It was a nostalgic start to the week as the Senate Chamber was filled with dozens of former Senators on Tuesday, including Governor Roy Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, for the unveiling of a portrait of longtime Senate Leader Marc Basnight. The portrait, painted by a staff member of the current Senate Leader, Phil Berger, will hang in the bedroom. Basnight passed away last year after a decades-long battle with ALS. Republican and Democratic members hailed Basnight’s tenure as one that has enabled substantial economic growth and investment in education and infrastructure.
The number of COVID-19 cases has started to decline but still remains fatal. This morning in the state of North Carolina there were 5,953 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 3,231 people hospitalized and, sadly, 16,012 confirmed deaths. There were 11,052,696 doses of the vaccine distributed in North Carolina, representing approximately 68% of the total adult population.
As we all continue to feel the effects of the global pandemic and adjust to a new normal, we want to highlight a few ways our clients in North Carolina have worked to support residents and make this time a little easier for them. those across the state. Learn more about what our customers are doing to help by clicking here.
For more information on COVID-19 in North Carolina, click here to visit the Department of Health and Human Services website, and be sure to stay up to date on the latest federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by clicking here.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) told members Thursday that budget chairmen in both houses had worked late into the night this week to find compromises on sticking points. While he did not specify what elements are delaying the process, Moore explained the process used this year. He explained that the Budget Chairs have met to settle differences, but suggested there were differences he and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) will need to resolve over the next few days. Once they come to an agreement, they will present the budget proposal to Democratic Governor Cooper before voting on it, to see if he signs it as is or what changes will be needed for him to sign it. It is Moore’s hope, he said, to have a plan for the governor by next week.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) would have more flexibility, but more legislative oversight, when funding projects under a bill going through the legislature. House Bill 165 would amend various laws dealing with NCDOT and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Under the bill, NCDOT and the Turnpike Authority would have more options to partner with private entities to fund infrastructure projects. Another provision would raise the threshold for using an informal tendering process for construction and repair projects from $ 500,000 to $ 1 million. Additionally, as the pandemic strained NCDOT, roadside garbage collection efforts took a hit. H165 would put in place more legislative oversight on the effectiveness of a new waste management system. The Senate Transport Committee introduced the amended bill this week and forwarded it to the Senate Rules Committee.
The General Assembly continues to move North Carolina forward into the future; This week, the Senate Transport Committee passed a bill that will define and regulate autonomous vehicles intended for the transport of goods and products. Bill 814 would define a “neighborhood vehicle without occupant” as a fully autonomous vehicle at low speed and designed to transport goods without a driver. The bill places certain operating limitations on operators, including being allowed only on streets with speed limits of 45 mph or less. The current law passed a few years ago already enforces regulations on driverless cars, not just those intended to deliver goods, including insurance and registration requirements.
A phenomenon driven by the technology and information systems industries called a “sandbox” is an isolated environment for users or entrepreneurs to test new business models in a highly controlled setting. North Carolina lawmakers are proposing a bill with bipartisan support that would develop a regulatory sandbox for innovative financial and insurance companies that use emerging technologies. House Bill 624 would establish the North Carolina Innovation Council, made up of several members of the State Council, the Commissioner of Banking, and members of the blockchain industry. The Board would select entities wishing to participate in a 24-month program under the supervision and review of the Board. The Council would have the power to grant an “innovation waiver” and to authorize a product or service that is currently not authorized by law, with the exception of criminal or consumer protection laws. The bill was passed by the Senate Finance Committee this week and has been sent to the Rules Committee.
Next legislative meetings
There is currently no legislative committee planned. The Joint Redistricting Committee continues to hold public hearings and will be in Wilmington, Fayetteville and Pembroke next week.