House Speaker, Joe Hackney, held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the State’s dropout figures. The dropout rate has declined for the first time in three years, but on average 30 percent of students still drop out of school. He stated the importance of listening to educators about what is needed and to provide them with the tools to help students stay in school. Lawmakers stressed the importance of recovery programs and alternative learning options for suspended and At-Risk students. In addition, innovative learning programs such as the 9th grade Academies, Early College Initiative, and Learn and Earn Programs were also credited with the decline in the dropout rate.
Governor Perdue appointed Dempsey Benton to oversee the Federal stimulus funds just approved, in the American Recovery Act, by Congress. The funds for public schools/education in this federal legislation were discussed in a Joint meeting of the Appropriations members on Wednesday (provided in a separate document).
House and Senate Appropriations Chairs have had several meetings this week to determine where to begin on the budget process. They will hear from various agencies over the next two weeks to receive information on possible proposed cuts.
On Wednesday this week the House Energy and Energy Efficiency Committee met to look at the funding from the Federal Stimulus package. There are funds that can be accessed for public school construction and renovation to increase energy efficiency of buildings. Also, the Joint Committee on Employee Hospital and Medical Benefits met to discuss the State Health Plan and possible options to cover the financial shortfall. A draft bill was presented to the committee with changes to the plan. The bill will be introduced in both Chambers and needs to pass by April for the bill to become effective by July 1, 2009. The members were told $250 million will be moved from the Rainy Day Fund to the General Fund to cover the projected shortfall through June 30, 2009. Some of the details of the bill include: Premium rates for contributory coverage increased 7.3 percent, the elimination of the 90/10 plan effective July 1, 2009, raising the deductible for the Basic Plan (70/30) and the Standard Plan (80/20), increasing family coverage premium to between $530 and $580, no plans to require payment on individual coverage for basic plan, increasing co-pays for visits and medication, dropping vision component, requiring documentation to get 80/20 plan in the future (proof individuals are not obese and do not smoke). The members were given a great deal of information on the escalating costs of the health plan, the average age of members, the percent of acutely ill versus chronically ill and more.
On Thursday, Senate and House Leadership and Appropriations Chairs met with Governor Perdue to discuss budget planning. Governor Perdue hopes to have her budget prepared and sent to the General Assembly by mid-March. The Senate who had plans to complete their budget shortly after the Governor and then it will be up to the House.
Treasurer, Janet Cowell, held a press conference on Thursday to announce the financial status of the State Retirement Plan. The State Employee Retirement System will need an additional $29 million infusion of cash in 2009-2010 and nearly $330 million in 2010-2011 to keep the system stable. This will require significant increases in the employer contribution to the retirement system in future years.
Additional bills being discussed among education advocates include: Deaf Students, Suspensions and Expulsions, Professional Leave Days, Child Nutrition, ABC Bonuses, School Construction, and much more. Please check the list the bills being heard next week.
HB 173 Kids Voting Funds
HB 175 State Minimum Wage/Inflation Increases
HB 177 Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces Act
HB 184 Funding for Learn and Earn
HB 185 Communities in Schools Funds
HB 187 Encourage Policies to Facilitate Graduation
HB 188 Study Raising Compulsory Attendance Age
HB 191 General Statutes Commission Technical Corrections
HB 193 Electronic Notice of Public Hearings
HB 205 Lottery Act Changes
HB 209 Sex Offender Registry/Liberties with Student
HB 212 Health Insurance Pool Pilot Program
HB 213 State Personnel Act (SPA) Sick Leave Transfers
HB 218 Parent & Student Educational Involvement Act
HB 223 No High School Graduation Project Required
HB 229 Retired Teachers Return to Work
HB 231Positive Behavior Support Position Funds
HB 232 Scholarship Loan for Rural Social Workers
HB 235 North Carolina Youth Advancement Program
HB 241 Apply ABC Funds to Teacher Salary Increases
HB 242 No ABC Bonuses for Expected Growth
HB 261 State Board of Education/Membership Restrictions
SB 178 Repeal Ban G. S. 95-98-(Collective Bargaining)
SB 202 Appropriations Act of 2009
SB 204 Retired Nurses Return to Work
SB 205 Prohibit Smoking in Public & Work Places
SB 206 Kids Voting Funds
SB 218 Neighborhood Schools & Teacher Merit Pay
SB 221 Healthy Youth Act
SB 229 Scholarship Loan for Rural Social Workers
SB 238 Study State Contract with Minority Businesses
SB 239 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Credit
SB 240 Fund High Priority Public Health Initiatives
SB 241 Alt. Testimony/Children and Adults with Disabilities
SB 248 Conform County School Board Vacancy Statute
SB 259 Interscholastic Sports Open to All Students
Finance Committee Brent Lane, Executive Director, UNC Center for Competitive Economies, presented to members “North Carolina’s Economy: Past & Current Market Trends”. North Carolina’s economy is big, 23rd largest in the nation with a workforce of 4.6 million. The job growth rate is slowing and shifting to a service economy from a manufacturing economy. The main problem with this shift is that manufacturing jobs pay approximately $44,000 annually while service jobs only pay $36,890. This means less income, less taxes, less state revenue. Jobs are shifting to Metro areas and bringing in new residents. The increase in new residents imposes higher public service costs and impacts capacity limits. North Carolina’s economic development strategies must adapt to changing economic conditions in order to have balanced growth.
SB 198 State Board of Education/Membership Restrictions–Favorable Report to the Bill as Amended. Amends the bill to increase from one to two the number of State Board members who can be public school employees (paid with state or local funds).The Committee also amended the bill to reinserts the prohibition of a spouse of a DPI employee serving on the State Board, which was errantly allowed (through a deletion of language) when the bill was initially drafted. Also, existing law prohibits certain contracts between public officers and the agencies they serve, but this law does not apply to employment contracts between the SBE and its chief executive officer.
SB 198 State Board of Education/Membership Restrictions Committee Substitute Passed second and third readings, sent to House and assigned to House Education.
Bills in Committee Next Week
HB 18 Speech Language Pathologist Qualifications
HB 65 Students Under 16 May Attend Community College
HB 43 School Board Members Failure to Discharge Duty
HB 79 Extend School Formula Study Committee
SB 198 State Board of Education/Membership Restrictions
HB 205 Lottery Act Changes
Drafts To Bill Drafting Filed
House Local Bills Wednesday, March 18 Wednesday, April 1
Senate Local Bills Tuesday, March 3 Wednesday, March 11
House Public Bills Thursday, March 26 Wednesday, April 8
Senate Public Bills Friday, March 13 Wednesday, March 25
House Appropriations/Finance Wednesday, April 22 Wednesday, May 6
Crossover Deadline Thursday, May 14