This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal
. The author of this post is Donna King
House Speaker Tim Moore, right, and Senate leader Phil Berger. | Photo: Carolina Journal
If you follow state politics, you have no doubt heard of crossover day on the legislative calendar. You may see a flurry of legislative news, updates, and emailed explanations of bills, all in the effort to move legislation through one chamber to the next.
If a bill does not "cross over" that marble-tiled, fountain-filled corridor from House to Senate or vice-versa by Thursday, May 13, then the bill is dead for this two-year legislative session.
It is high stakes for lawmakers and lobbyists alike, each monitoring a bevy of bills to see if they get approval from one chamber and survive to be examined by the other.
"This is my first crossover week as a government affairs associate, and I can say it lives up to the hype,"
said Jordan Roberts of the John Locke Foundation. "The Legislative Building is more full than usual, and there is a sense of urgency that isn't there in other weeks."
The deadline also means that no new bills can be introduced, with a few exceptions. There are three types of bills that do not have to be held to the "crossover rule": constitutional amendments, budget-related bills, and redistricting.
As of Tuesday morning, there have been 927 bills filed in the House and 721 bills filed in the Senate. In the House 237 made it
by the crossover deadline so far, while 120 Senate bills
have made it out of the chamber to date.
"Legislators and stakeholders become laser-focused on ensuring their legislation can live on past the deadline, which leads to a week full of intense discussions that determine the fate of certain bills,"
Next week, expect a crossover hangover while lawmakers and staff shuffle through the surviving bills to set a course for the rest of the session.
A state budget ranks high on the to-do list after the last budget was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, along with state employee and teacher raises. The House overrode the veto, but the Senate did not, so the 2017-18 budget continued to dictate state government operations.
Now, budget work is already in progress behind closed legislative doors, as July 1 marks the new budget year. Lawmakers are working to set a total dollar amount, which is reportedly close to $26 billion; less than the governor's March proposal
to spend more than $27 billion in 2021-2022 and more than $28 billion in 2022-2023.
Still, the usually contentious relationship between Republican lawmakers and the Democrat governor seems to have softened in recent months as the state fought to reopen schools and recover from COVID-related shutdowns. The opposing party leaders have appeared together in press conferences like the Apple announcement, reopening schools, and in a COVID vaccine promotional video
The two chambers alternate creating the first budget draft every two years, and this time the Senate will come up with the starting point for negotiations. Whether disagreement over Medicaid expansion derails the process remains to be seen, but Republicans and Democrats appear to be ready to get a budget done. Senate Leader Phil Berger said that the state has a $4.5 billion dollar surplus even before another $5 billion in federal COVID relief funds arrive.
"I think they [the funds] are a blessing because they do provide us the resources to do some things we have needed to do for a while,"
Berger told the N.C. Chamber of Commerce government affairs summit recently. "I think those dollars become a curse if we artificially inflate recurring spending on a year over year basis."
The fiscal year ends on June 31 and ideally a new budget should be in place by then, barring any extensions allowed for negotiations. Generally, the General Assembly sets the goal of getting a budget to the governor before July 1, followed by two weeks of wrapping up other business. Lawmakers are expected to adjourn in mid-July and return for their announced special redistricting session in the fall.