Friday, June 27, 2014

Legislative Update for the Week of June 23

In addition to continued finagling on the budget, the House and Senate continued work on substantive legislation this week. For news on the House proposal to pass a "mini" budget, see my post earlier today. That mini budget does nothing to get the House and Senate closer to a consensus number on Medicaid costs - see this North Carolina Health News piece and the Office of State Budget and Management presentation to the Senate Appropriations committee for more information. See below for news on legislation.

Health and Human Services

HB 1220, Hope for Haley and Friends (McElraft, Avila, Carney, Fulghum).  HB 1220 will allow a hemp oil extract to be used for treatment of seizure disorders.  It does require the creation of a database of pilot studies of the extract and registration of neurologists conducting the studies.  The dispensing neurologists will be immune from criminal penalties for dispensing the extract, as will those in possession of it for treatment purposes.  It also allows UNC and ECU (and encourages the private universities of Duke and Wake Forest) to conduct clinical research on the hemp extract. It was approved by the Senate this week and the full House concurred in the Senate Committee Substitute.  It is expected to be signed by the Governor soon.


SB 812, Maintain State Authority over Academic Standards(Soucek, Tillman). The House passed its changes to the Senate Common Core bill this week.  As expected, the Senate did not concur in the House Committee Substitute and the bill will now go to conference for the two chambers to hash out their differences.

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. The House concurred in the Senate committee substitute this week.  It has been presented to the Governor for his signature.

Justice and Public Safety

SB 594, Omnibus Justice Amendments (Davis).  SB 594 includes 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 this week but still needs one more final vote before going to the Senate. Many of the provisions unrelated to Hall were removed, but the budget provision moving the SBI to Public Safety was added.

SB 793, Charter School Modifications (Tillman, Cook). SB 793 makes several modifications to the charter school law: it provides that a teacher employed by a charter school may serve as a nonvoting member of the board of directors for the charter school;  moves the date by which the state board shall make decisions on applications from January 15 to August 15; amends the current law regarding expansion of grades of a charter school; allows priority enrollment for the children of board members; makes charter schools subject to open meetings and public records laws; allows charter schools to ask for additional records regarding the transfer of the per pupil share of the local current expense fund; to shorten the time period for payment of delinquent funds; to clarify the bidding process for the assumption of charter schools; and to direct the state board to develop a fast-track approval process.  The bill also makes changes to the anti-discrimination provision in the charter school statute.  It deletes the portion of the current law that states that a charter school shall not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender or disability. It adds a new provision that states that a charter school shall not discriminate with respect to “any category protected under the US Constitution or under federal law applicable to the states.” It also adds that a charter school whose mission is single gender education may limit admission on the basis of gender. The bill was approved by the full House this week after much controversy over the anti-discrmination provisions.  It will now go back to the Senate for concurrence.  If the Senate does not concur, then the bill will go into conference.

Regulatory Reform
The regulatory reform measures discussed last week were divided into two measures this week and approved by the full House. Both bills will now proceed to the Senate for concurrence.

SB 493, Health and Safety Reg Reform (Walters). SB 493 contains a number or policy items, many of which have already been passed or included in other legislation. As it passed the House, the bill contains the Autism Insurance and related behavioral analyst licensure language; a new Pharmacy Benefits Management Act; the ban on tanning bed use for those under 18; amendments to the Nursing Home Administrator Act; language related to aligning provider oversight and extending the Medicaid re-credentialing period; removes the sunset on a provision allowing electronic monitoring in facilities for children and adolescents who have a primary diagnosis of mental illness and/or emotional disturbance; interstate connectivity for controlled substance reporting; and parity for oral cancer treatment drugs.  It also includes language proposed elsewhere regarding Special Care Units – shortening the moratorium on new licenses and allowing units approved before the moratorium to proceed.

SB 734, Regulatory Reform Act of 2014.  SB 734 is the non-Health and Safety regulatory reform bill. SB 734 proposes elimination of several boards and commissions (the version approved this week no longer includes the Innocence Commission); clarifies the process for rules re-adoption; provides for electronic filing with the Office of Administrative Hearings; directs a study of service of process in eviction proceedings; and provides that swimming pools must be accessible if required by the ADA and directs the Building Code Council to adopt rules consistent with the ADA, among other provisions. 


