Even though the legislature isn't quite done (an adjournment resolution hasn't been agreed upon and a November special session to look at Medicaid Reform is definite, we are providing the below summaries of legislation passed or considered that relates to people with disabilities.
HB 230, Clarify Read to Achieve/School Performance Grades (Malone, Martin, Brody, Samuelson). HB 230 amends the Read to Achieve law passed last year to make several modifications: it directs the State Board of Education to provide, approve and establish achievement levels for several valid and reliable alternative assessments; allows the student reading portfolio to begin to be compiled during the first half of the school year; gives flexibility in providing the summer reading camps; requires qualitative and quantitative data from the Kindergarten Entry Assessment; clarifies the good cause exemptions from mandatory retention for Limited English Proficient students and students with IEPs; makes clear that parents/guardians make the final decision regarding a retained student's participation in reading camp, with at least one opportunity for students not attending to demonstrate proficiency prior to being retained; and clarifies that a student can be promoted anytime. The legislation has been signed by the Governor and is S.L. 2014-5.
HB 712, Clarifying Changes/Special Ed Scholarships(Glazier, Stam, Jackson). HB 712 clarifies the Special Education scholarships for children with disabilities and exempts certain schools from child care licensure requirements. It clarifies the definition of a qualifying child and includes related services and educational technology as reimbursable. The child care licensure portion exempts from state licensure private schools that operate child care facilities before and after school. It was signed into law and is SL 2014-49. It applies to grants awarded starting with the 2014-15 school year.
HB 884, Dropout Prevention/Recovery Charter School Pilot (Jeter, R. Moore. Blackwell, Cotham). The bill establishes a pilot program in a charter school for high school students who have dropped out of school. The Pilot Program is to begin with the 2014-2015 school year and conclude at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Additionally, after questions were raised regarding the transparency of $ paid to contractors, the bill was amended to study and report on contracts for personnel services by local boards of education and charter schools. It is SL 2014-104.
SB 793, Charter School Modifications (Tillman, Cook). SB 793 modifies the laws governing charter schools, including that a teacher employed by a charter school may serve as a nonvoting member of the school board of directors; amends the date by which the SBOE shall make decisions on applications; allows a charter school to expand one grade higher without approval; allows for a 10 year renewal period; makes explicit that single gender charter schools may limit admission on the basis of gender; allows priority enrollment or the children of board members beyond the initial year; makes charter schools subject to the requirements of the open meetings and public records laws; and directs the SBOE to develop a fast-track approval process. It also adds a provision to the statute that charter schools shall not discriminate against any student on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability, explicitly leaving out sexual orientation. Rep. Cotham, the only Democrat appointed to the conference committee, refused to sign the report because the final version did not include an anti-discrimination provision protecting children who are LGBT. The final version also allows charter schools run by for-profit educational management companies to shield salaries of employees who work for the companies rather than for the nonprofit board of directors. The bill awaits the Governor’s signature. It applies beginning with the 2014-15 school year and is SL 2014-101.
SB 812, Replace Common Core State Standards with NC’s Higher Academic Standards (Soucek, Tillman). SB 812 establishes an Academic Standards Review Commission to advise the State Board of Education on NC academic standards, which shall be named the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. It was signed into law by the Governor and is SL 2014-78.
MENTAL HEALTH and FACILITIES
SB 773, General Statute Corrections (Hartsell). SB 773 makes several technical corrections to the General Statutes. Although there are several provisions in the bill, one relates Chapter 122C. It amends NCGS 122C-268(g) to allow interactive videoconferencing for inpatient commitment district court hearings. It became effective when signed into law and is SL 2014-107.
JUVENILE JUSTICE and CRIMINAL LAW
HB 369 Criminal Law Changes and SB 594, Omnibus Justice Amendments. HB 369 proposed to modify the expunction law; authorize changing deferred prosecutions to conditional discharge in statute; make possession of marijuana paraphernalia a Class 3 misdemeanor; study the prevention of sexual abuse of children; increase penalties for giving/selling to or an inmate possessing a cell phone; and remote video testimony by forensic and chemical analysts. The bill was in Conference at the end of session and was not resolved. SB 594 included similar provisions and a section that amends our state law to conform to the US Supreme Court decision in Hall v. Florida, in which the Supreme Court held that states must take into account more than a hard and fast IQ number in determining whether an individual has an intellectual disability for purposes of capital punishment. SB 594 was approved by the full House but did not proceed after it was returned to the Senate.
