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The NC General Assembly (NCGA) remains in session and deadlocked over the budget, now 30+ days and counting since Gov Cooper put a compromise budget on the table. House Democrats released a letter last week signed by 51 (of 55) members stating that they are committed to sustaining Governor Cooper’s veto. That makes it very unlikely that Republicans could override the budget veto anytime soon, and they refuse to negotiate at all around any form of Medicaid expansion, so here we sit, without a budget. We agree with WRAL's editorial opinion targeting Republican leadership: Stop procrastinating, start negotiating.
There's still a bit of legislative action, here are some bills that have seen recent action:
- S 86, the Association Health Plans Bill, passed the House this week. It now goes to concurrence to hash out differences between the House and Senate versions. These plans, though desired by some, aren’t required to cover essential health benefits and can increase premiums in the traditional insurance market by cherry-picking healthy people. This will likely pass as it has bipartisan support, but the future for the plans remains unclear, as there's a federal court case that's pending. Good summary from NC Health News.
- The House voted 60-54 to concur with the Senate's changes to the billboard bill, H 645, Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws. This bill would promote the interests of the billboard industry at the expense of trees, local government authority and scenic beauty. If it becomes law, we can expect to see more billboards where local governments don't want them, more digital billboards and more tree-cutting to increase the visibility of billboards. Contact Gov Cooper to ask that he veto H 645.
- S 295, Standards of Student Conduct, makes changes to school discipline policies that will make it easier to suspend students for minor infractions, among other things. Currently, local school boards are not allowed to suspend students for a specific list of minor offenses; this bill removes the list of those minor offenses. The bill passed the House and has been sent back to the Senate for concurrence.
- S 681, Rural Health Care, would create a state-funded (aka taxpayer-funded) loan program for struggling rural hospitals. The bill passed the House this week and has been sent to the Senate for concurrence (the committee hasn't been appointed yet). Expanding Medicaid would do more to address the financial issues of rural hospitals while also providing half a million North Carolinians with health insurance coverage. This wasn't a party line vote, some Democrats support it, so it's not veto-fodder. Let your NC legislators know that you support a fix, not a bandaid.
- S 199, Child Sex Abuse, failed a concurrence vote in the Senate, which means it will go to a conference committee. This bill is aimed at addressing child sexual abuse prevention. Find a detailed summary here.
- S 621, Testing Reduction Act of 2019, is a bill to reduce testing in K-12 schools. It's assigned to a conference committee to hash out a compromise between House & Senate versions. More here.
- S 476 would, among other things, create a comprehensive school mental health training program, including a suicide prevention protocol. It will go to conference committee, yet to be appointed. More here.
And outside of the hallowed halls of the NCGA but within the purview of state government:
- Last week, Gov Cooper vetoed S 392, Various Charter School Changes, which would have eliminated the enrollment cap for one of two virtual charter schools in the state. Cooper cited poor performance of the two virtual charter schools as a reason to keep the power to lift the enrollment cap in the hands of the State Board of Education. Veto override vote hasn't been scheduled.
- Virtual public school teachers who were going to get laid off days before they were supposed to return to work this week now have a resolution that allows them to get paid.
- "The State Treasurer announced a new move Thursday to ensure that the health insurance plan covering more than 720,000 teachers and other state employees will include major N.C. hospital systems as in-network facilities." Read more here and here. At least a temporary reprieve for state employees...
That's enough for Monday, right?? Have a great week, and check back for Kate's ICYMI news updates on Wednesday!
*Tags: (NCGA, NCPol)
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