The 2021 long session marked North Carolina’s second longest continuous legislative session in history. Now, the 2022 short session will be upon us sooner than we think.
Lawmakers have yet to announce a date certain on which they plan to reconvene for the short session. To recap, the legislature most recently adjourned with open-ended plans to return Dec. 30, 2021, continuing to leave the door open in the event legislative action is needed to address district maps or a number of other select topics. Legal challenges to the state’s current district maps, redrawn last year, continue to play out in North Carolina’s court system, with the state Supreme Court announcing last week that it would hear oral arguments in the case on Feb. 2. To date, lawmakers have not had any business arise that pulls them back to Raleigh, and have continued to hold no-vote skeleton sessions during this limbo period between the 2021 long session and upcoming short session.
When lawmakers ultimately return to Raleigh to kick off the short session and begin legislative work in earnest this spring, there are a number of issues we can expect will arise as priorities.
- Budget. One major accomplishment of the 2021 long session was the passage of an agreed-upon budget negotiated between Gov. Cooper and legislative leaders. The budget was enacted into law in November, marking a significant change from the 2019-20 biennium’s budget stalemate. Now, with a budget in place, it’s likely lawmakers will prioritize updating their spending plan to reflect revenue adjustments and make best use of state and federal funds through the 2022-23 fiscal year.
- Energy. Following the lengthy stakeholder process, subsequent lawmaker negotiations and ultimate passage of House Bill 951 “Energy Solutions for North Carolina” (HB951) in the long session, it’s unlikely lawmakers will have much appetite for another major piece of energy policy reform legislation. However, stand-alone bills addressing electric transportation, energy infrastructure and more could take priority in the short session, as could implementing language for HB951.
- Healthcare. Hardly a session goes by where healthcare issues do not take center stage at the General Assembly. Medicaid expansion has been a major priority of Gov. Cooper’s that has arisen for discussion year after year, but both legislative chambers remain divided in support. Policies addressing the opioid crisis have also been high priority in recent years, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, as North Carolina continues to see overdose deaths climb. Bills addressing opioid addiction treatment options, overdose prevention via co-prescription practices and more could continue to be high priority for lawmakers in the short session.
- Regulatory reform. Whether part of a large omnibus package or in a stand-alone bill, legislation intended to change various rules and regulations is a frequent priority at the General Assembly. In the long session, a bill to authorize sports betting in North Carolina passed the Senate and currently awaits action by the House, which is likely to take it up this year. Other proposed policy changes that gained significant traction and interest in the short session and are likely to resurface in the short session include medical marijuana legalization, continued pandemic response, elections issues and more.
Of course, lawmakers’ priorities are always shaped by the changing and diverse needs of their constituents. Additionally, as Congress passes various pieces of legislation, North Carolina could see an influx of federal dollars and directives that require further allocation and policymaking. As the short session approaches, stay tuned as we provide updates on redistricting, other interim activities, legislative plans and more.