Legislature wraps 2015 session, passes major bills in waning days

Published 12:10 am Thursday, October 1, 2015

By Josh Bergeron


Just before early risers woke on Wednesday in preparation for a day’s work, state legislators adjourned the 2015 session.

The N.C. General Assembly’s adjournment for the 2015 session came just after 4 a.m. on Wednesday. When they adjourned, legislators had been in session for 19 straight hours. Bills passed during the nearly day-long single session covered dozens of topics. Wednesday was the end to an eight month legislative session.

For the first portion of the 2015 legislative session, senators and House representatives mostly debated bills tied to state spending. Later, the focus shifted to policy measures and the budget. North Carolina’s state budget passed the General Assembly on Sept. 18. However, legislators still had work to do after the budget’s passage. Medicaid, a $2 billion bond package, incentives and dozens of other measures dotted the list.

With legislators returning to their home counties, here are five bills the N.C. General Assembly passed after it wrapped up budget work.

Primary elections consolidated 

Legislators set March 15 as the date for all primary elections in North Carolina.

Before the bill passed on Sept. 24, primary elections traditionally took place in May. North Carolina leaders had questioned whether moving only the presidential primary to March would make North Carolina more relevant in the race.

The changed primary date will include all races — from the U.S. president to county commissioners.

Because of the bill, candidates will be required to file sooner for political office. The filing period for candidates starts at noon on Dec 1 and runs through noon on Dec. 21.

It passed the N.C. House by a close vote — 52 to 49. Both of Rowan’s representatives in the House voted against the final version of a bill changing the primary dates. It passed the N.C. Senate with support from both of Rowan’s members.

An “affiliate party” provision contained in the bill drew some opposition among Republicans. It would allow caucuses in both bodies of the N.C. General Assembly to create a committee, collect money and spend it to elect members from their political parties.

The bill received Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature on Wednesday and became law.

Medicaid reform

State legislators began the medicaid reform discussion with different ideas of how it might end. Reforming Medicaid, however, has been the topic of policy discussions in North Carolina for years.

The N.C. House focused on nonprofit groups managing care. Senators favored a model that allowed private providers to manage patient care. The Senate’s proposal creates a managed care network. Both versions were aimed at cutting costs.

A final version of Medicaid reform had cleared both bodies of the General Assembly by Sept. 22. The compromise Medicaid reform bill was most similar to the Senate proposal. Instead of being paid for individual services, doctors and providers would be paid a predetermined amount for each person’s care.

All Rowan legislators voted for the proposal, which drew criticism from hospitals around the state — including Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

The legislature’s changes won’t go into effect immediately. It next will go to the federal government for approvals and review.

Bond package

Rowan County will directly receive a sliver of bond money compared to the $2 billion bond package passed during Wednesday’s early hours.

In the bond package, which was noticeably lower than a nearly $3 billion package proposed by McCrory, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will receive $7.2 million for construction, repairs and renovations. Rowan-Cabarrus is among dozens of community colleges slated to receive money in the bond package.

State parks, National Guard readiness centers and UNC System schools are among other allocations.

The largest single allocation is for grants and loans for water and sewer systems at $309.5 million. As Rowan looks to build a county-owned water system, it could take advantage of the state funds. County commissioners aim to build small portions of a county water system as money becomes available. The planned system’s estimated cost is $60 million.

McCrory’s bond package included money to renovate the N.C. Transportation Museum. The legislature’s version doesn’t.

In the North Carolina House, both Rowan representatives — Harry Warren, R-77, and Carl Ford, R-76 — voted against the $2 billion bond package.

Rowan’s state senators — Andrew Brock, R-34, and Tom McInnis, R-25 — were split on the proposal. Brock voted against the bond package on its third and final reading in the Senate. McInnis voted yes.

In a news release, McInnis said he supported the bond package because it would bring a “significant amount of new money to every county” in his district.

The bond next goes on ballots during the March 2016 primary elections.


Supported by McCrory, the General Assembly on Sept. 23 passed the N.C. Competes Jobs Plan.

It contains $20 million in annual incentives and $15 million more if the state lands a major manufacturer who invests at least $500 million and a minimum of 1,750 jobs. The incentives plan divides prospects into different tiers, with specific incentive rates for each tier.

In a news release announcing he signed the incentives plan, McCrory said it would put more people back to work in the state.

“This plan coupled with the quality of life improvements we’ve made in education, health care and transportation, will demonstrate to companies that nothing compares to North Carolina when it comes to growing their business,” McCrory said.

The incentives plan didn’t initially pass both houses and was sent to a conference committee to discuss a compromise.

When it emerged from the conference committee, it received the support of all Rowan’s members of the General Assembly.

Partisan Court of Appeals

On Tuesday, the General Assembly passed a bill that requires candidates for the North Carolina Court of Appeals to list party affiliations.

Currently, the Court of Appeals race is strictly non-partisan. A previous version of the bill made the race completely partisan. By the time it passed both bodies of the legislature, it only required a party affiliation on ballots.

The candidates would still compete in a primary. However, two candidates of the same party could make the general election ballot.

The primary process only narrows the field of candidates.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.