The General Assembly is set to recess on July 11 and is scheduled to reconvene on September 2nd. We passed many good bills last week, including SB 808 , which added $125 million for COVID-19 testing and tracing and $20 million for early childhood/childcare services, SB 113 to bring current law into alignment with the funding and policy recommendations from DHHS and DPI in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and HB 885 which allows courts to only collect a failure to appear fee once in the span of a criminal case.

These bills will allow our state agencies to continue providing services to North Carolinians, will allow our schools to respond to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, and will reform a portion of our court system that disproportionately affects low-income people of color in our communities.

I was glad to have the opportunity to vote for these bills. Unfortunately, members of the General Assembly are no longer allowed to vote virtually or by proxy, and we must be present on the floor or in committee to vote on legislation that comes before us. Twice last week, we were in session until very late to vote on legislation that affects the lives and livelihoods of North Carolinians. Once, session even went until 3AM.

Members of the Wake County Delegation are proud to serve our constituents, no matter the day or the hour. However, we certainly hope that session doesn't continue until 3AM again this year.
Please note that my office will be closed from July 3rd through end of day on July 10th.

Otherwise, my office in the General Assembly will be open and utilizing teleworking technologies indefinitely. We are still able to address any questions or concerns you might have. We will just not be physically in the Legislative Building for a short time. You can still contact my office by emailing [email protected] or by calling 919-715-0795.

Please contact me at any time. I am here to serve you.

Representative Julie von Haefen
Legislative Update
Unemployment System Reform
Unfortunately there were a number of issues that leadership did not allow our body to take up last week. The most important one includes reforms to our unemployment system.
Long before the COVID-19 crisis, North Carolina had the worst unemployment system in the country for unemployed workers. Our system provides too little in compensation, for too short a period of time, to too few unemployed workers. My office has received over one hundred requests for assistance from unemployed workers who have struggled to access benefits and who are struggling to make ends meet due to our extremely low benefit cap in North Carolina.
I am a strong supporter of House Bill 1075 to fix the unemployment system so that jobless workers can weather the current pandemic and any future employment crisis that they may face. It is imperative that we take up this legislation immediately. Federal pandemic assistance programs are set to expire at the end of July and December, leaving workers and businesses across our state with an inadequate system to stabilize the state’s economy through to a full recovery. House Bill 1075 would:

  • Lengthen the amount of time an unemployed worker could potentially receive compensation to 26 weeks (up from 13)
  • Increase the maximum potential weekly benefit to $450/week (up from a max of $350/week)
  • Expand when a worker could receive unemployment such as when a spouse relocates for a job.

There are some rumors that we might return to session in late July. I urge my colleagues and our leadership in the General Assembly to take up HB 1075 and provide relief for our friends and neighbors who are struggling through this unprecedented time in history.
Protections for Workers at Meat Processing Plants
While demand for meat and farm products has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers at meat processing plants in North Carolina are at an extremely high risk for contracting the virus and many plants are facing staff shortages.

The House passed HB 1201, which would provide some grants to facilities experiencing work slow downs due to high numbers of workers that have become infected with the virus.

Rep. Rachel Hunt and Rep. Ager introduced good amendments that would have required facilities accepting grants from the state to implement workplace safety standards designed to reduce viral transmission and to provide two weeks of paid sick leave for any employee that tests positive for COVID-19. Unfortunately, those amendments did not pass the House. The bill now waits in the Senate for further action.
The Emergency Powers Bill
Last week, SB 105 passed through the General Assembly. This bill would take power away from the Governor to respond to emergencies and instead give that power to the Council of State. We all have lived through different states of emergency in North Carolina, every one of which required quick and decisive action from the Governor's office.

Stripping away the Governor's emergency powers would not only limit our state's ability to respond to changing COVID-19 conditions, but would also limit our ability to respond to future emergencies, such as hurricanes.

The bill passed 64 to 49 (I voted against it) and now heads to Governor Cooper for his signature or veto.
COVID-19 Update
North Carolina Pauses in Safer At Home Phase 2, Adds Statewide Requirement for Face Coverings

Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced last week that North Carolina will remain in Safer at Home Phase 2 for three more weeks.

Cooper also announced that face coverings must be worn when people are in public places as officials seek to stabilize concerning trends of increasing viral spread. Growing evidence shows that cloth face coverings, when worn consistently, can decrease the spread of COVID-19, especially among people who are not yet showing symptoms of the virus. Until now, face coverings had been strongly recommended. Under this new executive order, people must wear face coverings when in public places where physical distancing is not possible. 
In addition, certain businesses must have employees and customers wear face coverings, including retail businesses, restaurants, personal care and grooming; employees of child care centers and camps; state government agencies under the Governor’s Cabinet; workers and riders of transportation; and workers in construction/trades, manufacturing, agriculture, meat processing and healthcare and long-term care settings.

Based on the metrics laid out in April, North Carolina is evaluating a combination of the data from the following categories that shows the indicators moving in the wrong direction, causing officials to pause in Phase 2.

  • North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is increasing.
  • North Carolina’s trajectory of lab-confirmed cases starting to level, but is still increasing.
  • North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive remains elevated.
  • North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations are increasing, though we have capacity in our healthcare system.

Businesses can download templates for signs on face coverings here .

More information about the effectiveness of face mask alternatives (including social distancing, face shields, and clear masks) for people with disabilities can be found here and here .
Office Updates
Applications for Student Advisor positions and the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council
Applications are now open for the North Carolina State Board of Education Student Advisor positions and the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council.
This application is open to rising juniors in high school, and will be a two year appointment that students remain in during their senior year. These advisory roles are a good fit for students who are interested in education policy, learning the inner-workings of our education system at the state level, and being a voice for their fellow classmates! Please pass along this application information to any student that you believe may be a good fit for these roles.

The SBE Advisors meet two days per month, aligned with the SBE's monthly meetings. The Superintendent's Advisors will meet one day per month. The deadline to complete this application is Wednesday, July 15th, 2020. To apply, fill out the form below! 
Wake Stone Public Hearing
The   Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources (DEMLR) will continue the digital public hearing on a permit modification for Wake Stone Corporation on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 to accommodate pre-registered speakers.
Since the number of registered speakers exceeded the allotted time during the June 23 public hearing, the Division Director determined it necessary to hold a second day of the digital public hearing to receive comments on the application. Based on current guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health, members of the public can participate online or listen via telephone.
The public is invited to participate online or listen by phone. Only previously registered speakers will have the opportunity to speak. 
WHEN : Tuesday, July 7, 2020, 9:00 a.m.
ONLINE : Cisco WebEx Link
Meeting Number (Access Code): 617 499 551
Meeting Password: DEQ123
PHONE: +1 ( 415) 655-0003        
Access code: 161 004 6542      
To submit public comment or obtain additional information concerning the hearing, email  [email protected]  or write:
                                    Judy Wehner
                                   Assistant State Mining Specialist
                                   Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources
                                   1612 Mail Service Center
                                   Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1612
The proceedings will remain open for a period of ten days following the hearing for additional written arguments or statements ending on Friday, July 7, 2020.
DEQ will consider all public comments and other available information about the permit application before deciding whether to issue the final permit, deny the permit or issue it with amended conditions.
All comments received will be considered in the final permit decision on this application.
Wake Stone Corporation's application and related documents can be found  here .