Weekly Legislative Update


North Carolina South Carolina

North Carolina

By Betsy Bailey & Victor Barbour
December 6, 2023

Candidate Filing

Candidate filing for North Carolina elections next year opened on Monday with races for governor and several statewide positions without incumbents expected on the ballot, along with contests for all U.S. House and legislative seats, altered yet again by redistricting. Filing started at noon with the State Board of Elections in Raleigh for statewide, federal and judicial offices and at county election board offices for other positions.

Within a half-hour, more than 50 people — candidates, their staff and family members — were waiting to enter a building at the State Fairgrounds to turn in paperwork and filing fees. Those coming to Raleigh to file early included U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards, repeat congressional hopeful Bo Hines and labor commissioner candidates Jon Hardister and Luke Farley.

“It’s really an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity,” said Kaleb Wingate, a District Court judge in seven far western counties running for a second four-year term. He was the first candidate to complete the filing process with the state board, waiting outside the fairgrounds building since 9:30 a.m. “We take it very serious and want ... to be ready to go when the time comes,” Wingate said.

Filing ends at noon Dec. 15 for candidates seeking party nominations in the March 5 primaries. Those unopposed for a nomination skip to the November general election. Independent candidates have more time to collect signatures to get on next fall’s ballot.

The 2024 elections should result in a shakeup at the top of the executive branch. Six of the 10 incumbents on the Council of State aren’t seeking reelection to their current positions. Term limits bar Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from running for another four-year term, and current Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell are among the announced candidates seeking to succeed him. That means their positions also will be open.

State Auditor Beth Wood and Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson aren’t seeking reelection as well. Wood is resigning next week, and Cooper’s choice to finish out her term, Jessica Holmes, filed on Monday to run for auditor in 2024.

“There’s some open seats on various levels of state government and in local government, so it is a big day and we’ve prepared for a big turnout,” state board Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said.

Candidates also are filing for the state’s 14 U.S. House seats and 170 General Assembly seats. Democrats and Republicans currently hold seven congressional seats apiece in the state. But the GOP-controlled legislature redrew in October the map so it could give Republicans at least three more seats after 2024 at the expense of incumbent Democrats, according to election data.

One of the three — first-term Rep. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte — already announced that he’s running for attorney general. The lines also could make it very hard for Democratic Reps. Kathy Manning of Greensboro and Wiley Nickel of Cary to return to Capitol Hill in 2025.

The state House and Senate districts also were redrawn several weeks ago, putting Republicans in a strong position to retain control of both chambers through the rest of the decade and potentially maintain their veto-proof majorities.

Two years ago, the state Supreme Court suspended 2022 candidate filing after three days so courts could review lawsuits claiming illegal gerrymandering. Filing resumed 2 1/2 months later, after North Carolina’s congressional district lines had been redrawn twice and General Assembly boundaries once, and the primary was delayed until May. So far, there are two lawsuits challenging this fall’s redistricting, including one filed late Monday by Black and Latino voters seeking to block the state’s new congressional map. They say the map illegally weakens minority voting power. A federal judge already refused to expedite action in an earlier lawsuit that focused on some state Senate districts.

Candidates this year also are vying next year for one seat on the state Supreme Court, three on the Court of Appeals and hundreds of trial court judgeships and local positions.

Voters also will cast primary ballots for president March 5, but those candidates don’t file. Rather, the state board finalizes this month those names based on directions from those parties who hold primaries — the state Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green parties.

See lists of North Carolina politicians running for office in 2024 HERE.

Voter Lawsuit

A group of Black and Latino voters sued the state on Monday over a new map of North Carolina’s congressional districts which they argue unconstitutionally discriminates against minority voters.

Republicans in the legislature drew a congressional map with 10 Republican-leaning districts, three Democratic-leaning districts and one swing district. “By strategically packing and cracking North Carolina’s minority voters, the 2023 congressional plan entrenches the state’s white majority and erases the gains made by voters of color in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles,” the lawsuit says.

Plaintiffs have requested a three-judge panel to hear the case and are asking for an injunction to prevent congressional elections from being run in the current map.

The challenge comes on the same day that candidate filing for the 2024 election began. If a judge acts quickly to grant the request for an injunction, the filing process could be disrupted. If the new maps are temporarily blocked from taking effect, congressional candidates would not be able to file to run in districts that may be struck down. So far, though, plaintiffs do not appear to have filed a motion to expedite the case. Candidate filing ends on Dec. 15.

This is the second lawsuit to target the state’s new electoral districts, which passed the Republican-controlled legislature in October. Two Black voters challenged the new state Senate map, which they argue illegally dilutes the voting power of Black residents in Eastern North Carolina. Plaintiffs in that case had asked the judge to decide whether to block the new map before candidate filing begins, but the judge declined to expedite the schedule.

Due to recent decisions from conservative courts at the state and federal levels, partisan gerrymandering is no longer a valid legal challenge.

