Legislative Review Session:  North Carolina

By Dave Shonerd | January 10, 2019

North Carolina

Legislators in Raleigh have long dubbed sessions held in even-numbered years as “short sessions,” but the North Carolina General Assembly’s 2018 session seemingly would not end. Short sessions always kick off in mid-May and typically end when the House and Senate finish passing the budget, usually by the end of June. This year, however, lawmakers returned in November to implement several constitutional amendments that midterm voters adopted, continued to meet into December to override Governor Roy Cooper’s (D) vetoes, and managed to squeeze in three special sessions in the intervening months (plus, a major hurricane).

Legislative Highlights

  • The General Assembly passed the budget bill (NC SB 99) just four weeks into the short session. Republican House and Senate supermajorities completed the override of Cooper’s veto on June 12, enacting tax cuts on both the corporate side (from 3% down to 2.5%) and personal income (5.499% to 5.25%).
  • Lawmakers unanimously agreed in October to provide over $850 million in relief funding for eastern North Carolina towns and farms devastated by Hurricane Florence.
  • Republicans flexed their veto-proof majorities in both chambers to muscle voter ID legislation past Cooper’s veto in December. GOP leaders teed up the measure after voters in November approved a constitutional amendment to require photo ID at the polls.   
  • Other election-related battles between Cooper and legislative Republicans raged on throughout 2018, including a veto override on December 27, the final day of session, of a bill to restructure the board of elections.
  • Cooper and Republicans also continued to duke it out in the courts over gerrymandered districts and whether the legislature can authorize itself to oversee the governor’s selections for cabinet secretaries. Expect the court fights to continue well into 2019.

Election Results

Voters dramatically altered the legislative landscape in North Carolina on Election Day, with Republicans losing supermajorities in both the House and Senate. Republicans retain control of both chambers in 2019, but by much slimmer margins than they have for much of the past decade, providing the Democratic governor with new leverage in the legislative branch.

Republicans will have a 29-21 majority in the Senate when lawmakers reconvene in January, down six seats from their 35-15 advantage prior to November. In the House, the GOP majority was reduced from a 30-seat supermajority (75 Republicans to  45 Democrats) to a 10-seat edge (65 Republicans to 55 Democrats).

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