SB 403, Omnibus Election Clarifications (Bingham). SB 403 makes a number of changes to the voting laws, including a clarification to ensure that the failure of a witness to an absentee ballot to list a zip code does not invalidate the application and certificate. It was approved by the full House this week.  Instead of taking a concurrence vote on the Senate floor, the Senate sent the bill to the Senate Rules committee.

The House "Mini" Budget

After a press conference with the Governor (at which the Senate was noticeably absent), the House presented a "mini" budget with a limited number of budget proposals that would ensure teacher and state employee raises this week. This approach is virtually unheard of, and thus far has not been well-received by the Senate.  However, the House certainly made a point about its priorities - the full House unanimously voted in favor of the bill yesterday. Below is a brief summary.

SB 3, 2014 Budget Mods./Pay Raises/Other Changes. SB 3 provides for raises to state employees and teachers using reserve and lottery funds.  Instead of including numerous special provisions, the proposed bill directs $361 mil in budget reductions that are in line with the items not in controversy in the House and Senate proposed budgets in the proposed SB 744. It also directs that any vacant positions subject to proposed budget reductions in last year's budget or the House or Senate version this year shall not be filled after June 30, 2014. It also prohibits grant awards with funds subject to proposed budget reductions. It is highly unusual to direct budget reductions from proposed legislation that has not become law.

The bill also provides for the following:
  • Salary supplements for teachers with relevant masters or other advanced degrees, including supplements for school psychologists and speech pathologists. 
  • "Clarifies" teacher career status: provides pay raises for teachers who retain 4 year contracts, no pay raise for teachers who keep career status.
  • Funds a Career Pathways pilot program that provides differentiated pay for classroom teachers based on a teacher's demonstrated effectiveness and additional responsibilities in advanced roles.
  • Money to address the long-term oversight requirements of permitting, enforcement, data collection, and analysis of coal ash. 
  • $134 mil in risk reserve for Medicaid but no other provisions addressing Medicaid.
  • Repeals the Medicaid provider shared savings program and maintains the rate reduction.

The bill was approved by the House Appropriations committee on Wednesday and the House Pensions committee Thursday morning.  It received unanimous, bipartisan approval by the full House yesterday.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Legislative Update for the Weeks of June 9 and 16

Most of the attention has been on the budget for the past few weeks but some legislation has moved through the House and Senate.


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, including clarifying the good cause exemptions from mandatory retention for Limited English Proficient students and students with IEPs (a more detailed summary is in the June 6th post).  The legislation has been signed by the Governor and is S.L. 2014-5.

Common Core Legislation: HB 1061, Replace Common Core State Standards with NC's Higher Academic Standards (Holloway, Pittman, Speciale) and SB 812, Maintain State Authority over Academic Standards (Soucek, Tillman). The House and Senate both passed bills to replace or modify the Common Core standards being used in North Carolina schools. Each bill would set up an Academic Standards Review Commission that would study North Carolina’s current academic standards and then recommend changes to the State Board of Education. The Senate version appears to allow the Commission and Board of Education to consider Common Core as the basis for North Carolina’s future standards, but the House version would not. The NC Chamber, which has been opposed to the repeal of the standards, came out in favor of the Senate version. The House Education committee took up the Senate version this week but simply put its own language into the Senate bill, which will eventually set the bill up for a conference committee where the House and Senate can work out a compromise.

HB712, 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 private schools that operate child care facilities from state licensure. It has been approved by the full Senate and has been sent back to the House for concurrence.

Health and Human Services

HB 1181, Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina (Dollar, Burr, Avila, Lambeth). As filed, this bill would initiate Gov. McCrory’s Medicaid reform package by directing DHHS to begin setting up a system of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). However, the House released a new proposal this week that sets up a path toward Medicaid reform that tracks with the Governor’s proposal, but also concedes an important provision to the Senate, which could pave the way for a budget compromise. The bill now calls for provider-led organizations to manage and coordinate the majority of the Medicaid population. However, the House proposal also states that the system should be fully capitated by 2020. A "fully capitated system" means that provider-run organizations would get a finite amount of money to serve a defined population, leaving providers with all of the risk of going over budget and all the savings of staying under budget. While the Senate prefers a single private managed care entity, a capitated provider-led system might be the next best thing for them. The proposal keeps full control of administration with the Division of Medical Assistance. The proposal does not explicitly address the role of the LME/MCOs but does propose a controversial pilot for one LME/MCO, Cardinal Innovations, to manage the physical and behavioral health care for certain individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. House Bill 1181 passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.


