Action – or, Rather, the Lack of It – at the General Assembly


If you missed the General Assembly session last week, don’t feel bad. It lasted all of a day and produced, well, not much at all. 

Republican leaders in the House and Senate brought lawmakers back to the capitol, hoping to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the legislature’s version of the state budget. House Republicans succeeded in overriding Governor Cooper’s budget veto last fall using tactics that left many Democrats crying foul.

But completing an override takes a three-fifths vote of both the House and the Senate. And Senate Republicans have had trouble finding even a single Democrat to join them in voting to override the Governor’s veto.

Governor Cooper and Republicans in the General Assembly have been at loggerheads over the budget since last summer. Cooper insists that the legislature expand healthcare coverage via the state’s Medicaid program. GOP leaders in the General Assembly have refused and put most of their political efforts into finding the votes to override Governor Cooper’s veto of their budget. 

That effort failed last week when Senate Republicans could not find the single Senate Democrat they need to collect a three-fifths majority for the veto. Without that single vote in the Senate, the effort to end the budget stalemate collapsed and the General Assembly adjourned until the beginning of the 2020 session, which will begin April 28. 

So, to review: North Carolina does not have a budget. The legislature went into session to address the budget issue. The session lasted a day. North Carolina still does not have a budget. 

In the absence of a spending plan for the state, any recurring funding from the last approved budget (fiscal year 2017-2018) continues. That’s why government offices are not shut down. But the absence of a budget leaves hundreds of millions of dollars unspent on education, health and human services and the environment – including open space conservation, water quality projects, clean water investments in the French Broad and other rivers, as well as new staffing needed to maintain the state’s environmental protection efforts. 

Prospects for an end to the budget stalemate are nowhere in sight. In fact, last week GOP Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said that the legislature may not even approve a budget for FY2020-21 – its most important task for the 2020 session. 

Instead, Senator Berger said, the General Assembly will leave the 2018 budget in place and, perhaps, approve smaller appropriations bills during the 2020 session. The bills could contain less controversial parts of the budget, such as the use of federal block grant funding. The General Assembly approved a number of these “minibudget” bills last year – some of which Governor Cooper signed, while vetoing others. 

Here at MountainTrue, we are already beginning to prepare our agenda for the 2020 session. We will share the details later this spring, but you can expect it to include new investments in water quality monitoring, improved public access for hiking and paddling, help for the region’s farmers to pay for fencing around streams and other water quality protections, and sustainable energy policies that protect consumers and address climate change. 

Thank you for making our voice in Raleigh possible!