its 2021-2022 session, during which 267 bills have become law.

With the certification of North Carolina’s 2022 election results expected on Nov. 29, preparations for the 2023-2024 legislative session are underway.

The budget

One of the most significant bills to pass the legislature in 2022 was House Bill 103, also known as the 2022 Appropriations Act.

Signed into law on July 11, the act outlined government spending in North Carolina for the next fiscal year. Politicians from both sides of the aisle supported the bill — the House voted 82-25 in favor, and the Senate voted 36-8.

“I think we had good bipartisan work going through the process,” said Sen. Kevin Corbin (R-Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain). “We tried to hear all the voices out there and fund the things that the budget allowed us to do.”

Corbin said some of the bill’s most significant measures included permanent monetary supplements for certain teachers and employees of public schools, as well as increased funding for the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology grant program, which funds broadband deployment in rural areas of the state.

Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) said that, though the bill made progress on pre-K education and land conservation, she voted against it for several reasons — such as a provision that grants nearly $2.6 million to 10 crisis pregnancy centers across the state.

Harrison said in an email that this measure would ultimately work to restrict women’s reproductive choices.

She said other parts of the bill, such as expanded authority for the chief administrative law judge, would increase the politicization of the court system.

Other legislative action

Redistricting also saw renewed debate in 2022, following a decision by the N.C. Supreme Court to strike down the congressional and legislative maps on Feb. 4.

While the General Assembly would go on to draw new state House and Senate maps that were approved, the congressional map was once again rejected, this time by the Superior Court in Wake County. 

Ultimately, three former state judges drew the map used in the 2022 midterms.

Also, several criminal justice bills were enacted with bipartisan support. 

Senate Bill 207, which raised the age of children who can be sent to juvenile court from 6 to 10 unless charged with a serious crime, passed unanimously in the Senate and nearly unanimously in the House.

Senate Bill 300, a broad criminal justice reform bill that includes investigations into excessive use of force and requirements for officers to undergo mental health and diversity training, also became law.

“This legislation helps to move North Carolina forward towards a more fair criminal justice system, and begins to hold law enforcement officers and their agencies responsible for abuses of power,” said Harrison.

Many bills failed to become law either because of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto or because of differences between the House and Senate.

House Bill 149 sought to expand Medicaid access and passed 44-1 on its third reading in the Senate but was not voted on in the House before the end of the session.

While Corbin said that the possibility for compromise existed and that a vote could be held early next year, other members of the General Assembly appeared less optimistic.

“The single most important (bill) is Medicaid expansion, which now will be voted on when they return, not in December as promised,” Rep. Howard Hunter III (D-Gates, Hertford, Pasquotank), who lost his bid for reelection, said in an email.

Ultimately, Howard said he did not believe the measure would have enough votes to pass in the next session.

The Republican Party will not win a supermajority in the General Assembly. As a result, Corbin said he thinks the focus of the legislature in 2023 will likely be on the budget, as well as other bipartisan policy priorities.

“We've had some differences of opinion about how to go about things, but in the end, I think we've been able to accomplish a lot because we've worked together and I hope that will continue into 2023,” he said.

@harrisonggummel

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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