NC General Assembly to address immigration, opportunity grants

The short session starts on April 24 and is expected to last until early July

North Carolina lawmakers will soon stream into the state capital for their short session, which begins April 24 and is expected to last through July.

During odd years, the General Assembly meets for a full regular session, while in even years it meets for a shorter session.

Although the budget has not yet been finalized and there are no firm business commitments, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham) said the session will be “primarily focused on making necessary adjustments to the two-year state budget was adopted last year.”

They could also discuss the issues of immigration, video lottery terminals and education. The jury is still out on whether abortion legislation will come up this spring and summer.

Because it is an election year, legislation could be affected, said House Democratic Leader Robert Reives (D-Chatham, Randolph).

“I think the election, unfortunately, always impacts what happens during the short session,” Reives said. “The needs of the people don’t change, but the needs of those who want to be elected sometimes do.”

Here you will find an overview of what to pay attention to during this session.

1. Education

Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford) said there will likely be an increase in funding for the Opportunity Scholarship. This year, about 72,000 North Carolina residents signed up, a number that the program could not fully fund. To bridge this gap, they would need an increase of about $300 million.

Moore said he is unsure if the full request will be met, but that the number of applicants this year has shown the demand for it.

Some Democratic lawmakers are concerned that increasing funding for private school vouchers will prevent pay increases for teachers. Moore disagreed, saying, “I think there’s still money to make sure we’re taking care of our teachers.”

He also noted that expanding child care funding is a priority.

There is also talk in the field of education about ending funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs. This would be especially a problem at the university level.

“There’s not a big push to do anything immediately,” Moore said, hinting that the issue may take more time to work out.

More: The race for NC superintendent of public instruction is heating up. Meet the candidates.

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2. Immigration

Immigration has become a hot topic this election season, with both Joe Biden and Donald Trump making trips to the border. And while North Carolina is not a border state, the General Assembly is considering enforcing new immigration-related legislation.

For example, House Bill 10, which passed in the House of Representatives and requires police officers to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), could come to the Senate this session.

Many Democratic lawmakers in the minority party expressed disappointment that immigration will be a focus this session.

3. Video lottery terminals

With a recent cut in corporate taxes, Democratic lawmakers are concerned about the potential revenue gap that could emerge in the coming years.

“We have been cutting taxes over the last few budgets, with plans to continue cutting personal taxes and then phase out corporate taxes by the end of this decade,” said Rep. Charles Smith (D-Cumberland). “What kind of revenue are we going to look at if we don’t have those federal dollars?”

Video lottery terminals could be one way to fill that gap.

But Moore insisted that legislation on video lottery terminals and similar matters should go through a normal committee process.

“The big complaint people had about the gambling legislation last year was the way it was just wedged in without much discussion,” Moore said. “And honestly, I think that criticism was justified. I didn’t like that process.”

4. Abortion

It is still unclear whether further abortion legislation will be introduced this spring and summer. Some say pushing for a stricter ban during an election year could be risky; Others say the Republican Party has the numbers to make this happen.

In May 2023, the General Assembly passed a 12-week abortion ban after overriding the governor’s veto. Some Republicans hope to continue to tighten the ban over time.

Speaking to reporters, Moore said it is unlikely this will happen during the short session.

5. Medical marijuana

Last session, Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Senator Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), passed the Senate but was not passed by the House. It’s unclear whether this bill will resurface, but Democratic Sen. Julie Mayfield (D-Buncombe) said she hopes it will.

More: North Carolina’s first dispensary will open April 20, but only for medical cannabis

From the minority

Rep. Lindsey Prather (D-Buncombe) said she wished the General Assembly would address issues that affected constituents’ daily lives. Similar sentiments were echoed by several other Democratic lawmakers.

“I’d rather talk about how to protect the environment,” Prather said. “I’d rather talk about how to get the word out and help people sign up for the Medicaid expansion. I would prefer to work with community col