NC Budget Update
I love college football. The only thing better than a good ballgame on a crisp fall day is a ballgame that goes into multiple overtimes. When LSU and Texas A&M battled in a seven-overtime thriller in 2018, everyone won because we were treated to some fantastic action. Unfortunately, overtime is only good in sports. A state budget has yet to be passed and we are now well into an overtime period that does not seem to have an end in sight.
It has been over a month since Governor Cooper sent a compromise to legislators after vetoing a GOP-backed state budget. This is the first time Republicans do not have enough members to override the Governor’s budget veto on their own, which has created our current impasse. Since July 1, the state has been operating on the previous year’s fiscal budget. This provision comes from a state law that allows for continued funding to ward off a government shutdown.
Currently, Speaker Tim Moore is trying to whip the required three-fifths majority to override Governor Cooper’s veto. For this to be a possibility, House Republicans need seven Democrats to vote with them to override the veto if all 120 members are present for a vote. However, this seems unlikely given that on Wednesday, 51 of the 55 House Democrats sent a letter to Berger and Moore asking them to negotiate with Cooper. The letter reiterated the Democrats’ support of Mr. Cooper’s veto.
Without a budget, funding is on hold for many other things like school safety grants, investments in the community college system, resources for infrastructure projects, and emerging needs that were not addressed in the previous year’s budget. An appropriations bill was approved by the General Assembly on July 23 to allow federal dollars to fund select initiatives as the stalemate over the budget continues. Legislators can reconcile some other spending shortfalls with smaller bills aimed to fund specific issues, but those bills are only temporary fixes. The Winston Salem Chamber will continue to work with our legislators until we have a budget.
Senate Bill 86 Update
Recently, a state Senate bill that would allow small businesses to use associations to get health care plans cleared the House by an 82-32 vote, and nearly half of Senate Democrats voted for the bill. Senate Bill 86 (Small Business Healthcare Act) addresses Association Healthcare Plans (AHPs). The bill would make the requirements for AHPs in North Carolina less stringent as a response to Labor Department changes at the federal level.
Those who oppose AHPs believe that giving small employers access to plans usually reserved for larger companies might lead to smaller employers choosing plans that do not contain the 10 essential health care benefits required in the federal marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. The 10 essential healthcare benefits are: ambulatory or outpatient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; behavioral health services; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services, and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care. Plans that do not contain these coverages are called “Skinny Plans” and are illegal under provisions of the ACA.
The bill has passed the state House with a bipartisan majority large enough to override a veto, but it is believed that Governor Cooper may veto the bill. Federal court decisions still block the implementation of AHPs and the federal appeals process could take years to adjudicate. However, these plans could be a great option for many folks who are stuck in the margins of healthcare. The Winston Salem Chamber is working with other Chambers across the state to map out courses of action for either decision.
HanesBrands x Free the Girls
HanesBrands, a Winston Salem based company, has joined forces with the nonprofit group Free The Girls to help women rescued from human trafficking re-establish their lives. More than 200 retail stores in the United States and Puerto Rico are accepting new and gently used bras to be donated to Free The Girls. Donated bras are used by Free The Girls to help human trafficking survivors in Mozambique, El Salvador and Costa Rica establish secondhand apparel resale businesses to earn sustainable incomes.
Free The Girls provides survivors with initial bra inventories at no cost, along with free financial planning, budgeting, inventory management and other critical support services to assist women as they start their businesses. The organization also provides and low-cost inventory replenishment once businesses are up and running.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that FTG’s Executive Director and Communications Coordinator are good friends of mine. They are two exceptional ladies with hearts made of pure gold. It makes perfect sense that they would find a partner in HanesBrands. HanesBrands is a pillar in our community and it is wonderful to see two powerful entities to combine to make positive change in this world.
We are thankful for Coleman Team of Front Street Capital for speaking at our last Impact Hour. It was a tremendous event that lived up to the excitement. We are equally as excited for our next installment of the series which features Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough and Police Chief Catrina Thompson. Chief Thompson leads a department with 570 sworn officers, 173 civilian positions, and an annual budget of $74.5 million. Sheriff Kimbrough has more than thirty (30) years of law enforcement experience, and is the first African-American Sheriff of Forsyth County. It will be great to hear their perspectives on keeping our community safe. The event is September 10 from 3:30PM-4:30PM at the Winston Salem Chamber. You can RSVP here.
September 13th Government Affairs Meeting
The next Government Affairs meeting will be at a new time and offsite. Many of you have expressed interest in having a meeting that was less formal and more social. We heard you, and we are excited to announce that our September 13 meeting will take place at Small Batch (241 W 5th St) at 4:30PM. We will not have a formal agenda. However, as we enter fall, we are interested in hearing from our committee members and want to use this meeting as a precursor to this fall’s Listening Tour. Our Listening Tours are an opportunity to help us shape our Legislative Agenda by hearing about what our members need, gaining an understanding of what advocacy actions you would like to see in the future, and having some lighthearted fellowship. Small Batch will have some appetizers for us to share, and we look forward to seeing you.