The summer’s “short session” of the North Carolina General Assembly convened on May 12, a continuation of the 2009 session. Its primary task will be to adjust the 2010-11 budget adopted last year, though it can also take up bills that made it through one house last year, bills coming from study commissions, and bills amending the state Constitution.
The Senate moved with lightning-quick speed and passed its version of the 2010-11 budget last Thursday, May 20. The budget is now in the hands of the House, which may take a bit more time, but the chances are better than some years that the budget will be in place before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.
This issue of Raleigh Report will include bills which were introduced in the first two weeks of the session. A report on the budget will follow shortly.
Children & Youth
The Task Force on the Consolidation of Early Childhood Education and Care (looking especially at Smart Start and More at Four) has presented a report. You can see it here. Four bills have been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Blue:
- S 1116, Study/Early Childhood Education and Care.
- S 1117, Consolidated Report/Early Care & Education.
- S 1118, Consolidate Payments/Early Care & Education Providers.
- S 1119, Consolidate Regulation/Early Care & Education Providers.
The Joint Legislative Commission on Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation has issued an interim report, which can be read here. Bill sponsors are Rep. Parmon and Sen. Davis. Among the introduced bills are:
- H 1857/S 1248, Early Identification and Intervention for At-Risk Students.
- H 1876/S 1247, Amend Dropout Prevention Grants.
- H 1878/S 1250, Communities in Schools Funds for Graduation Coaches.
- H 1879/S 1249, Study Raising Compulsory Attendance Age.
Bills have been introduced by the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change. The full report is here. All bills were introduced by Reps. Harrison, Underhill & Wilkins and by Sen. Stein. They include:
- H 1803/S 1224, Study NC Programs that Impact Environment.
- H 1804/S 1225, Energy Policy Council Green Energy Study.
- H 1805/S 1222, Funds to Assess/Monitor NC Climate Change.
- H 1806/S 1221, Establish NC Commission on Climate Change.
- H 1807, Supporting Comprehensive Federal Climate Change Legislation.
- H 1808/S 1223, NC Climate Adaptation Strategy.
- H 1809/S 1220, Study Carbon Offsets and Carbon Sequestration.
Another environmental bill:
H 1668, Sales Tax Exemption: 100% Recycled Material, would eliminate the sales tax on the purchase of goods made entirely of recycled materials. (Introduced by Rep. Lucas. Referred to House Commerce Committee.)
The Task Force on Childhood Obesity has completed its work, issued a report and introduced several bills. House introducers include Reps. Weiss, England, McLawhorn, Yongue, Rapp, Brown, Hughes, Insko & Fisher; Sen. Purcell is sponsor of the Senate bills. Among these bills are:
- H 1726/S 1287, Improve Child Care Nutrition/Activity.
- H 1756/S 1289, Update Statewide Nutrition Standards.
- H 1757/S 1296, Physical Education and Activity in Schools.
- H 1774/S 1285, Eliminate Reduced Price School Meals/Funds.
- H 1775/S 1151, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- H 1776/S 1288, Electronic Funds Transfers at Farmers Markets.
- H 1827/S 1153, Legislative Task Force on Childhood Obesity.
- H 1832/S 1284, Farm to School Program/Funds.
- H 1904/S 1286, Screen and Reduce BMI Levels in Children.
- H 1917/S 1339, National School Lunch Program/Funds.
Other health bills:
As most of you are aware, Congress passed comprehensive health care reform earlier this year, moving our country closer to universal health care access and ending some of the more egregious aspects of our current health care and insurance systems. You probably also know that there is continuing opposition from people who benefit from the current system or who are content with the current system (many of them, ironically, people on the federal government’s Medicare program) or who are fearful of change in the system. One avenue of their opposition is to bring challenges at the state level, including the following bills:
S 1157, 10th Amendment/Health Reform, would propose an amendment to Article 14 the NC Constitution. (The bill’s title may be a reference to the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution; the bill doesn’t mention a “10th Amendment” except in the short title.) The proposed amendment, which reads more like a statute, complete with definitions of terms, purports to “preserve the right of North Carolinians to provide for their health care”. Of course, we who advocate for universal access to health care have long argued for an amendment to the state constitution to say simply that there is a right to basic health care. Now we know what opponents of universal access believe in this regard – that individuals have a right to “provide” for their health care. No mention here about how this “right” impacts those North Carolinians who don’t have insurance, now estimated to be over 1.5 million in number, many of whom work or are recently laid off, can’t afford to buy individual coverage for themselves and their families, and have a serious pre-existing condition. (Introduced by Sen. Forrester. Referred to Senate Rules Committee.)
