TheWrap@NCCapitol (Jan. 13, 2021): Masks, uneasiness replace family fun on floor
The 2021 legislative session opened on Wednesday, but worries over the coronavirus pandemic and unease over last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol replaced the usual pomp of the ceremonial first day.
Welcome to the new session edition of the rap. I'm Laura Leslie, WRL capital Bureau chief. Then I'm Travis Fain, WRL Statehouse reporter. And today was the first day of the new 2021 22 legislative session. Not quite a day like your normal opening day is Travis. I mean, you know, usually it's so festive. People are having parties and receptions. The families were there on the floor with them. Um, you know, there's music, there's. And this year it was kind of grim. A little bit. I you know, there were still some happy faces. People were allowed. I think at least the freshmen were allowed to have some family in attendance. But it was It was it was different. You know, the the hall is definitely were not choked. It was a lot of space and took a little longer than I thought. They still speechify it a little bit. So something. The more things change, the more things that same. Yes, they did. I did notice by the way, that we, um we did see a great many more legislators wearing masks today than we saw at the last year during session. Um, but both House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger saying today after session to reporters that they are not going to mandate masks by their membership, which I thought was interesting. They're saying, Well, we're gonna cajole and arm twist and set lead by example, you know? But a lot of the Democrats are kind of like, Yeah, but, you know, what about the people who have to sit next to them? You know? I mean, how does that work? Yeah, in the Senate. And I was working on the video feed. We were not allowed on the floor for some space constraint issues today. Uh, I think every senator was wearing a mask while seated at their desk. The house? It was a little spotty. Er on when I went and looked in the doors, Uh, kind of during a break. Quite a number of Republicans weren't wearing them. You know, I'm not looking to call names and be the mass police here, but but I don't think it was President one if you don't keep Kidwell was not wearing a mask and he was getting close to people, and then they were talking, um, in the Senate I e. Not only were people wearing mask generally, but a lot of people wearing them when they spoke. And, you know, when you speak you if you have the virus, you were expelling mawr of it. And so that's a new a new thing where I mean it is It is harder to understand people when they're speaking through a mask. I get that. You know, I you know, when we were on the field, we were our mass, too. And I understand every day I go through the difficulty of trying to speak to people with the mass going, you know, But But it is, as you say, I mean, it kind of makes sense is that's what you really need to do it. Yeah, so, you know, we'll see. I mean, the first day is the first day we'll see how that goes on. But how much of, ah, of a point of contention that it is or is not? They'll be back in two weeks, the 27th. That is when Bill filing opens. So we won't see any actual legislation on file until January 27th, and I don't know exactly what the schedule is gonna look like from there, and I'm not sure. Uh, yeah, I I don't know that there. I don't get the sense that other than we're gonna do whatever we need to do on coronavirus. I think that's plan A and and I don't know that Plan B has been written up yet. Yeah, well, I mean, you know, from from what we heard from Warren Burger after session today, it's pretty clear they each have their own sort of, um, priorities, you know, firm or was talking a lot and has been talking a lot about things to help kids catch up after this year of remote learning during the pandemic. And, you know, I don't think there's any argument. I mean, we've seen all the data. There's a lot. There's a lot of kids who are lagging because of this. Yeah, and he's talking about kind of changing the way we think about summer school, putting a bunch of funding toward it, and, uh, basically, if you don't pass your integrate test or and I know integrate test, that's like a specific thing. I literally just mean whatever you have to do to pass your grade, that you would get free summer school and that that would be an option for families to try to avoid just massive, massive numbers of kids have to repeat a grade. He kind of floated it honestly. Reporters were kind of badgering him about what he thinks about the president and what's going on in D. C. And he kind of floated this idea in the middle of those questions. Eso There was some a tip, maybe, to change the subject there. But obviously he's not gonna mention it to reporters. It's not a serious idea that he's pursuing. He did say that he does not have the details, so we'll see where that goes. But I don't if the if we have the money for it, it sounds like the kind of thing that would get support. So here's where I'm confused it because I heard okay. After session, I heard Senator Burger saying he didn't think there was a whole ton of money, a pile of money for covert relief, waiting for the state to spend it. But when I we talked to Mawr, it sounds like he thinks there is money out there that needs to be sent spent well, the speakers of the more optimistic of the two men. I would say, um, just generally speaking. And it's not that there's not coronavirus money. It's that the second bill, that $900 billion bill that passed in December, was much more prescriptive it, for example, instead of just giving the states a bunch of money and saying, You do what you want and the state creating a written utility assistance program, well, there's 700 million it for North Carolina to do a rent utility assistance program, and it's got all the federal rules. So it's things arm or in baskets in this new bill. There is some money left over from the old Cares Act bill, though on DSO you know, one of the things Senator Jackson who? What chairs I guess appropriations in the Senate has said he wants to do is kind of re up the extra credit grants. Just give parents money. Um, so there is some money there and and these