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News & Press: Updates for Members

UPDATED: NASW-NC Legislative Update: Session Wrap Up

Monday, June 29, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kay Castillo
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* This update was originally posted on Monday, June 29. It has been updated as of Monday, July 6 to update bills that were signed into law or vetoed by the Governor.

Last week was a whirlwind of legislators trying to adjourn! Many bills were being rushed through and changed at the last minute. However, they did adjourn, for now! Legislators will hold skeletal sessions (legislators don’t attend these sessions but this allows them to be called back quickly to vote on something if needed) until July 11. They will wait on Governor Cooper to veto any bills; he has ten days to veto legislation. They will then break until September 2. When they come back in September, that session will be limited to COVID-19 funding, veto overrides, or appointments to boards and commissions.

Governor Cooper continues to veto any bills that would seek to reopen businesses including bars and gyms. The House failed to override his veto of House Bill 594 which sought to reopen gyms and other businesses and also would have taken power from him issuing executive orders in the future (in anticipation of a spike in cases and needing to close businesses down again as a result of infections). Governor Cooper would have had to confer with the Council of State before any new orders were issued. Legislators sent several other reopen bills before adjourning last week which would reopen parks, amusement parks, and other facilities.

Other bills of interest:

HB 918 Expedite Permanency/DHHS Report SNAP/TANF: This bill is intended to expedite permanency for children who have been in foster care for nine months. If it is determined that a youth cannot return home, the youth will be placed in a safe, permanent home within one year from the date of the initial order removing custody. The bill also creates an aggravating circumstance for the exposure of unlawful controlled substances or alcohol in utero. One amendment was added last week that “If the parent is enrolled in and meeting or exceeding the benchmarks of a substance abuse treatment program recommended by a medical provider or a local management entity/managed care organization (LME/MCO), then any alcohol, unlawful controlled substances use, or use of controlled substances in violation of the law shall not be the sole ground for ordering nonsecure custody.” NASW-NC remains opposed to the bill. We are concerned that a law like this would prevent pregnant women from seeking needed substance misuse treatment, before and after pregnancy. Additionally, a lack of access to treatment will further complicate reunification efforts. The bill passed and was sent to the Governor to sign into law. NASW-NC asked Governor Cooper to veto this legislation. *Update: Governor Cooper vetoed this legislation on July 2. 

HB 77
is a funding bill for the Department of Transportation. While this is typically not a bill that impacts social workers, this bill does impacts the Rural Operating Assistance Program (ROAP) which is an $18 million program that funds Elderly and Disability Transportation. Under House Bill 77, it was zeroed out. There might be a fix for this funding in another bill at a later date. *Update: Governor Cooper will let this bill become law without his signature.

SB 808 Medicaid Funding Act: This bill seeks to restart the state’s Medicaid Transformation efforts. The bill would require the state to implement Medicaid Transformation by July 1, 2021 and prepaid health plans would have contracts for four years instead of three years. The House removed a Senate provision that would have required the Department of Health and Human Services to pay the prepaid health plans participating in Medicaid $4 million per month if they did not restart by July 1, 2021. The bill allocates $50 million for behavioral health care as a result of COVID-19, allocates $20 million for early childhood initiatives, and $75 million to expand contact tracing and testing efforts for COVID-19. *Update: Governor Cooper signed this bill into law on July 2.

HB 1023 Coronavirus Relief Fund/Additions and Revisions: This eighteen-page bill allocates funding to various Divisions. Some highlights include: $5 million for group homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, $7,425,000 to the North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics to be used for distribution to its member clinics to cover the cost of eligible health services provided during the COVID-19 emergency and other costs allowed pursuant to federal guidance. $7,425,000 to the North Carolina Community Health Centers Center Association, to be used for distribution to its member health centers to cover the cost of eligible health services provided during the COVID-19 emergency and other costs allowed pursuant to federal guidance. These funds shall be used for monthly supplemental payments in the amount of $100.00 for each child receiving foster care assistance payments. $75 million was appropriated to the school nutrition programs to also be used for the Summer Food Service Program and about $7 million to purchase personal protective equipment for public schools. * Update: Governor Cooper signed this bill into law on July 1.

*Bill added to update: HB 612 DSS Review of Procedures/Criminal History/OAH: This legislation would require the Division of Social Services(DSS) to prepare a report of all its publications, policies, and procedures and to submit that report to the Office of Administrative Hearings(OAH). These polices will then be reviewed to decide if they need to be made into rules and go through a rule making process with the Rules Review Commission instead of policies implemented by the Division. The bill would also clarify that occupational licensing boards and state licensing agencies cannot require applicants to submit criminal history records as a condition of receiving a license. Further, the bill would allow individuals to file a contested case petition with OAH when they have been injured by a policy or guideline of an administrative agency that should have been adopted through the rule-making process. *Governor Cooper vetoed this legislation on July 8.

