On Monday, Dr. Burns visited the offices of Wake Delegation members, prior to their Monday afternoon meeting. The discussions were about the State budget and Government Immunity.
On Tuesday, the committee meetings on the Health Plan were cancelled as the House worked on getting the votes to pass the Prohibit Smoking in Public and Work Places legislation. Meanwhile, the Senate was working behind closed doors to finalize their budget.
On Wednesday, the Calendar issue was front and center in a House Committee, as two local bills both making changes to the calendar law in the western part of the state, were heard in Local Government II. Unfortunately, both bills failed to receive a favorable report. All the Republicans on the committee were present but not all the Democrats. In addition, several Democrats voted with the Republicans and there were not enough votes to get the bills out of committee. NCSBA spoke in favor of the local bills and several individuals, as well as the Travel and Tourism lobbyists, spoke in opposition to the bill, including Louise Lee of Save our Summers group. NCAE, we were told, has recently modified their position on the calendar law and appears to be supporting local school system control of the calendar. There are several more local bills that were introduced and the House still has until Wednesday to introduce public bills, so there may be more to come. The House went in session at 3:00 PM and did not finish until after 7:30 PM on Wednesday, as they approved the Board of Governors nominees and HB2 Prohibit Smoking in Public and Workplaces bill. The House voted on several amendments to HB 2 and the bill passed second reading. On Thursday, the House voted the bill out, with at least one more amendment and sent it to the Senate.
The State budget revenue picture continues to deteriorate along with the increasing jobless rate. Rumor has it the Senate wants to get their budget finished and approved, before the April 15th numbers are released, which will likely put the House in the unenviable position of having to make more cuts to the budget. House Appropriations Chairs continue to meet to track the state of the federal funds coming to North Carolina and the revenue picture. At this point, it appears the budget deficit may reach $3 billion before they can finish their work. The distribution of the federal funds, to help the State get through the economic crisis, has yet to be determined. The funds are primarily to be used to offset any cuts in Education. We are still waiting to hear how these funds will be spent.
On Thursday, the House Education Committee met to review several bills. They began with HB 442 Parental Involvement in School Discipline (corporal punishment) and spent most of the meeting trying to resolve issues with the bill. The bill was finally pulled from the agenda by Chairman Bell to give the sponsors a chance to work things out with NCSBA who wanted some language changes. The bill will probably be back in House Education again next week with changes. The only other bill that was passed was a local bill allowing Graham County to share their activity buses with a local group providing programs for children after school. The lobbyist for the commercial buses opposed the bill saying this was an ongoing use of buses paid for with state funds and was not fair competition. There was discussion about where the center is located and how access to the commercial buses was a problem, so the members gave the bill a Favorable Report and sent it to Judiciary II.
The Senate Democratic Caucus was meeting behind closed doors on Thursday afternoon likely discussing the budget. The Insider had reported that Senator Garrou, Senate Appropriations Committee co-chair, hoped the plan would be considered on the Senate Floor by Thursday or Friday of next week. She told the press, the budget writers were considering increasing public school class size by one or two students (increasing the average by one student equals as much as $170 million in savings). In addition, the Senate is supposedly keeping state employee longevity payments, an item the Governor had recommended freezing for two years to save $170 million in state funds.
HB 879 Commercial Drivers License Changes
HB 887 Local Government Tort Claims Act
HB 899 Limit Foods in School Vending Machines
HB 900 Nutrition Standards/All Foods Sold at School
HB 901 Honors Courses in Health and Physical Education Classes
HB 902 Up B-20 Biodiesel Purchases for School Buses
HB 910 Salary/Teachers with Advanced Degrees
HB 915, HB 916, HB 917Appropriations Act of 2009
HB 919 Casa Esperanza Montessori/State Health Plan
HB 922 NC Illegal Immigration Prevention Act
HB 931 Modify School Calendar Law/Surry County LEAs
HB 934 Local Employees’ Retirement System COLAs
HB 936 Charter School Attendance Pilot Program
HB 952 Study Merit-Based Components/Teacher Salary
HB 957 Department of Health and Human Services Study/Influenza Vaccine Public Schools
HB 971 Legislative Study of Alternative Schools
HB 1001 Modify School Calendar Law/3 County Local Education Agencies
HB 1006 Funds for Athletic Trainers at High Schools
HB 1013 Home Schoolers Participate in School Sports
HB 1022 Workers’ Compensation/Duration of Total Disability
HB 1029 Impact of Student Mobility on Academic Performance
HB 1031 Building Standards/Pre-K Classes in Public Schools
HB 1032 Modify History and Geography Curricula
HB 1036 Self-Contained Special Education/Grade Levels
HB 1038 Economic Development Thru Innovative Schools/Commission
HB 1046 Child Care Facilities Rules
HB 1047 Community College Development Courses
HB 1049 Nondiscrimination in State/Teacher Employment
HB 1054 Safer Schools
HB 1064 Expunge Nonviolent Crimes
HB 1067 Funds/Performance Learning Centers
HB 1068 Student Health Care/Parental Notice
HB 1071 No State Income Tax on Unemployment Benefits
HB1075 Teach “Green Science” in High Schools
HB 1078 Report School Violence to LEA Office
HB 1082 Repair & Renovation Fund Formula
Additional Senate Bills Introduced Last Week:
SB 1032 No State Payroll Deductions for Politics
SB 1069 Economic Development Thru Innovative Schools/Commission
SB 1093 Appropriations Act of 2009-The Governor’s Special Provisions
HB 536 Task Force on Sports Injuries in School Favorable Report on Committee Substitute and referred to Appropriations.
HB 160 TAs in Special Ed Classes/Personal Leave Pulled to clarify the actuarial information.
HB 161 Require Six-year Olds to Attend School Not Heard
HB 442 Parental Involvement in School Discipline Discussed at length. The School Boards Association opposed the bill. They had some recommendations for changes and were working with the bill sponsors to come to an agreement. The bill will be back on the calendar next week. This bill deals with corporal punishment.
HB 584 School Funding Flexibility/Pilot Program Not Heard
SB 287 State Health Plan$/Good Health Initiatives Favorable Report At the meeting this morning, there were five amendments presented that included: 1) Making it easier for individuals to get cancer medication, 2) Changes the calendar year beginning in 2011 from January thru December. This will have a one-time cost of $20-$24 million when implemented, 3 & 4) The next two amendments were related to pharmacies and access to medication, and 5) Deals with the pharmacy benefits manager and the future costs in the contracts. In the afternoon meeting, there were two more amendments to reduce the co-pays for Chiropractors and Occupational Therapists, and Physical Therapists from the specialty groups to standard co-pays. This adds additional costs to the Health Plan without appropriate funding. Projected costs for these are estimated at $50 million.
HB 218 Parent & Student Educational Involvement Favorable Report on Committee Substitute and re-referred to Education.
HB 440 The Nicholas Adkins School Bus Safety Act Favorable Report to Committee Substitute and after lengthy discussion the bill received a favorable report and was sent to the House floor.
Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform:
HB 76 School Board Candidate Filing Fee Favorable Report on Committee Substitute and re-referred to Finance.
HB 88 Healthy Youth Act Favorable Report to the Proposed Committee Substitute. There was only time for one amendment, presented by Representative Dollar. Language in the amendment referred to “committed relationships”. This amendment was defeated. Other amendments were not heard. The bill was supposed to be referred to Appropriations since it has a $200,000 fiscal note, but it appears to be headed for the House Floor. The bill is effective with 2009-2010 school year. Issues have also been raised regarding the effective date and what will school systems do when there are only a few students signed up for one of the courses? Where will LEAs get the funds to employ teachers to teach the very small class, which may occur in many schools in an LEA, as well as alternative schools and charter schools? NCSBA has tried to get changes to the bill. NCASA is neutral.
Local Government II:
HB 483 School Calendar Flexibility/Some LEAs Bill failed to receive enough votes to get a favorable report. This bill included 6 counties in the western part of the state.
HB 499 School Calendar Flexibility/2 LEAs bill failed by a vote of 8-5. The bill would have helped Buncombe and Asheville City schools with calendar flexibility.
House Ways and Means Committee:
HB 9 No Texting While Driving Favorable Report to Committee Substitute and re-referred to Judiciary III.
SB 22 Ban Texting While Driving Favorable Report to Committee Substitute and re-referred to Appropriations.
State and Local Government:
SB 498 Affordable Housing for Teachers/Edgecombe Co. Favorable Report
HB 18 Speech Language Pathologist Qualification Passed second and third readings and sent to the Senate.
HB 42 Science Safety in the Public Schools Passed second and third reading and sent to the Senate.
HB 65 Students Under 16 May Attend Community College Passed second and third readings with one amendment and was sent to the Senate.
HB 2 Prohibit Smoking in Public and Work Places Passed second reading with several amendments. Passed third reading with another floor amendment and sent to the Senate.
Bills in Committee Next Week:
SB 287 State Health Plan$/Good Health Initiatives
SB 708 Amend the Compulsory School Attendance Law
SB 740 Reinstatement of Sick Leave/School Employees
SB 66 Require Arts Education Credit for Graduation
SB 689 DPI/SBE Reporting Requirements
HB 232 Scholarship Loan for Rural Social Workers
HB 582 Special Education Changes
HB 636 Staff Development OK on Protected Teacher Workdays