NC Legislative Update – April 17, 2020 – prepared by Lexi Arthur

Lawmakers in both the North Carolina Senate and House have been working hard to develop legislative packages in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 have learned how the virus is impacting industries across the state. The committee’s four working groups – Health Care, Education, Economic Support, and Continuity of State Operations – have been meeting remotely, hearing presentations from entities and associations from each group’s respective sector. All of the documents and presentations from the Committee meetings are available online. To access these resources, click here.

On April 7, NC Department of Transportation presented an update to the House COVID-19 Committee. Secretary Boyette outlined the pandemic’s effects on revenue. As this article explains, “Between the lost gas taxes, losses in DMV fees and lost highway use fees, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is estimating at least a $200 million dollar hit to expected revenue.”

The 2020 legislative short session will still be held on April 28 for just a few days to pass bills in response to COVID-19, including legislation to help small businesses, taxpayers, the unemployed, and health care providers. The legislative building will be closed to the public, limiting access legislators, staff, and the media for social distancing precautions. The bills that will be considered will solely address COVID-19 related issues. Lawmakers will, however, likely return again mid-late summer to work on additional budget and policy adjustments.

North Carolina’s chief legislative economist has estimated that state revenue collections could take a billion-dollar hit during the current budget cycle due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to this article, he cautioned the estimates are “very preliminary” and that an updated forecast is expected by mid-May.

Businesses around the state have been trying to navigate the challenges from COVID-19, including changes resulting from Governor Cooper’s Executive Orders. Among numerous directives outlined in recent executive orders are relaxed requirements governing unemployment benefits (Executive Order 118). As COVID-19 continues to impact businesses and our workforce across the state, Capital Associated Industries (CAI) is providing an array of resources to employers across the state, including guidance on unemployment insurance. CAI’s Coronavirus Command Center can be accessed by the public here. In addition, this presentation from a recent legislative Economic Support Working Group meeting provides an overview of unemployment changes enacted through the federal CARES Act. To view a flowchart that navigates unemployment benefit eligibility, click here.

Operational issues businesses have faced during the pandemic may be resolved through an executive order. For example, as this article explains, Executive Order 125 temporarily allows virtual and online corporate shareholder meetings. However, other issues – like extending permits to move forward with construction – would have to be done by NCGA, as there is no flexibility for local governments to change that time frame. This issue has been raised by the Continuity of State Operations co-chairs and was included in the list of items for potential legislation that was issued 4/12/2020.

SC Legislative Update – April 16, 2020 – prepared by Ben Homeyer

Governor McMaster held a press conference 4/16/20 in which a number of issues were discussed:

He is forming working groups to begin to look at opening the state back up.  Multiple groups will be brought together to look at a “measured approach.”  Health, Business, Governance are some of the groups that will begin to look at this.  It will be a slower process as the federal government today also released a plan to begin to re-open but they are taking it in two week intervals starting May 1 but have already said they do not want more than ten people together for at least the first month.  SC Commerce Secretary Hitt stated he is hopeful to begin bringing back business next month and is working with PRT and AG on how to help with opening tourism and agriculture issues.  But the Governor reiterated there is no set time to do it and they will make sure the science supports what is being put forth.  The Governor is also hopeful to remove the stay at home orders in the next several weeks.

The Governor has also communicated a plan to bring the General Assembly back via executive order in June (prior to June 30 which is the end of the fiscal year) to at least pass a continuing resolution to make sure on July 1 the state does not shut down.  One note of importance is that while the Governor can call back the General Assembly after their adjourn date he can not direct them on what to do.  So while a CR and/or the budget will be top of mind the General Assembly has the ability to take up other legislation if they deem it worthy such as Santee Cooper, business license fees and education reform.  The General Assembly has the ability to come back at any point prior to May 14th if the Speaker and President of the Senate request it.

Public boat ramps are being re-opened immediately by executive order.  Social distancing guidelines still apply but they are going to allow folks back on the water.

Primaries are still planned for June 9th and the Governor at this point has no plans to make changes to that time frame.

The Governor also stated that the state will be receiving $48 million for education help from the Federal Government and $1.9 billion for for virus response will be coming to the state.

New unemployment data was also released 4/16/20:

87,686 people filed for UI during claim week ending April 11 (Sunday April 5 – Saturday April 11).

SCDEW has processed 268,614 claims in the 4 weeks since the pandemic began. This is a 4,293.09% increase from the claim week ending March 14, 2020.

SCDEW has processed 268,614 claims in the four weeks since the pandemic began as opposed to the four weeks prior to the pandemic when the agency processed a total of 7,783 initial claims.

There are currently 3,931 total cases of Covid-19 in SC with 276 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.