Raleigh was a bit quieter this week as oversight committee meetings slowed down and closed-door leadership meetings sped up in preparation for the impending short session. The Program Evaluation Oversight Committee heard a number of reports, including on the state’s ferry system and increasing lottery proceeds. The Legislative Research Commission to Study Rates and Transfers/Public Enterprises met to discuss water utility systems. The Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units met yet again, and The LRC on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DDs) heard from a variety of community organizations.

Program Evaluation

The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee held no votes Monday, but they did review a number of reports from the North Carolina General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division (PED).

Local Education Funding Dispute Resolution Process

Sean Hamel, Principal Evaluator at PED, presented findings from a report on the state’s local education funding dispute resolution process. It was determined that the process is effective and economical, but there were a couple of recommendations he suggested the committee consider:

  1. Revising state law for settling local education funding disputes to replace litigation with a default funding mechanism, and
  2. Establishing a working group to develop and recommend statutory parameters for fund balances maintained by local boards of education

Committee staff then presented a bill draft for consideration by the committee. The bill draft would repeal the law authorizing a local board of education to file a civil action against a county board of commissioners challenging the sufficiency of funds appropriated to it by the board of commissioners. It would also substitute a default funding mechanism and establish a working group to look into fund balances held by local boards of education, as recommended by the PED report.

Ferry Division Efficiency

Chuck Hefren, Principal Evaluator at PED, gave a presentation to the committee on findings and suggestions from the PED report on improving efficiency within the Ferry Division. The report found that reducing off-season crossings, adjusting fates, and using partnerships can improve efficiency for the division and save them millions annually. Additional presentations were heard from Dr. Nicholas Didow, Jr., Associate Professor of Marketing at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, and Sterling Baker, P.E., from the NC Department of Transportation.

The committee then considered a bill draft which directs DOT to develop a long-term plan for the State's ferry transportation system to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

Increasing Education Lottery Proceeds

Jim Horne, Principal Evaluator at PED, presented five findings and four recommendations from the PED report on what options exist for increasing lottery proceeds for education. The resulting bill draft directs the Lottery Commission to establish targets for growing retailer participation and methods to achieve those targets. In addition, the Commission would be directed to study and report on advertising effectiveness and ways to increase sales revenue and funds transferred to the Education Lottery Fund.

State Department Organizational Layers

The final presentation, report, and bill draft were on findings and recommendations on departmental organizational layers, supervisor-to-employee ratios, and salaries.

Rates and Transfers

The Legislative Research Commission to Study Rates and Transfers/Public Enterprises had a busy agenda this Monday. The committee covered public enterprise best practices, various issues facing public enterprises in the state, and the perspective of the regulated water industry.

Best Practices

Sharon Edmundson, Director of the Fiscal Management Section at the NC Department of State Treasurer, presented on how public enterprise systems should operate and some of the impediments systems face as they strive to meet those best practices. According to Edmundson, best practices fall into the following four categories:

  1. Sales and other inflows
  2. Collections
  3. Operations and other outflows
  4. Capital needs

She also provided information on how struggling systems can improve and how they might reach out for help.

Problems Facing Public Enterprises

A number of presenters spoke to the committee about the various issues facing public enterprises in NC. Committee members heard from representatives of the NC Rural Water Association, the NC League of Municipalities, and the NC Association of County Commissioners on the myriad problems faced by their members.

Private Sector Perspective

The presentations wrapped up with two speakers from the Southeast Chapter of the National Association of Water Companies. Shannon Becker of Aqua North Carolina, Inc., and Matthew Klein of Carolina Water Service, Inc. of North Carolina spoke to the committee about the regulated water and wastewater industries and how they operate. They spoke to their level of regulatory oversight, a summary of regulated water providers, the current state of existing infrastructure, the challenges facing the state, and the policy changes needed to address them.

The committee closed with a presentation of the draft report, which contains no legislative recommendations.

School Unit Division

The Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units met Wednesday to hear a presentation from Dr. Kevin Bastian and Dr. Eric Hock of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The presentation covered a history of LEA and school consolidation in the United States as well as the rationale and concerns behind consolidation. They discussed findings from cost studies and production literature.

