The legislature carried on with another busy week of interim committee meetings despite some inclement weather in the western part of the state. Members covered a wide range of health care issues, school safety and district division, and even some alcohol related issues.
Health and Human Services Committee Talks Flu, Prisoners, Child Welfare Delays
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services started Tuesday morning with an update from Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on the flu epidemic in North Carolina. This has been a particularly active flu season in the state, she told committee members, with deaths now topping 300 and counting. The flu vaccine’s effectiveness this year nationwide was around 36% for adults and 59% for children. She urged anyone who had yet to get their flu shot to get one as soon as possible.
The Health and Human Services Oversight Committee continued a conversation from the Opioid Sentencing Reform Task Force’s meeting last week on mental health issues in the state’s jails. Eddie Caldwell of the NC Sheriffs’ Association spoke to the health system within the state’s jails and the lack of funding needed to provide adequate mental health resources to inmates.
Child Welfare and NC FAST Update
Susan Perry-Manning and Sam Gibbs, deputy secretaries at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, gave presentations on the implementation of the Federal Program Improvement Plan for Child and Family Services and an update on the NC FAST Implementation of Child Welfare . These presentations gave way to conversations around child fatality reviews, implementation of new Department of Social Services software, and long-standing delays in how the state is working to improve outcomes for child welfare.
The committee voted to approve their draft recommendations to be presented to the legislature during this short session.
Division of Local School Administrative Units
The Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units met again on Tuesday to discuss the issues involved in dividing school districts in the state. They covered implementation and governance issues, constitutional issues, funding issues, and bond and debt considerations. They also heard about various logistical considerations including equitable division and funding of school facilities, insurance, transportation, school nutrition programs, information technology, and legal issues. The meeting left committee members with much to consider before their next meeting on March 28th.
Medicaid and Health Choice
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice received a status update on Cardinal Innovations Healthcare and discussed the work plan for the Medicaid transformation. They also heard a report from the Department of Health and Human Services on funding for GME payments as well as a plan to implement coverage for home visits for pregnant women and families with young children.
Trey Sutten, Interim CEO of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, presented a status update to the committee. He covered a snapshot of what he has learned in the 120 days since he started in his new role. He provided his vision for Cardinal’s Project Future as well as their corrective action plan which was requested by the Department of Health and Human Services. He also explained their community reinvestment initiative.
Medicaid Transformation Moves Forward
Secretary Mandy Cohen, Deputy Secretary Dave Richard, and Assistant Secretary Jay Ludlam spoke to the committee about the 1115 Waiver and the department’s Work Plan for the Medicaid transformation. They covered the recent transformation milestones the department has passed, gave an operational progress summary, and explained the amended 1115 waiver.
Thursday the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Emergency Management met again to cover a range of topics that left members feeling a little on edge. IT threats were discussed in the form of hacking of connected devices such as smart TVs and doors with electric security panels. Firearms training and first responder training were discussed at length, and the idea of arming teachers was brought up. The committee also heard a presentation from the United Way of NC on their 211 program which runs call centers that assist the state’s 911 centers with overflow in the event of man-made or natural disasters.
Connected Device Security
Uri Alter, CEO of VDOO Connected Trust Ltd, gave a lesson to committee members on a security threat most Americans are not aware of: hacking your everyday connected devices. Whether it is a cell phone, a security camera in your office, a smart smoke detector, or your HVAC system, Alter informed the committee that if it is connected to the internet, it can very easily be hacked. The danger is in hackers across the world hacking critical systems and demanding money to release control. A hotel could be put in lockdown, effectively kidnapping all the guests, or an HVAC system connected to a business computer system could be hacked to access their corporate data. Mr. Alter showed how the threats from poorly protected connected devices are seemingly endless.
Firearms and Safety Training
Presenters covered two facets of security training: firearms training and threat training for our law enforcement professionals as well as civilians. Steven Combs, Director of the Criminal Justice Standards Division of the NC Department of Justice explained the rigorous firearms training and other standards for our sworn law enforcement officers. Mr. Michael Macario or Regional Proving Grounds, LLC told the committee about the first responder readiness training his group provides to first responders and civilians of all kinds. The conversation veered off to how the state might provide training to teachers if they were armed.
At the next meeting, Chairman Ron Rabin indicated he would have draft legislative recommendations for the committee to hear. They include standards for armed teachers in schools and suggestions for reporting suspicious activity.
ABC Permitting and Enforcement
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety’s subcommittee on ABC Permitting and Enforcement met Thursday to discuss and vote on draft legislation.
What Does the Draft Do?
The bill, entitled “ABC Regulation and Reform,” which has not been released yet, will make a number of changes to current state ABC laws. The draft, if passed, will increase fines for the violation of ABC laws, require individuals to be 25 years of age to be eligible for an ABC permit, require 51% of ownership of an LLC to qualify to hold an ABC permit, define private clubs as 501(c) businesses, and update existing law on sexually explicit conduct on ABC licensed premises.
The private club provision of the bill would change the landscape of North Carolina’s nightlife. The current definition includes bars that do not cook food on premises, defining those establishments as, “an establishment that is organized and operated solely for a social, recreational, patriotic, or fraternal purpose and that is not open to the general public, but is open only to the members of the organization and their bona fide guests.” This draft strikes that definition and redefines a private club as, “an establishment that qualifies as a 501(c) business under the Internal Revenue Code and has been in operation for a minimum of 12 months prior to application for an ABC permit.” This provision, if passed, would prevent a private club from obtaining an ABC permit unless it was a nonprofit organization, effectively preventing any new bars from opening in the state. It would, however, grandfather in existing bars and private clubs at the date of enactment of the bill.
Gov. Cooper to Make Appointments
Gov. Roy Cooper made appointments Friday to a beleaguered new State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The appointments will allow the organization to at long last get to work sorting out the fast approaching 2018 elections. All the logistical responsibilities the local boards of elections oversee hinge on the state board appointing the membership of the local boards.
Who Made the Cut?
The eight members came from a list of names provided by the two parties with the highest number of registered affiliates - the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
- Joshua Dale Malcolm of Pembroke as a member registered with the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates in the State. Malcolm is the Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel and Assistant Secretary to the UNC Pembroke Board of Trustees. Malcolm currently serves as a Justice on the Supreme Court of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.
- Valerie Johnson of Durham County as a member registered with the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates in the State. Johnson is an attorney at Copeley Johnson & Groninger.
- Stella Anderson of Watauga County as a member registered with the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates in the State. Anderson is a Professor in the Department of Management for the College of Business at Appalachian State University.
- Stacy "Four" Eggers, IV of Boone as a member registered with the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates in the State. Eggers is an attorney with Eggers Law.
- John Randolph Hemphill of Raleigh as a member registered with the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates in the State. Hemphill is an attorney with Hemphill, Gelder & Monroe.
- John Malachi Lewis of Mt. Pleasant as a member registered with the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates in the State. Lewis is the Deputy Counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party.
- Ken Raymond of Winston Salem as a member registered with the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates in the State. Raymond owns and manages Triad Notary Service.
A Look Ahead to This Week
Monday, March 19
1:00 PM Social Services Regional Supervision and Collaboration Working Group
2:00 PM Select Committee on Disaster Relief
Wednesday, March 21
9:00 AM Select Committee on School Safety
Thursday, March 22
9:00 AM Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality
1:00 PM Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission