Last week we ended a very successful session.
My colleagues and I have worked hard to pass laws that are important to our citizens. This session we passed landmark legislation in several areas including healthcare, energy efficiency, and protecting the environment. As the session came to a close, we all focused heavily on the budget. This week I would like to inform you of other important pieces of legislation that were passed this session.
Thank you for your support and allowing me to share this information with you. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance.
The General Assembly ratified and Gov. Easley signed into law a bill that will provide additional support to high-need schools. Schools classified as high-need schools will be issued more National Board Certified Teachers to lower the student-teacher ratio and give children more individualized attention. The bill (SB1479) gives these teachers and teachers who have received certain awards the freedom to use research based teaching techniques that go beyond the standard course of study.
A bill that provides insurance parity to people who receive mental health services was signed into law this session. The bill (HB973) requires insurance companies to cover bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia and three other mental illnesses the same way that they treat physical illnesses. All other metal health conditions will be covered for up to 30 inpatient/outpatient days and 30 office visits. Mental health parity has been debated in the North Carolina Legislature for 15 years. 36 other states already offer some form of mental health parity. The bill is expected to save the state money spent by reducing the amount of money spent for public mental health services
The General Assembly ratified a bill (HB265) that would create a high risk insurance pool. The pool will help those who suffer from serious illnesses and are often considered uninsurable have access to health insurance. These people are often forced to pay expensive premiums because of their illness. North Carolina is the 35th state to enact such legislation.
The General Assembly has agreed to take over the counties’ share of Medicaid expenses – estimated at $520 million this fiscal year – over the next three years. Rural counties are particularly burdened by the increasing costs of Medicaid. In addition, we decided to give counties more flexibility by allowing them to raise additional taxes for school construction, infrastructure, and other improvements. Counties can decide to raise the sales tax by a quarter of a cent or the land transfer tax to 0.6 percent with local voter approval.
North Carolina’s natural resources will be better protected as a result of a bill that was ratified this session. The bill (SB1492) provides strict regulations for the construction of landfills including a statewide disposal tax and assurance of adequate funding to maintain, close, and provide post-closure maintenance for a landfill. Companies were attracted to North Carolina for landfill sites because of the inexpensive land, its location on the east coast, and no surcharge on garbage. The bill will protect the state’s ground water supply and plants and animals in surrounding areas.
North Carolina will be the first state in the South East to adopt a renewable energy standard if Gov. Easley signs the energy bill into law. The bill (S3) requires North Carolina utility providers to obtain 12.5 percent of retail electricity from renewable energy. It also provides a phaseout of the tax on the sale of energy to farmers and manufacturers. The bill is expected to help cut pollution, greenhouse gas levels, and our dependence on foreign oil.
We have continued our efforts to improve ethical standards in government. Under a bill (SB1218) ratified by the General Assembly, candidates who have been convicted of a felony would have to disclose that information when running for office. Another bill (SB659) forfeits the pensions of elected officials who are convicted of a violation involving public corruption or election law. We also made changes to the State Government Ethics Act (HB 1110 and HB 1111) to make government proceedings more transparent to the public. The Governor signed both bills Thursday morning.
The General Assembly also ratified and Gov. Easley signed into law a bill to protect our children from Internet sexual predators. The bill (HB29) will require recidivist sexually violent predators to enroll in a satellite-based monitoring system for life. We also protected victims of domestic violence with a bill (HB46) that provides secure areas separated from the court room where victims can wait until their trial is heard. Another bill (HB47) makes it a felony to violate a protective order related to a domestic violence case while in possession of a deadly weapon.
I plan to meet with the following people on August 14th:
Please invite me to attend your county, city, community or civic, etc. meetings or events.
As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.