At the next meeting, committee members will delve a little more into efficiency and effectiveness. The committee plans to hear from innovative programs from across the state, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Project LIFT.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Presentations

The LRC on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DDs) heard from a wide array of community partners Wednesday. The agenda included numerous presentations from leaders, business partners, and clients of businesses and programs in the state that help educate, train, transition, and employ those with I/DDs. All presenters spoke on what their organization does for the I/DD community as well as the regulatory and funding challenges they face.

Community Workforce Solutions

Cheri Howell and Julie Griffin from Community Workforce Solutions spoke about the programs they offer. Community Workforce Solutions is a community rehab program founded in 1964 providing work integration opportunities in Wake, Vance, Granville, and Warren counties. They also operate the Gateway program for people with brain injuries, which was founded in 2010. They work on training and finding employment for youth transitioning out of high school. They offer vocational assessments and vocational programs to identify appropriate job goals. They also collaborate with Wake Technical Community College and some community partners in the restaurant and hospitality industry to run a culinary training program.

Holy Angels

Regina Moody and Shannon Childress presented about their organization, Holy Angels, which dominantly provides residential services for the more medically fragile of the I/DD community. They also offer employment opportunities that give workers purpose and an opportunity to interact with the community, including a cafe and a candy shop.

GiGi’s Playhouse Raleigh

Jeanhee Hoffman, Kim Eyerman, Michelle Schwab, Matthew Schwab, Michelle Pfeiffer, Elise Romola, and Bill Landahl all came to the committee to speak on behalf of GiGi’s Playhouse in Raleigh. This program is targeted specifically to individuals with Down syndrome and provides them with tutoring, life skills education, athletic programs, job training, and helps teach interpersonal skills.

arcBARKS

The final presentation was on arcBARKS, a program run by The Arc of Greensboro. Linda Yurko, Don Scales, and Bridget Watson spoke to the committee about how arcBARKS, a dog treat bakery in Greensboro, NC, provides workforce development training, employment, Vocational Rehabilitation prep, and an enriching environment to those with I/DDs. They also provide support for parents and caregivers. Their target is adults with I/DDs who have graduated high school. They see to train adults with I/DDs in workforce skills, like skills like budgeting, and finding long-term employment and independence.

Building Code Recommendations

In their second meeting of the year, the House Select Committee on Implementation of Building Code Regulatory Reform put out their legislative recommendations for 2018. The committee considered three legislative proposals.

Department of Insurance

The NC Department of Insurance (DOI) made the following suggestions:

  • Establish ten new positions, two in each of the following areas: building, fire, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical.
  • Increase Inspector availability by creating an Inspector marketplace tool, accepting more types of certifications, establishing a comity program, and relaxing continuing education requirements.
  • Clarify that DOI is the final interpreter of the NC State Building Code, including Family Dwellings, Building Code, Fire Code, Mechanical Code, Plumbing Code, and Electrical Code.

Local Finance and Revenue Matters

Rep. Mark Brody (R) from Monroe, NC made the following suggestions:

  • Increase annual accounting reports to include all departmental receipts, disbursements, and fund transfers and educational awareness of statutory requirements.
  • Require fees generated by Inspection Departments to be placed in a fund separate from the general fund.
  • Specify the activities for which inspection fees may be charged and further clarify the limitation on local governmental use of those inspection fees.
  • Allow fees to be waived for economic development purposes and disaster relief efforts but require reimbursement from the jurisdiction's general fund for the inspection related costs associated with the project.

Statutory Authority and Inspector Responsibility

Mike Carpenter from the NC Home Builders Association and Rep. Brody made the third and final set of suggestions:

  • Clarify that local governments shall accept building designs from licensed architects and engineers.
  • Expand inspection terms to add an exception from local government inspection any building “system” inspected by a licensed architect or engineer.
  • Require that all certifications under the architect/engineer option be transmitted to the permitting jurisdiction by electronic or physical delivery.
  • Changes in notification of permit-holders of failed inspections.
  • Expansion of the definition of official misconduct by a code official.

A Look Ahead to Next Week

Monday, April 02

1:00 PM Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions

Tuesday, April 03

10:00 AM Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy

Wednesday, April 04

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units

10:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance