Legislative session ends amid lingering uncertainty

Jun 26, 2020

The General Assembly finally adjourned at around 2:30 a.m. this morning – sort of. The adjournment resolution is effective July 7, and the House and Senate will hold skeletal sessions until then. Legislators will return for a new session on Sept. 2.

This was a short session unlike any other in recent memory. Most importantly for state employees and retirees was the lack of a traditional budget process due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the expected loss of revenue. Legislators addressed some areas through mini-budget bills, but did not make major changes with a projected shortfall of $4 billion looming.

The good news for most state employees is that meant the 2.5% pay increase agreed upon last year remained intact. Those who work in departments and agencies will receive the increase on July 1.

SEANC attempted to get increases for university and community college employees, as well as non-certified school personnel, but legislators were unwilling to commit to any new spending.

Last year, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed bills that would have given higher education employees raises, claiming those raises weren’t large enough. And yet, this year Cooper did not come up with a budget proposal of his own and did not call for a raise for these employees.

Likewise, an attempt to pass a bill for a 2% cost-of-living adjustment for retirees died in committee because it required a $96 million appropriation. A bill to fully fund the retirement system did pass.

Other items of note:

  • H1074 allowed for an employee who was classified as part-time but actually worked full-time hours to buy service credit in the retirement system. The bill wasn’t heard in the Senate and died as of adjournment.
  • S635 contains language for a pilot project of updated technology in prisons. This technology would improve the way Correctional staff track behavior and activity. There is also a contact tracing component which would be helpful in keeping track of Covid19 outbreaks in prison facilities. This bill passed and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • H1218 adjusted the funding levels for the retirement system to remain fully funded by the General Assembly. This bill passed and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • H308 contained an extension on return to work for retirees in positions where there is emergency need for experienced workers due to the pandemic. The six-month break in service requirement has been temporarily suspended. This bill passed and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • S818 provides a one-time $350 bonus for teachers and has language that encourages Gov. Cooper to use some of his Covid19 federal funds to provide an extra $600. The $600 would include non-certified school employees. The bill is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.