HB 725, Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act (Avila, Moffitt, Mobley, Hall). HB 725 seeks to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18-years-old for misdemeanors. Despite the bill passing the full House with a vote of 77-39, the Senate did not take up the issue.
HB 625, Zoning/Health Care Structure (Moffitt, Howard, Setzer, Ramsey). HB 625 will allow a ”temporary family health care structure” to be used by a caregiver in providing care for a person with a physical or mental impairment. A temporary health care structure is a manufactured unit of no more than 300 square feet for one occupant who has a mental or physical impairment. Such a structure shall be a permitted accessory use in single family residential zoning districts when placed on the property of the caregiver's residence and used to provide care for the person. The law becomes effective October 1, 2014. It was signed into law by the Governor on August 1 and is S.L. 2014-94.
HB 761 and SB 734, Regulatory Reform Act of 2014. Various provisions were proposed for regulatory reform during the session but none of the bills made it to final approval. HB 761 is in the Senate Rules committee. SB 734 is in conference. The proposed provisions included: OAH electronic filing; study whether to allow entities other than local sheriffs to serve tenants in Summary Ejectment proceedings; clarifying ADA requirements for private pools; streamline and clarify the rulemaking process; report on duplicative auditing and monitoring of behavioral health and developmental disability providers; end the sunset for facilities that use alternative electronic monitoring; and to lengthen the Medicaid recredentialing period to 5 years.
HB 1069, Unemployment Insurance Law Changes (Howard, Warren, Arp). HB 1069 sought to amend the Unemployment Insurance laws, as Recommended by the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance. The proposals included requiring photo ID for benefits; setting benefit duration according to the unemployment rate; modifying the work search requirement by increasing the number of job contacts to 5 per week and eliminating the requirement to search on 2 different days. After passing both chambers, the bill was vetoed by the Governor because of a provision setting up an independent Board of Review.
HB 1098, DMV DL Medical Review Program Changes (Torbett). HB 1098 proposed changes to the DMV Drivers License Medical Review Program, as Recommended by the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee. As the legislation involved matters that are the current subject of a Disability Rights NC lawsuit, DRNC opposed the legislation. It did not move forward.
HB 1133, Technical and Other Corrections (T. Moore). HB 1133 makes technical and other changes to the state laws. Among other items, it includes technical changes to the laws related to the licensing of interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing. It awaits the Governor’s signature.
SB 403, Omnibus Election Clarifications (Bingham). SB 403 makes a number of changes to the voting laws, from eligibility to file for office after switching parties to filing requirements. One section adds a provision to the current law regarding the procedure for voting absentee ballots to ensure that the failure of a witness to list a zip code does not invalidate the application and certificate. There is also a provision regarding early voting that makes clear that the cumulative number of scheduled voting hours includes those offered at the county board of elections. With some exceptions, the majority of the bill became effective when signed and is SL 2014-111.
HB 1224, Local Sales Tax Options (Presnell). HB 1224 was an economic development bill as originally filed. However, the Senate added provisions capping local sales tax and limiting the use of such taxes collected between Education, Transit and General Use. The bill had a great deal of opposition and was referred to the House Rules committee at the end of session. This issue will likely come back next session.
SB 763, Revenue Laws (Rabon, Rucho). As originally filed, SB 763 proposed several clarifying changes to the Revenue laws passed last year, as recommended by the Revenue Laws Study Committee. The House added in provisions to extend the Historic rehabilitation and film tax credits. The bill passed the House after the Senate had already left town so the bill was referred to Senate Rules and did not proceed. Although the bill did not ultimately become law, it may signify a willingness to re-examine some of the tax changes made last year.