From the desk of Senator Joyce Waddell

North Carolina General Assembly Coronavirus Update

Joyce Waddell

CHARLOTTE, NC- Due to concerns over coronavirus, North Carolina’s legislature is canceling committee meetings that bring small groups of lawmakers to Raleigh ahead of the next scheduled General Assembly session in late April. A memo from legislative leaders Thursday said that meetings will be canceled until April 1 “at the earliest,” legislative staffers will be allowed to work remotely, and school field trips to the General Assembly will be canceled. The formal beginning of the short session is scheduled for April 28, and that remains unchanged.

The N.C. House and Senate haven’t held a session since mid-January. But between sessions, legislators come to Raleigh periodically for oversight committee meetings to hear presentations about key topics and work on draft legislation. On Wednesday, for example, the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee handling wireless and broadband access in North Carolina Public Schools and Retirement Models for Teachers. On Thursday the committee handling justice and public safety issues got updates on the “Raise the Age” program to move 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult courts and prisons, as well as funding to reduce the backlog of rape kit testing.

The committee meetings this year have been held in two cramped rooms in the Legislative Building, while larger hearing rooms that allow for a bit more “social distancing” are under renovation. Also, many lawmakers are over age 65 — the population that’s being encouraged to avoid large gatherings. Thursday’s memo said that “such gatherings are not prudent at this time”

The full legislature is still scheduled to return April 28 to address budget and other matters. There’s no provision in state law or constitution for meetings and votes via video conferencing or other approaches.

"It is important that we all follow guidelines concerning the coronavirus. We are given updates daily concerning tips to help stop the spread of germs including avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, avoid close contact, and practicing other good health habits." said Senator Joyce Waddell.