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. It was approved by the House Election committee this week and will be voted on by the full House next week.

Other Issues

HB 1069, Unemployment Insurance Law Changes (Howard, Warren, Arp).  HB 1069 seeks to amend the Unemployment Insurance laws, including requiring photo ID for benefits; sets benefit duration according to the unemployment rate; modifies 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. The bill has been approved by both chambers and awaits the signature of the Governor.

SB 493, 2014 Regulatory Reform Act (Walters). SB 493 was brought forward in House committee this week with a number of unrelated policy proposals, including many items that already passed the House. These items include the ban on tanning beds for children under 18 and Autism insurance. The bill was calendared for the House floor on Wednesday, but was referred back to committee after members of both parties expressed concern about the bill’s process and content. It remains in the Regulatory Reform Committee.

SB594, Omnibus Justice Amendments (Davis).  SB 594 was approved by the House Judiciary C committee this week. The bill makes a number of changes to the criminal statutes. Of note to Disability Rights NC is 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. The bill has been referred to Appropriations.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Senate and House Budget Summary

Senate and House Budget Summary

The Senate passed its version of the 2014-15 continuation budget on May 31 and the House just passed its own, very different version, on Friday, June 13.  Two of the most significant differences are teacher raises and changes to the state's Medicaid program. As discussed below, the Senate provides for larger salary increases for teachers on the condition of relinquishing tenure, but also takes large cuts to Medicaid eligibility. The House provides for more modest salary increases for teachers, retains tenure, and preserves Medicaid eligibility, but increases the reliance on the lottery for Recurring spending while doing so. Negotiating a final compromise on these issues will be the focus over the next few weeks.

The 2014-15 Budget

Over the coming days, and perhaps weeks, budget conferees will meet to work out their differences. It is notable that 8 Democrats joined with the Republican majority to vote in favor of the bill in the House. They were Reps. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, William Brisson, D-Bladen, Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg, Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, Charles Graham, D-Robeson, Edward Hanes, D-Forsyth, Paul Tine, D-Dare, and Ken Waddell, D-Columbus. One Republican, Rep. Debra Conrad, R-Forsyth, voted against the measure.

