Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge, a native of Youngsville, NC, was one of three soldiers killed in Afghanistan on June 10th, 2017. We are eternally grateful for his service to this country and for his sacrifice. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Gov. Roy Cooper orders flags lowered in honor of NC soldier killed in Afghanistan – N&O
This week was highlighted by the number of stalled bills that have now gained traction. This is traditionally a sign of nearing the end of session. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) was optimistic that the two chambers would release the Conference Report for the budget sometime Friday or Saturday, with votes early next week. Senate Pro-Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) also said that the Senate would vote next week, but indicated that it could be later in the week. Once the legislature sends Gov. Cooper (D) the budget, he has 10-days to sign or veto the bill, or it becomes law without his signature. Cooper is almost certain to veto the proposal, but the time period between the legislature passing the budget and voting to override the Governor’s veto, will likely see several pieces of “gut and amend” legislation. General Assembly budget talks are in the final stage – News & Record
The Senate Health Committee unveiled a PCS for House Bill 403, changing the title to Behavioral Health and Medicaid Modifications. The bill makes various changes to the LME/MCO’s that currently manage behavioral health for Medicaid in NC, and addresses many concerns members have in regards to an audit of one LME/MCO in particular. House leaders have indicated that they will not approve the changes made by Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) and the bill will go to a Conference Committee. Provisions of the PCS include:
- Moving up the timeline to integrate behavioral health into whole-person care. LME/MCOs are currently scheduled to phase out and behavioral health be integrated 4 years after the waiver is approved by the federal government;
- Requiring Prepaid Health Plans (PHP) and hospitals to negotiate mutually acceptable rates and that PHP payments to hospitals may not exceed 125% of the fee-for-service rate unless a higher rate is approved by DHHS;
- Requiring providers enrolling or reenrolling as a Medicaid provider to agree to accept 90% of the Medicaid fee-for-service rate for the services they provide to PHP enrollees if the provider is out-of-network;
- Eliminating the exclusion of dental Medicaid services from managed care;
- Clarifying rule-making authority pertinent to not only licensure of PHP’s, but also other parts of Medicaid transformation;
- Making various changes to the hospital fee-for-service rates for Medicaid patients and how those rates are to be agreed upon;
- Authorizing the Secretary of DHHS to remove a CEO or board member of an LME/MCO if she determines that an area authority or area director has failed to comply with any requirement of state or federal law, rule, or regulation, or any requirement of the area authority's contract with DHHS;
- Requiring DHHS to give notice of Medicaid State Plan Amendment submissions to certain groups within the General Assembly, as the current law does not require such notice be given when an amendment is submitted for federal approval;
- Making conforming changes to LME/MCO appeals including definitional changes and altering the length of time allowed for both an enrollee to appeal and how long LME/MCOs are allowed for processing the appeal.
- Prohibiting further expenditures by LME/MCOs on alcohol, first-class airfare, charter flights, holiday parties or similar social gatherings, or meetings outside the State.
House Bill 406, entitled Repeal Orange County Impact Fees, was heard before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. It received a favorable report after much controversy. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry), proposes to repeal the impact fee that was allowed in by a 1987 law, allowing such charges on single- and multi- family homes. Orange County is one of 2 counties in the state that has the impact fee, which provides funding for local schools. The bill was motivated by the impact fee on Townhouse Apartments in Chapel Hill, which the bill sponsor claims is unfair. Orange County not only opposes the bill, but also suggests that this be turned into a statewide study while still allowing the county to charge the impact fee. The bill has been calendared for Monday.
On Wednesday, the House Regulatory Reform Committee unveiled a PCS to Senate Bill 16, and passed the legislation 94-19 on Thursday, after adopting several amendments. The Business & Agency Reg. Reform Act of 2017, sponsored by Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba), includes a variety of omnibus regulatory changes. Several of the provisions have already passed either the House or the Senate. Notable changes contained in the proposal include:
- Allowing private companies can use eminent domain to condemn land for their right-of-way, if the purpose is public use;
- Allowing auto-dealers to sell used vehicles without a prior inspections
- Provides that companies offering automatic renewal of contracts must notify the consumers prior to renewal;
- Removes the 26 employee threshold for small businesses to be able to buy stop-loss insurance, and instead sets the same standards and requirements for other businesses;
- Prevents cities from requiring better storm water control after property has been redeveloped;
- Directs back-up lights to be part of the list of lights covered under the state vehicle safety inspection list;
- Removes a requirement that businesses selling security alarm systems must register their sales people under the Alarm Systems Board.
House Bill 581, entitled Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws, received a favorable report in the House Regulatory Reform Committee meeting on Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), aims to modernize billboards in the state by replacing the old, wooden billboards in areas that are zoned for commercial or industrial use. The bill does not increase the number of billboards, or alter the size of the billboards. Rep. Lewis claims that even though the bill removes some power from local municipalities, it creates a uniform system. The Department of Transportation no longer opposes the bill, but they are concerned that the bill might affect the federal highway funding. It now goes to the floor, where it has already been pulled twice previously.
A link to next week’s announced Committee calendar can be found here. However, if the budget is actually debated next week, many committee meetings may be cancelled. A cumulative list of House and Senate bills filed this year, with links, and their current status can be found here.
Legislative leaders had two victories in the courts this week. The. U.S. Supreme Court said Thursday, that it will not accelerate the timeline in the redistricting case that found 28 legislative district to be unconstitutional. Plaintiffs requested that a decision on whether or not to hold a special election this fall should be expedited. The case will follow the standard 25-day timeline, meaning the case will not go back before the three-judge panel until the end of June, making it more difficult to hold special elections in 2017. Legislative leaders have said they are ready to draw new districts once they are formally ordered to do so. US Supreme Court Won't Speed up Return of Remap Rulings – U.S. News
And on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court denied Gov. Cooper’s request for a stay in the merging of the Ethics Commission, the State Board of Elections, and the oversight of lobbyists into the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (BSBEEE). Cooper has another setback in fight with lawmakers – NSJ
In Other News
Colleagues of former Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg), honored her with a resolution and recalled fond memories of their friend, who passed away in January at 57 years old after a battle with cancer. NC lawmakers remember Ruth Samuelson, a ‘velvet hammer’ who worked across the aisle– Charlotte Observer
The Senate honored Mark Binker, a longtime NCGA journalist who died unexpectedly at 43 years-old in April. Binker was lauded as “tough but fair” and was remembered fondly by lawmakers he has covered for years. Senate remembers WRAL reporter as 'tough but fair'– WRAL
The Senate confirmed Gov. Cooper’s two remaining Cabinet appointments, Eric Boyette, Chief Information Officer for the Department of Information Technology (DIT), and Ronald Perry, Secretary of the Department of Revenue (DOR). All of Gov. Cooper’s Cabinet picks now confirmed– Burlington Times-News