The session began on Tuesday with a flurry of bills, some like hurricane relief earning bipartisan support, others like Voter ID provoking bitter partisan divides.
Despite Democratic opposition, proponents of requiring photo identification to vote scored a victory on Election Day when voters approved a constitutional amendment mandating the requirement. The ballot question, though, did not define which IDs would be acceptable in the future, thus enabling lawmakers to legislate that - and more - in the near future.
The lame-duck session is also expected to cover a series of moves by Republicans to satisfy court orders, including modifying rules on boards and commissions and elections governance that were ruled unconstitutional because they curtailed power from the governor.
With the session expected to last up to two weeks, it's also possible the GOP-led General Assembly could cook up some surprises simply because they can. In December 2016, Republicans helped pass millions of dollars in aid to victims of Hurricane Matthew, then followed with a surprise session full of controversy.
The posted schedule for Wednesday includes a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing at 11 a.m., then the Rules Committee at 2 p.m. Sources tell ABC11 the first votes could happen later Wednesday afternoon.
The debate on SB824, the Voter ID bill, endured some twists and turns but passed its 2nd reading with bipartisan support; three Democrats - Senator Ben Clark (Cumberland, Hoke), Senator Joel Ford (Mecklenberg) and Senator Don Davis (Greene, Lenoir, Pitt, Wayne) joined Republicans in supporting the proposal.
Lawmakers passed six amendments to SB824, including two initiatives from Democrats. Those changes include extending the validity of special voter photo ID cards from eight to 10 years, plus a 90 day notice of expiration sent to voters.
The bill will need to pass a third reading before moving on to the House. Sources tell ABC11 GOP leaders decided to delay the third vote until Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. to allow lawmakers to "digest" all the changes to SB824.
The North Carolina Senate on Wednesday is moving quickly on two key pieces of legislation filed during the Lame Duck Session.
Senate Bill 823, a $299 million hurricane relief package passed unanimously, 44-0.
Some Democrats tried unsuccessfully to add more money towards affordable housing and to help victims of a tornado that hit Greensboro last April.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are vowing to continue hurricane relief efforts well into next year. The General Assembly's regular session beginning in January will be a budget year, enabling lawmakers to allocate significant funds to a wide range of issues.
Senate Bill 820 also passed unanimously. The legislation significantly increases tax incentives for companies that bring new jobs to North Carolina. The current incentive is a per-job tax credit of $6,500, and the bill raises the credit to $16,000.
One bill remains on the agenda - SB 824, Voter ID. This is certainly a hot-button issue, and it will be interesting to see how many Democrats support the legislation. Governor Roy Cooper has also held his cards closely on whether he will sign the legislation should it pass.
Once these bills pass the Senate they then move on to the House.
Without any debate, Senate swiftly passes SB820, which more than doubles tax incentives to companies moving to North Carolina. Obviously this isn’t for @amazon, but sources tell @ABC11_WTVD this could be about @Apple & @honeywell. Bill moves to House. #ncpol #ncga pic.twitter.com/S4RZ8XRKnp— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) November 28, 2018
Though not unanimous, SB824 (#VoterID) clears last hurdle in Senate Rules Committee and moves to the full Senate. Votes expected at 4:00 p.m. on this, economic incentives & #FlorenceNC. @ABC11_WTVD #ncpol #NCGA pic.twitter.com/0hKZIFhazk— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) November 28, 2018
Senator Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth & Yadkinn Counties) is now introducing SB824, the official proposed legislation defining which photo identifications will be accepted at the polls.
"Our goal is to defend against potential voter fraud but not make it difficult to vote," Sen. Krawiec tells the Rules Committee. "We've been exceptionally transparent and no one will be disenfranchised from voting."
Senator Joel Ford, a Democrat from Mecklenberg County, is co-sponsoring the bill, but its unclear how much support the caucus will give. Governor Roy Cooper has also withheld his opinion on the bill and whether or not he will veto it if it passes.
Republican leaders say SB824 is based on legislation in South Carolina which they say has "cleared federal scrutiny."
Included in the 16-page proposal is a list of acceptable ID's, among other provisions and exceptions. They include:
NC driver's license or non-operator ID card
Tribal enrollment card of federally or state recognized tribe
Military or veterans ID card
Student ID Cards from state universities, private universities and community colleges
Employee ID cards issued by a state or local government entity
Valid out of state license or non-driver ID if the voter registers within 90 days of the election
The Senate Rules Committee is meeting now to discuss three of the biggest bills filed thus far - Economic Development, Hurricane Florence and Voter ID.
Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Moore County) says the idea behind the economic incentives bill (SB820) is to attract "companies that have deep pockets and pay big salaries." Without mentioning specific companies, Tillman's bill proposes more than doubling the per-job tax incentive from $6,500 to $16,000.
Sources tell ABC11 the companies that lawmakers may be courting include Apple and Honeywell.
Biggest debate inside @NCLeg may be among the press corps - @NCGA_FUBAR meter has to increase, but by how much? The session has been relatively controversy-free thus far, so I’m in favor of keeping it pretty low... for now... @ABC11_WTVD @RaleighReporter @OHnewsroom #NCGA #ncpol pic.twitter.com/btofpPtGTK— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) November 28, 2018
Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee are meeting now to discuss a new proposal for additional Hurricane Florence relief. Senator Harry Brown (R-Jones & Onslow Counties), the bill's primary sponsor, is detailing some of the specifics of the $299 million package:
*$25 million for school repairs
*$1.5 million to restore school cafeterias
*$240 million to help about 10,000 affected farmers (equals about $24,000 per farmer). Sen.Brown says "This money won't save them all, but we hope it will help."
*$5 million for loans and grants to affected small businesses
*$10 million for fishing assistance, including shellfish and commercial fisheries
*$250,000 to Department of Environmental Quality
*$50,000 to Wildlife Resources Commission to conduct study to figure out what to do with the scores of abandoned boats stranded in waterways.
*$18.5 million to DEQ for coastal storm damage mitigation
Quiet start this far to Day 2 of @NCLeg Lame-Duck session. Day 1 ended with several key bills filed, including #VoterID & #FlorenceNC relief. @SenatorBerger’s tells @ABC11_WTVD voting could start this afternoon. Catch up here: https://t.co/el6iI8JqLI #ncpol #ncga— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) November 28, 2018
Senate Appropriations Cmte. Meeting just getting underway at @NCLeg. @SenHarryBrown speaking on proposed $299M #FlorenceNC aid package. Brown calls recovery “a work in progress.” @ABC11_WTVD #ncga #ncpol pic.twitter.com/ovOZmFMxJ5— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) November 28, 2018
.@SenHarryBrown: “This money won’t save all, but we hope it will help.” Proposed #FlorenceNC aid package allocated $240M to 10,000 affected farmers (basically $24,000 per farmer): $25M for school repairs & $10M for damaged fisheries. @ABC11_WTVD @MyNCSenate @NCSenateDems #ncpol pic.twitter.com/P8C9Se9fua— Jonah Kaplan (@KaplanABC11) November 28, 2018