Health and Human Services

·         The Senate budget adds $350 mil in funding for next year’s rebase and to close this year’s shortfall. The House budget only includes $75 mil to cover the current year's shortfall. This is sure to be a major sticking point in budget negotiations.
·         Differing Proposals for the Medicaid Organization:
o   The Senate proposes $5 mil in funding for consultants, contractors and initial staffing for the development of a new, independent organization to oversee NC’s Medicaid program.
o   The House provides $1 mil to staff Medicaid Reform efforts. However, it provides for a new method of appointing the Medicaid Director – upon recommendation by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, appointed by the Governor, and subject to confirmation by the General Assembly, for a term of five years.
·          Recipient Appeals: the Senate proposes changes to the appeal period, shifts the burden of proof to the recipient, and adjusts mediation language to provide for dismissal if a recipient requests but does not then “meaningfully participate”.  The House only proposes adjustments to the mediation language, only specifying that a case will be dismissed if a recipient accepts an offer to mediate but does not attend without good cause.
·         The Senate proposed several changes that were not in the House:
o   Imposes a 3.5% assessment on Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) for a savings of $60 mil – shortly after the Senate budget passed. DHHS announced that the assessment would not be possible;
o   Implements a preferred drug program for mental health drugs;
o   Eliminates thousands of aged, blind and disabled people from the program by eliminating the Medically Needy category and automatic eligibility through the Special Assistance program;
o   Directs the Division of Medical Assistance to draft a waiver or proposal that limits Medicaid coverage for the aged, blind, and disabled to the minimum required to meet mandatory requirements of the Medicaid program and the Americans with Disabilities Act by March 1, 2015.
o   Imposes additional assessments for hospitals and other providers; and
o   Includes a 2% provider rate reduction, effective January 1, 2015 for all fee-for-service providers except for drugs, nursing homes, all cost-based providers and services where rates are set by the federal government, negotiated through a managed care contract, or as otherwise specified.
o   Study Additional 1915(c) Waiver: Direct DMA to design and draft a 1915(c) waiver  by March 1, 2015 that meets the following requirements: (1) The waiver should create 1,000 new slots each year for 3 years, to serve a total of 3,000 additional adults with developmental disabilities from January 1, 2016, to June 30, 2019.(2) The budget for each slot should be capped at twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) per plan year per beneficiary, and slots will target individuals on the registry of unmet needs. (3) The slots should be managed as part of the LME/MCO managed care system
o   Establishes a TBI study commission
o   Additional PCS rate reductions
o   The Senate adjusts the nursing home case mix ratio for a savings of $2.2 mil.
o   Eliminates CCNC.
·         The House proposed several changes that were not in the Senate:
o   Substitution Of Generic Drugs For Unavailable Preferred Drugs: This provision would allow pharmacists to substitute and dispense a generic drug in place of a preferred drug without prior authorization, when all of the following are true:  (1) The Division normally requires the dispensing of the preferred drug over the equivalent generic drug. (2) The pharmacist has not been able to acquire the preferred drug from at least two separate wholesalers within the two weeks prior to dispensing the generic substitute. (3) The pharmacist maintains records of the failed attempts to acquire the preferred drug. Such records shall be open to inspection and audit by the Division. (4) The prescriber has not indicated that the preferred drug is "medically necessary." IF DMA finds that there are savings to the Medicaid program.
o   1915(C) Innovations Waiver Services Assessment: Provides authorization to do an assessment on 1915(c) service providers if it allowed.
o   Directs DMA to draft one or more waivers that will expand mandatory enrollment in primary care case management to Medicare and Medicaid dual eligibles.
o   Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT): Directs DHHS to develop and issue a request for proposal for a contract beginning January 1, 2015, for the statewide management of Medicaid nonemergency medical transportation services.
o   Ambulance Transports To Crisis Centers:  Directs DMA to study the practice of reimbursing for ambulance transports that divert individuals in mental health crisis from hospital emergency departments to alternative appropriate locations for care. The Department shall study existing pilot programs in North Carolina, as well as other states, and shall specifically study expansion of the Wake County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Advanced Practice Paramedics pilot program.
·         Provisions in BOTH Senate and House (i.e., in all likelihood, these will be in the final budget):
o   Modify Intensive In-Home Service: No later than October 1, 2014, DMA shall modify the service definition for the Intensive In-Home Service to reflect a team-to-family ratio of one Intensive In-Home team to families for both the Medicaid and NC Health Choice programs.
o   Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver: Directs DMA to design and draft a waiver to add a new service package for Medicaid eligibles with traumatic brain injury (TBI). (Language varies slightly between Senate and House, House directs DMA to develop the waiver in conjunction with the Brain Injury Association.)
o   PCS Study: The Senate provided $200k to the Legislative Services Commission to contract for a study to define a new limited PCS optional service program. This amount represents the State share of the total funding of $400,000. The remaining source of funding will come from the Medicaid administrative funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The report from this study is due December 1, 2015.
o     Home Care agency Moratorium: The Senate proposes a permanent and the House a 2 year moratorium on new home care agency licenses., with certain exceptions including upon determination that an area is in need of increased access to care.
o   Special Care Unit Moratorium modified: Both the Senate and the House would allow the DHHS to issue a license to a facility that was in possession of a certificate of need as of July 31, 2013, that included authorization to operate special care unit beds. The Senate makes the moratorium permanent.  The House ends the moratorium July 1, 2015.

NC Pre-K
·         $5m in non-recurring funds for 1,000 new PreK slots (House and Senate). House includes an additional $4 mil increase from TANF funds, to accommodate the recommended teacher pay increase and additional slots.   