H 1674/S 1134, Protect Health Care Freedom. Because of the rules of the short session, this new item is not eligible for consideration unless 2/3 of each house vote for it to be introduced. These identical bills are the ones which would authorize introduction of a substantive bill. While we don’t know exactly what the substantive provisions would be, the bill title on H 1674/S 1134 speaks of “freedom to choose health care and health insurance,” once again raising questions about how much that “freedom” is worth to the uninsured and uninsurable people in our state. (Introduced by Reps. Stam, Tillis, Barnhart & Burris-Floyd and by Sen. Clary. Referred to House and Senate Rules Comms.)
Immigration / Immigrants
H 1672/H 1679/S 1258, Disapprove Community College Rule/Illegal Aliens (sic), would reject the decision of the Community Colleges Board to admit undocumented students and would prohibit the adoption of a similar decision in the future. (Introduced by Reps. West, Guice, Cleveland, Burris-Floyd, Neumann & Moore and by Sen. Snow. Referred to House Judiciary I and Senate Education Comms.)
People with Disabilities
H 1682/S 1138, Ban Corporal Punishment for Children with Disabilities, would allow parents to opt not to have corporal punishment administered to their child with a disability. (Introduced by Reps. Glazier, M. Alexander, Lucas & Rapp and by Sen. Foriest. H 1682 initially referred to House Education Committee, which changed it from a complete ban to the opt-out provision; now in House Judiciary II. S 1138 is in Senate Education.)
H 1897/S 1265, Treatment of Autism Disorders, would require health insurance plans, including the state employees’ health plan, to provide coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorders. (Introduced by Rep. England and by Sen. Purcell. Referred to House Health and Senate Health Care Comms.)
The Joint Legislative Commission on Poverty Reduction and Economic Recovery has completed its work and introduced several bills. The full report can be found here. Bills sponsors are Reps. Bryant & Pierce and Sen. Jones. Among the bills are:
- H 1767/S 1226, Inventory of State Antipoverty Efforts.
- H 1844/S 1232, Poverty Reduction: ARRA Modification.
- H 1845/S 1229, Permanent Poverty Study.
- H 1846/S 1235, Restore Prison Education Funds.
- H 1847/S 1233, Promote Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
- H 1848/S 1227, Lift Charter Cap/Lunch Requirements.
- H 1849/S 1234, Poverty Reduction: Tax Incidence Reports.
- H 1850/S 1228, Parenthood/Financial Education.
S 1155, Reduce Corporate Income Tax, would reduce the tax from 6.9% to 6.4%, retroactive to the first of this year. (Introduced by Sen. Forrester. Referred to Senate Finance Committee.)
H 1739/ S 1180, Implement Gender Neutral Terms, would replace gender-specific language in statutes (e.g., “businessman,” “policeman,” etc.) with gender-neutral language. (Introduced by Rep. Ross and Sen. Hartsell. Referred to House Judiciary I and Senate Judiciary II.)
S 1156, Defense of Marriage, would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for this November stating that “Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” (Introduced by Sen. Forrester. Referred to Senate Rules Committee.)
Bills You Would Have Thought We Didn’t Need
S 1178, No Felon as Sheriff. Sadly, as we learned in this spring’s primary elections when at least four convicted felons were on NC ballots wanting to be their county’s chief law enforcement officer, we do need such a provision, which this bill would put in the state constitution.