Reopening/Phase 2

Governor Cooper announced last Wednesday the state will remain in Phase Two for another three weeks and make face coverings mandatory in public. Phase 2 was ordered on May 22 and was scheduled to expire on Friday, June 26. It has been extended until July 17. The mask requirement took effect Friday, June 26 at 5 p.m.

Exceptions to the mask requirement include children under 11, those with certain medical conditions including behavioral and people exercising outdoors away from other people.

Legislative Session Overview

Bills we followed that were signed into law as of Friday, June 26:

SB 562 The Second Chance Act: This bill makes changes to expunction laws, making it easier to expunge most misdemeanors that happen after December 1, 2019. It does not apply to violent crimes, crimes that result in registration as a sex offender, or impaired driving. Additionally, the bill expunges certain records of minors. The bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously and was signed into law on June 25. 

*Bill added to update: HB 1187 Raise the Age Funding: Allocates $10.4 million to build three juvenile detention facilities. This was one of the goals of the original Raise the Age bill that passed in 2017 to help process 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult prisons. The bill was signed into law on June 12.

SB 818 Compensation of Certain School Employees: This bill provides a one-time bonus of $350 to teachers. The bill encourages (but does not require) the Governor to allocate funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to provide a one-time bonus of $600 to teachers, instructional support personnel, and noncertified personnel. The Governor signed the bill into law on Friday, June 26.

HB 511 North Carolina First Step Act: This bill allows for judicial discretion in sentencing for drug trafficking offenses. The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law on Friday, June 26.  

HB 1169 Bipartisan Elections Act of 2020: This bill seeks to make major changes to the state’s voting laws for the November 2020 elections in light of COVID-19. The changes come as it is anticipated that more people will be requesting absentee ballots than in past elections. While the bill does many things, some of the highlights include removing the requirement for two witnesses to sign an absentee ballot and require one witness instead. Voters could request an absentee ballot by email or fax. Additionally, all absentee ballots would be tracked so voters could keep up with where their absentee ballots are once they submit them. The bill also requires the State Board of Elections and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a program that allows teams to assist registered voters in congregate living facilities. The bill provides funding to the State Board of Elections to assist the counties with November elections. The bill expands IDs that can be used for the election should voter ID be put in place by a judge for the November election. The bill was signed into law on June 12.

*Bill added to update: HB 593 Juvenile Crime Prevention Council/Detention/CAA and Other Fees: This bill makes modifications to juvenile related policies. It makes several changes to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council to better clarify the Council's role in assisting youth returning to the community. The bill also clarifies that juveniles under the age of 18 must be held in a juvenile detention facility. Governor Cooper signed the bill into law on July 1.

SB 476 School Based Mental Health: This bill directs the State Board of Education to adopt a school-based mental health policy that applies to K-12 schools. The policy must address youth mental health; suicide prevention; substance misuse; sexual abuse prevention; sex trafficking prevention; and teenage dating violence. The policy must include training for any staff that works with students in the school system and include a model suicide risk referral protocol. This bill went through committees during the 2019 legislative session. Legislators wanted more time to work on the bill, so it was assigned to a conference committee and worked on with a few legislators. The bill was signed into law on June 8.

* Bill added to update: HB 1053 PED/Military Occupational Licensure: This bill requires licensing boards to provide an expedited license to a military member or military spouse within fifteen days of receiving the application. Currently, the social work licensure board issues temporary licensure to military members or their spouse. Governor Cooper signed this bill into law on July 2.

HB 1229 Unemployment Insurance Program Integrity: This bill would allow a temporary reprieve from work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents. Current law requires individuals without dependents to work or participate in a work training program for at least 80 hours a month or they risk losing their benefits. The requirement would be dropped until July 1, 2021. Governor Cooper signed this bill into law on June 30.

Bills we were following but did not pass:

SB 730 The No Patient Left Behind Act: This bill requires hospitals to allow at least one visitor of the patient’s choice. However, the House added language that the visitor is only allowed if their presence does not infringe on the rights and safety of others. The visitor may be allowed if it is medically or therapeutically necessary. The bill passed the House but the Senate failed to concur with House changes so the bill will not go to the Governor.

SB 708/HB 1048 CPS Intake Screening: This bill prohibits local county departments of social services from developing their own screening criteria that is different from the state’s. Additionally, the bill requires the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop and implement a rapid consultation system to provide consultation to counties when making decisions regarding the safety of children. Part of this system would require, upon receiving a request, Division staff to consult with the county department of social services within 24 hours of receipt of the request and at least two Division staff workers to consult on each call to ensure the advice conveyed is consistent. This bill passed the Senate and will head to the House.

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