Child Protective Services Funding (Senate and House)
·  $8.3 mil in additional funding for child protective services and $4.5 mil for expanded in-home services.
·  The General Fund appropriation for Child Protective Services is increased by 101% to $27 million.
Enhance Oversight of County Child Welfare Services (Senate and House)
·  Provides funding for nine positions to enhance oversight of child welfare services in local county departments of social services.
·  These positions will monitor, train, and provide technical assistance to the local county departments of social services to ensure children and families are provided services to address safety, permanency and the well-being of children who are served by child welfare services. 

Child Protective Services Statewide Evaluation (Senate and House)
·  Provides funding for an independent, statewide evaluation of Child Protective Services at local departments of social service and the Department of Health and Human Services.
·  The evaluation will assess performance, caseload sizes, administrative structure, funding and worker turnover and include recommendations on improving Child Protective Services.
Child Protective Services Pilot Program (Senate and House)
·  Provides funding to develop and implement a pilot program designed to enhance coordination of services and information among agencies to improve the protection and outcomes for vulnerable children served through Child Welfare Services. The agencies included in the pilot are local county departments of social services, local law enforcement, the court system, Guardian Ad Litem programs and other agencies as determined appropriate by the Department of Health and Human Services. 
Foster Care Assistance Payments 
·  Foster care assistance increased by $5 mil. (Senate and House)

Drug Testing for Work First
·         The House budget provides $343K in funding for implementation of drug testing Work First applicants and recipients (a requirement passed but not funded last year).

State/County Special Assistance (SA): A number of changes are proposed in the Senate budget to SA eligibility to accompany the elimination of Medicaid eligibility described above
·         State County Special Assistance Income Eligibility: Changes SA eligibility to income at or below 100% of Federal Poverty level, regardless of where recipients reside. Current recipients of SA are grandfathered in and will continue to receive SA. Saves $800k in the first year.  Accompanying reduction of $4.2 mil for reduced SA caseloads. (Senate only)
·         Adult Care Home Case Management (Senate and House): Eliminates funding for the Adult Care Home Case Management Service which ended in June 2013. This service provided funding for county DSS workers to perform the assessment and case management for individuals in adult care homes and licensed family homes who were heavy need residents. The Personal Care Services (PCS) Program now uses an independent assessment to determine eligibility for PCS and therefore the Case Management Service is no longer needed.

·         School nurses received a $3.5M cut in the Senate budget but there are no cuts in the House budget.
·         Both the Senate and the House continue to reduce funding for Early Intervention to the Children’s Developmental Services Agencies (CDSA) by $10 mil.  The Senate budget directs DHHS to close 4 CDSAs by January 1, 2015. There is additional language requiring the DHHS to maintain current eligibility standards. The House removes the language directing the program to maintain eligibility but allows them flexibility in achieving the $10 mil in savings.

Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Services
·         The Senate Closes the Wright School, a $2.7 mil cut. The Wright School provides residential mental health treatment to NC’s children ages 6 to 12 with serious emotional and behavioral disorders. The House does not take this reduction.
  • $1.8 mil reduction to LME/MCO administration through projected savings from consolidation from 9 LME/MCOs operating in FY 2013-14 to 7 or fewer by June 30, 2015. (Senate and House)
·         Eliminates 7 positions at Central Office Administration. (Senate and House)
  • Eliminates $6 mil LME/MCO risk reserve. (Senate and House)
  • Allocates $2.3 mil in TBI funding to the Brain Injury Association, residential programs and other specified purposes for individuals with TBI (Senate and House).
  • The House allocates $5 mil for community-based crisis services.