During the redistricting process this year, Republicans were open about drawing maps that benefited their own party, while stressing that they did so within legal bounds.

While courts won’t rule on partisan gerrymandering, racial gerrymandering is still illegal under federal law. The federal Voting Rights Act prohibits any election law that discriminates based on race, and the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed with plaintiffs in Alabama who argued that the state’s electoral maps unlawfully diluted the votes of Black residents.

Highway Safety

The state’s new secretary of transportation is laying out new plans to make our roads and highways safer. North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Joey Hopkins says they’re partnering with the state highway patrol to install blue light trailers – vehicles and electronic signs with flashing blue lights to get drivers’ attention.

“Maybe we can put those out there to kind of give some advance warning to help people understand what they’re coming up toward,” Hopkins said.

The department is also expanding its wrong-way detection systems over the next few years. They’re already testing that technology at the Triangle Expressway and Davis Drive interchange.

“Alert not just the motorist that they’re doing something wrong and they may not even realize it or they’re disoriented or maybe driving under the influence type of thing, but also to alert law enforcement that ‘hey, there’s a problem and it’s right here’,” Hopkins said.

NC State STEM Center Project

N.C. State University picked multinational contractor Skanska to build the $136.7 million Integrative Sciences Building, marking one of the biggest UNC system projects of the year. The 164,947-square-foot building will be used to promote STEM teaching and research as part of the university’s efforts to expand science education. It will include classrooms, teaching and research labs, faculty spaces and a cafe. Departments using the building will include chemistry, biochemistry and biotechnology research.

The building will “revitalize the marquee Brickyard, one of the nine hallowed places on the north campus,” said Mark Balling, Skanska’s executive vice president for North Carolina and Virginia building operations, in a release. Richmond, Virginia-based Moseley Architects is the building designer. The project is expected to be completed in September 2026.

Skanska, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden, has previously built several N.C. State structures, including Fitts-Woolard Hall; the Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center; the James B. Hunt Jr. Library; and Engineering Building III at N.C. State.

South Carolina

By Leslie B. Clark
December 6, 2023

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SC Senate Legislation Pre-filed

Last week, members of SC Senate pre-filed legislation for the upcoming session. There was a total of 55 bills pre-filed and included everything from judicial qualifications & selection to requiring individuals who want to run for office to take a test on the Constitution. The following bills have been added to our tracking list:

S.844 Civil Justice & Insurance Study Committee

This legislation establishes a study committee to assess the correlation between the state's civil justice laws and insurance coverage. Specifically, the committee shall address coverage availability, premium rates, and deductibles in the following five categories: (1) property and casualty for single-family dwellings, multi-family units, and condominium complexes and commercial buildings; (2) automobiles and trucks; (3) commercial general liability; (4) business; and (5) restaurant /tavern/ bar liability liquor liability. The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee. 

Note and Call to Action for our Members: The above legislation (S. 844) will only kick the can down the road. The fix is already filed and ready to go, S. 533. S. 533 was filed last year and will address concerns with increasing premium rates, nuclear verdicts, and insurers leaving our state. We encourage our members to reach out to their Senators and ask them to pass S. 533 immediately when they return to Columbia in January. We’ve been “studying” this issue for years and it is time for the Senate to act so that our members can operate daily without the fear of being one lawsuit away from going out of business.

S. 859 – State Employment Qualifications

S. 859 will require the Office of Human Resources to assess jobs in the executive branch to determine if qualifications can be reduced without sacrificing the quality of service provided by the job. The bill places emphasis on reviewing jobs that require a 4-year degree. The bill was referred to the Finance Committee.

South Carolina Material Exchange

According to the SC Department of Commerce, the circular economy is building momentum in South Carolina, punctuated by record-setting capital investments like battery component recycler Redwood Materials’ December 2022, $3.5 billion announcement. Statewide, the recycling industry’s annual economic impact totals $13.6 billion, accounting for thousands of jobs.

South Carolina businesses are invited to explore the South Carolina Material Exchange. Developed in partnership by S.C. Commerce and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the South Carolina Material Exchange is a free online platform where companies can list typically discarded materials that are available for pick up or purchase. By utilizing industry connections, the business community can support the local circular economy and help minimize scrap waste.

Greenville County School Board Trustees Approve Land Purchase for Career Center

Last week, the Greenville County School Board of Trustees unanimously approved spending over $1million to buy over 18 acres of land necessary to build the replacement of the County’s aging career center. The land is a half-mile from the current career center site and will not require a milage increase since the county has capital improvement funds that can be used for long-range facility plans. The current facility is the oldest in the district and county officials say they are to offers programs in trades such as automotive technology, firefighting, and welding, but there are other trade areas they would like to offer, and the current facility does not allow them to do so. The new Career Center could offer around 100,000 square feet of classroom space and is expected to open in 2031 but it could open sooner than the expected date.