were things, obviously that will be discussed going forward. How much money is, though? I don't know sooner. Berger said he did not have a hard number when we asked him about that today. I'm curious, too, about what they're going to do about vaccines. You know, yesterday's meeting. Obviously, they kind of really grilled Mandy Cohen. Yeah. And if I mean, if it doesn't get better, they'll certainly use what oversight they can. But, I mean, the bottom line is, I think everybody hopes and expects that we're going to get better. I mean, the way uh, Secretary Cohen has laid this out is like, Look, we wanted to start out in all 100 counties with this vaccine, learn our lessons where we needed to and see improvement from there. Eso You know, it it If that strategy works, we're going to see this brought this improved, and it certainly sounds like like they're ramping up quickly with the 12 mass vaccination sites. That was that yesterday. That yesterday Today that they announced those yesterday I believe it was 10 and counting, so I'm not sure the exact number, but yeah, I mean, e, it's It's clear that this is a priority for everyone. You know, if you see the governor walking down the street, I'm pretty sure someone's asking him about the vaccine roll out right then. So the heat is definitely on first charm. What else do you think we're likely to see them take up. I know Senator Berger says something about limiting emergency powers. That was a specific question that he got post section. Because if you remember, that was something that the governor vetoed. Limit a limit on his emergency powers. And he said, you know that we haven't discussed that, but I would like to see that. Which I think, you know, you could almost guarantee you're going to see that. Although that is going to be a point. They're probably gonna fight over with the governor on given the way. The veto. Yeah, I I don't know how much fighting that they're all willing to do. That's something we're gonna find out in fairly short order. But, you know, he made the point that ah, year or two ago. I don't think anybody in the state would have said Well, yes, the governor has the power to shut down large segments of the economy for a year and, you know, a man on the street that sounds about right. I doubt people did believe you at that power. Um, so maybe it'll be reined in. Maybe one. I don't know. You know, it's interesting, because I mean, on one hand, you kinda gotta argue that the restrictions are too draconian, you know? But in the meantime, you know, we're seeing our cases go up and up. I guess you could argue that means the restrictions don't work. I don't know. Or that people simply aren't watching them. But it will be interesting to watch that tow watch that unfold and see how that works out. I mean, we heard a lot of noise today. A lot of flowery words today from House Speaker Mawr and Senate leader Burger and people in both chambers about how they really wanna work together because of what's been going on the last year. Everybody's so you know, so divided. They want to unify. I What would you give it two weeks for that? Maybe Travis, maybe. Well, you know, e think they usually do wanna work together? There's just some things where they're not going to be able to, and we all kind of know what they are. Uh, when you're dug in, your usually dug in for a reason. You're right. You're usually dug in because you believe in something and the other guy does it. And, uh, you know Senator Burger today quoting Lincoln quite a bit, he he talked about, you know, let's not demonize people for honestly held political beliefs. Let's not assume that the opposition is coming from a place of where they're just a bad person or, you know, we we can have these honest disagreements without without thinking the worst of each other. Um, so but, you know, typical typical starter session stuff. Really good speech, though. Yeah, it was a good speech. I mean, there's always a lot of cumbias in the beginning of the year. This year, no different. But I really do think that the events of the capital last week really did sort of draw things into sharp relief today. You know a lot of people Robert Reeves, for example, talking about he's the new House Minority leader Talking about the importance of trying to start, Um, he's sort of the the end of partisan bickering trying to start that in the state Legislature, tryingto set an example for people in the political sphere for how this can all work. So, you know, like as we said I'll be interested to see how long that lasts. But it is clear that what happened definitely made an impact on on lawmakers up and down through the leadership, I think. And I think it's probably going to color things in that building for a while yet. Yeah, I mean, he even center burger kind of referencing it as well When he talked about Marc Basnight, who passed away and was the longtime leader of the Senate, talked about how, you know, he used the phrase peaceful transition of power with bad night handing power over Thio over over the burger when the Republicans took control. And I mean, I think if you hear that phrase you you know, you know who who is being nodded toward when you hear a state lawmaker use that sort of phraseology? Well, they're expected back in a couple of weeks. As you say, we don't really know necessarily where they're gonna come back on or two at this point. Um, what are you gonna be keeping an eye out in the meantime, Travis, You know, I think I wanna talk to Mark Robinson. In the meantime, he did a really good job today with what I would have been very nervous about. I mean, this is someone who's serving his first political office, and it's stuck wide and, you know, he's looking out at all these senators, and he's got to kind of run the Parliament, Terry, you know, and he just looked like it was nothing like it was nothing s Oh, I'd love to talk to him. I'm gonna be watching out for kind of just what is gonna be the first roll out here for the first few weeks? Like, what are we actually going to be doing for the first few weeks? And I just don't have a good beat on that. Honestly. All right, well, we will catch up with you here on the rap when legislators come back into town or when something newsworthy happens. And thank you for joining us.