Jun 3, 2022 - News

The fate of two consequential bills rests in the North Carolina House

Illustration of the North Carolina Legislative Building with lines radiating from it.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

North Carolina's state Senate passed two major bills Thursday on issues that few believed would ever see the light of day in this legislature: Medicaid expansion and medical marijuana.

Yes, but: The bills could lead to a standoff between the Senate, House and the governor, who all have competing priorities for this year's legislative session.

Between the lines: It's an election year, and all 170 seats are up for grabs. How Republicans vote on policy changes now could affect their ability to gain a supermajority in both chambers, which would give them the power to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto in the final two years of his term.

  • If Republicans succeed at that in November, this could be Cooper's last chance to achieve one of his top political priorities of expanding Medicaid.
  • Senate Republicans have pointed to polling, saying it shows passing Medicaid expansion and medical marijuana enhance their chances of gaining a supermajority.
  • House Republicans, however, don't seem as motivated by polling that shows their base is increasingly supportive of legalizing medical marijuana and expanding Medicaid.

State of play: The fate of both bills rests in the House. Republicans there have repeatedly said they have no desire to debate hefty policy changes — like Medicaid expansion and medical marijuana — in the "short session," which is slated to wrap up at the end of this month.

The bottom line: The House has a good chance at succeeding in preventing both those bills from moving forward in the short session, because it's much easier to block a bill than it is to pass one.

But, but but: Negotiations for a new spending package could be another wrinkle. Each party — the governor, the House and the Senate — will likely need to compromise if they want to achieve their priorities.

  • The House has emphasized that they want to allocate funds to a variety of projects as part of this year's budget.
  • But Senate leader Phil Berger is willing to go home without a budget this year, he told journalists Thursday.
  • Asked if the Senate would decline to pass a budget bill if the House doesn't pass Medicaid expansion, Berger said, "We've not taken the position that 'We're not going to talk about the budget unless you take this bill up.'"
  • But, he said laughing, taking that position is "not a bad idea."

Of note: A third bill that made news this week — called the "Parents' Bill of Rights" — will have an easier time of passing the House but is expected to be vetoed by Cooper, who signaled his opposition to the bill last week, The Associated Press reported.

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