The Legislative Process

The Legislative Process

It is important to understand how decisions are made and who can influence those decisions at the North Carolina General Assembly.


NC Advocates at ARTS Day

North Carolina operates on a biennium cycle made up of one “long” session (begins January 2017) and one “short” session (began May 2018). Every biennium, North Carolina adopts a budget in the long session for two years. The Governor presents his/her budget to the General Assembly, and Legislative Committees can begin with those recommendations as a starting point. The Governor continues to advocate for his/her budget throughout the Legislative process.

The House and the Senate take turns starting the budget every biennium. The House and Senate Agriculture, Natural and Economic Resources Committees often meet jointly to hear presentations from the agencies, then work independently to create a budget. The Committees’ recommendations are presented to the “big chairs” that make the final budget recommendation. Amendments can be made once the budget is presented but before it is adopted. Those items which are not in agreement in the House and Senate budgets are referred to a Conference Committee for resolution.

Grants funding for the North Carolina Arts Council is proposed within the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources budget. See Key Budget Committees



The Legislative Arts Agenda is adopted every year by Arts North Carolina’s Board of Directors prior to ARTS Day, which is timed to coincide with a strategic moment in the legislative process. The Legislative Arts Agenda is informed by industry needs, political will, timing, and external circumstances. The Legislative Arts Agenda most typically focuses on grants funding for the North Carolina Arts Council and statewide arts education policy, but recently policy initiatives related to nonprofit taxes and exemptions have also become critical issues.




The goal of advocacy is to change an elected official’s perception of the arts from “nice” to “essential.” Nice is expendable. Essential gets support, no matter the economic circumstances. Advocacy is necessary for the arts to thrive and is a core responsibility of arts supporters.

NC Advocates meeting with their legislator

Lobbying is attempting to influence specific legislation related to budget or policy. Lobbying cannot happen without advocacy.

Even nonprofit arts organizations can lobby. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies states, “The federal tax law defines lobbying specifically and narrowly as a communication with a legislator in reference to a specific piece of legislation with a request to support or oppose that legislation.” NASSA information further explains that charities have been allowed to spend no more than 5% of total expenditures on lobbying. However, if the non-profit organization files a 501(h) provision with the IRS they are allowed expenditures of up to 20% of their annual budget for their lobbying activities. If you are still uncertain, visit Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest website at