Early Friday morning, the General Assembly adjourned for a couple of weeks, holding no vote sessions for the next couple of weeks with the expectation that the chambers will return to attempt to override the Governor’s expected vetoes of reopening bills, among other contentious issues. If the NCGA returns in July, it will only be for veto overrides, but the chambers will also return in September to again assess the budget after revenue numbers are received and spent the remaining COVID-19 funding from the federal government. The short legislative session (even numbered years have shorter legislative sessions) began on April 28th, with a week long session that focused solely on coronavirus funding and specific statutes that needed to change for the COVID-19 situation.
Generally, the short legislative session’s main purpose is to adjust the prior year’s biennium budget. But last year, the budget was vetoed and because of a 2015 law, that meant that all prior year expenditures would be funded at the same allocation. There were some additional “mini-budgets” that passed the chambers and had special appropriations, but there was no official state budget passed; thus, there was no official budget to be adjusted. NCCASA’s priorities for the legislative session were to expand funding for rape crisis centers in the state budget. Many agencies filled out our needs form, noting the increase in services that agencies have had, and their priority needs.
The legislature returned a couple weeks later, allowing the public and lobbyists back into the legislative building. This session lasted for about 8 weeks, with the final two weeks containing full schedules and many committees. The state did not spend additional money this session, but did spend an additional $500 million in federal coronavirus funding. Included in that allocation was $3.5 million in grant funding that would go to Caitlyn’s Courage, to conduct a domestic violence prevention pilot program to combat rising rates of domestic violence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is for 9 judicial districts (3 small, 3 medium, 3 large) to use GPS monitoring in pretrial release for defendants related to stalking, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and violations of a domestic violence protective order. Caitlyn’s Courage is a nonprofit in Pitt County that was founded in October 2019 after a family lost a daughter at the hands of domestic violence. At this time, Caitlyn’s Courage does not provide direct services. When this provision came to light, NCCASA worked in coordination with NCCADV, legislators, and other advocates to highlight why this was not the best use of COVID-19 funding, especially when that funding could be used for direct services. However, we were not successful, as this was an incredibly political decision made by Leadership in the General Assembly.
On both the House and Senate floor, it was highlighted that this allocation was more than rape crisis centers all get in a year. Multiple legislators appeared to be surprised to note that their direct services for sexual violence in their communities were funded at such low levels. NCCASA will be continuing to use the information provided by rape crisis centers to advocate for an increase in funding (we will continue to ask for $5 million in funding, up from $2.895M). We will be making this ask both in budget funding and in COVID funding.
If you would like to help, we ask that rape crisis centers reach out to their respective legislators to tell the story of why and how your agency could use the additional funding to provide services to the community. If your agency needs support or assistance with reaching out to legislators, please reach out to Staff Attorney/Lobbyist, Skye David, at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Executive Director, Monika Johnson Hostler, at email@example.com.