·         The Senate proposes a $900k reduction to the Home and Community Care Block Grant but the House does not make the reduction.
·         The House allocates $100k Non-Recurring for Senior Center capital costs


·         The Senate provides $465M funding increase for teacher salary in return for tenure (average 11% increase). The House budget proposes $176 mil Recurring and $2 mil Non-recurring to increase the base pay for new educators to $33,000 and an average 5% pay raise for all step-eligible educators (not tied to relinquishing tenure)
·         The Senate proposes a $233 mil reduction for teaching assistants beginning July 1, only funding assistants for kindergarten and first-grade classes. The House does not take this reduction.
·         The Senate and the House both propose a $4 mil cut to classroom teachers as a result of rescinding requirement in last year’s budget to improve teacher to student ratio in grades 2 and 3.
·         Adds $18.7 million to extend supplemental pay for teachers with Master’s degrees to those who have completed at least one course in a graduate program as of July 1, 2013. (Senate and House)
·         Includes an additional $6 million to fully fund the Read to Achieve program, which provides focused reading camps, special literacy intensive classrooms and other resources to ensure students can read proficiently by fourth grade. (Senate and House)
·         The Senate decreases funding to DPI by $15 mil. There is a hold harmless provision to ensure that certain contracts are not reduced, including Communities in Schools and Beginnings.
Public Schools First NC has a great summary of Education provisions in the proposed budgets here.

Justice and Public Safety

  • ·         Eliminates all misdemeanants from state prison (Senate and House).
  • ·         Prison Changes:   Closes Fountain and North Piedmont Correctional Centers for Women and converts Eastern Correctional into a Women’s Minimum Custody facility. (Senate and House).
  • ·         Moves the SBI and Crime Lab into the Department of Public Safety.
  • ·         Reduces administrative funding to IDS ($233k in Senate, $466k in House).

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bill Update for the Week of June 2

Below is a quick update on legislation with activity this week. We are past the bill filing deadlines so there will be no new legislation filed (although new matters can be inserted into bills that have been filed in the past).  The House was hard at work on their version of the 2014-15 budget, and the Senate took off Monday and Tuesday after passing their version of the budget last week (summary to come in separate post, experienced some technical difficulties on that!).

HB 230, Clarify Read to Achieve/School Performance Grades (Malone, Martin, Brody, Samuelson).  A Proposed Committee Substitute of this bill, formerly a home school bill, moved through the Senate last week.  It 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 House concurred in the Senate Committee Substitute yesterday and the bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Common Core Legislation: The House and Senate both passed bills to replace or modify the Common Core standards being used in North Carolina schools. The NC Chamber, which has been opposed to the repeal of the standards came out in favor of the Senate version. 
HB 1061, Replace Common Core State Standards with NC's Higher Academic Standards (Holloway, Pittman, Speciale).  HB 1061 seeks to replace the Common Core standards. It sets up an Academic Standards Review Commission in the Department of Administration to develop replacement standards for Language Arts and Mathematics. 
SB 812, Maintain State Authority over Academic Standards (Soucek, Tillman).  The Senate Bill passed the Education committee and full Senate this week.  The Senate bill also sets up an Academic Standards Review Commission.  However, the Senate bill directs the commission to review the current standards and propose modifications that increase students' level of academic achievement, meet and reflect North Carolina's priorities, are age-level and developmentally appropriate, are understandable to parents and teachers, and will be among the highest standards in the nation. 

HB 1069, Unemployment Insurance Law Changes (Howard, Warren, Arp)/ SB759 (Rucho, Clark).  HB 1069 seeks to amend the Unemployment Insurance laws, including requiring photo ID for benefits;  sets benefit duration according to the unemployment rate; modifies 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.  The bill passed 2d reading in the full House and will be considered again on a final vote next week.

HB 1110, Improve Oversight of Public Guardianship (Jones, Dollar, Earle).  HB 1110 directs the Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS), to collaborate with the Administrative Office of the Courts to develop a plan regarding the  evaluation of complaints pertaining to wards under the care of publicly funded guardians in order to ensure that, in addition to current requirements, the complaint process also incorporates a face‑to‑face observation of the ward, an interview with the ward, or both. It also directs the Division of Social Services to study the issue of conflicts of interest in child welfare cases as related to public guardianship. It also directs DAAS to consult with the clerks of superior court,LME/MCOs, the North Carolina Bar Association Section on Elder Law, and any other interested groups to develop a model plan for transitioning a ward to an alternative guardianship arrangement when an individual guardian of the person becomes unable or unwilling to serve. The model plan shall focus on ways to prevent the appointment of a public guardian. The bill was approved by the full House this week and has been referred to the Senate Rules committee.