Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Action Alert, JCPC Funding

Advocate for Children through JCPC Funding!

Act Now To Support JCPC Funding!

Take Action!
Tell Legislators to Intervene on Behalf of NC’s At-Risk Youth through Support of JCPC Funding!

Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils (JCPC) across North Carolina serve to identify and fund critical intervention and prevention services for at-risk youth. These services help prevent children from being incarcerated in the Youth Detention Centers, stay out (or get out) of gangs, stay in school, receive mental health treatment, reduce teenage pregnancies, reduce recidivism, and alter life choices to make positive changes for their adulthood.
Since 2002, funding DECREASED to JCPCs for this vital work despite an increase in the number of youths in North Carolina. Currently, all JCPC funding is scheduled to end at midnight June 30, unless legislators pass a budget allocating at least $22.7 million to the JCPCs.
We need to let House and Senate leaders know NOW the importance of reallocating the original $22.7 million and the need for an additional $5 million for JCPC funding. Please click on "Take Action" and you can personalize a letter to House and Senate members today!

Updates from our friends at the Council of Churches

*Blog Editor Note* The Council of Churches participates in many of the same coalitions as NASW-NC.

May 27, 2008
George Reed, Editor

Short Session Convenes
The General Assembly has convened for its 2008 “short session.” As always, the primary item on the agenda is fine-tuning the state budget for fiscal year 2008-09, which begins on July 1. Last year’s legislative session adopted a budget for this fiscal year; it will now be tweaked, based on projected revenues and changing needs of the state.

Most short sessions begin with noble intentions to keep the session truly short. This year, legislative leaders seem to mean it. The Governor’s proposed revised budget went to the General Assembly early in the session. Highlights of his proposal include:
· A budget total of $21.5 billion.
· A $152 million surplus from the current fiscal year and almost $400 million in budget cuts.
· Teachers get a raise of 7%, which would bring their salaries to the national average. School administrators get 6%. State employees get only 1.5% raises, plus a one-time $1,000 bonus and an extra week of vacation.
· $45 million for the More at Four pre-K program, adding more than 6,300 kids.
· $9 million for child care subsidies, taking 1,100 children off the waiting list.
· Cuts of $42 million in Medicaid by freezing growth at 75% of inflation.
· $10 million to expand Health Choice to provide health insurance to an additional 10,500 children of low-income working parents.
· $22.6 million for juvenile crime prevention.
· $4 million for better supervision of parolees.
· $1 million to help those facing foreclosure.
· A 20¢/pack increase in the cigarette tax.
· Increases in the taxes on beer, fortified wine, and liquor to cover $76 million in changes in the mental health system.

The House, which proceeds first on the budget this year, is well into its process, with speculation that the budget could be up for a floor vote next week.

Deadlines for the filing of new bills, which were written into last year’s adjournment resolution, have produced a flurry of bills. Tomorrow is the last of several deadlines.

New Bills

Many of the bills which have been introduced during the session’s first two weeks are either appropriations bills (hoping to get a piece of that extra revenue) or study bills (hoping to put an issue on the agenda for the 2009 legislative session). Brief summaries of these bills will be followed by summaries of more substantive legislation. (Bill sponsors are named. Unless otherwise noted, appropriations bills are in the House or Senate Appropriations Committees.)

This listing of appropriations bills is important for two reasons. First, some of these bills would fund programs and services that are important to people in the Raleigh Report Network. And, second, these bills give an idea of the scope of programs and services that state dollars are used for.


H 2077, NC Association of Free Clinics Funds. $2 million to connect the state’s free clinics to an information technology network. (Rep. Owens)

H 2078/S 1679, Smart Start Funds. $44.7 million to expand statewide early childhood initiatives. (Rep. Alexander; Sen. Purcell)

H 2085, Funds for Prevent Blindness NC. $300,000 for vision screening programs, including $150,000 for children in the More at Four program. (Rep. Crawford)

H 2087, Housing Funds/Developmental Disabilities. $155,000 to The Arc of NC for start-up funds for housing for people with developmental disabilities. (Reps. Coleman, Stam, Ross, Fisher)

H 2089, Communities in Schools Funds. $1 million to expand the work of Communities in Schools (which provides community support for public schools and their students). $756,250 for CIS to open two new performance learning centers. The bill also calls for a study of CIS’s proposal to place at least 100 graduation coaches in middle and high schools. (Rep. Tolson) See also H 2277, below.

H 2126/S 1685, Child Care Subsidy Funds. $26.7 million to provide child care subsidies for 10,000 children currently on a waiting list and $17.2 million to make changes in the subsidy rates. (Rep. Alexander; Sen. Purcell)

H 2131/S 1824, Funds/Autism Early Intervention. $4 million for early intervention programs. (Rep. Crawford; Sen. Garrou)

H 2176, Women at Risk Funds. $100,000 to continue and expand a program serving female offenders at risk of incarceration. (Reps. Fisher, Thomas, Goforth, Justus)

H 2199/S 1810, Funds/Minority Recruitment Pharmacy Schools. $300,000 for a pilot program to increase the number of minority students in pharmacy schools. (Reps. Coleman, England; Sen. Malone)

H 2208/S 1672, Funds/Healthy Start Foundation. $1 million to reduce infant mortality. (Rep. Insko, Sen. Purcell)

H 2225, Funds/Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention/Dropout Prevention. $1,178,000 to prevent pregnant and parenting students from dropping out of school. New programs would be initiated in the counties with the highest teen birth rates and dropout rates. (Reps. Coleman and Fisher)

H 2227/S 1848, Rural Economic Development Appropriation. $20 million to stimulate job-creating ventures, expand business opportunities, and promote economic transition in distressed rural areas. (Rep. Crawford; Sen. Dalton)

H 2233/S 1729, Community Development Funds. $4 million for the Community Development Initiative and $300,000 to the Rural Center for community-based housing and development activities. (Rep. Wainwright; Sen. Dannelly)

H 2248/S 1674, Funds/Stroke Advisory Council. $50,000 to address establishing a coordinated system of stroke care in NC. (Reps. Weiss, Williams; Sen. Purcell)

H 2249/S 1682, Funds Identify Stroke Rehabilitation Services. $100,000 to provide info about stroke rehab programs. (Reps. Weiss, Williams; Sen. Purcell)

H 2250/S 1673, Funds/Hypertension Prevention Demo Project. $300,000 for a hypertension prevention project. (Reps. Weiss, Williams; Sen. Purcell)

H 2251/S 1680, Funds/Heart Disease and Stroke Awareness. $350,000 for public awareness of stroke signs and symptoms. (Reps. Weiss, Williams; Sen. Purcell)

H 2277, Communities in Schools Funds. $6 million to CIS of NC, with the money to be used to draw down federal funds and private grants and to place at least 100 graduation coaches in middle and high schools, especially those with low graduation rates. (Reps. Parmon, Fisher, Tarleton)

H 2281, Teacher Housing Pilot Program Funds. $1.5 million for pilot programs in four school districts, with the purpose of providing affordable housing to enable teachers to relocate to rural areas. Teachers would receive equity in a home if they remain in the program for five years. (Reps. Goodwin, Yongue)

H 2282/S 1762, Funds for Efficient Green School Facilities. $1.5 million to ensure the efficient, green operation of school facilities. (Rep. Yongue, McLawhorn, Lucas, Bell; Sen. Swindell; H 2282 is in the House Energy Comm.)

H 2298, Drug/Alcohol Treatment Funds. Almost $240,000 for provide drug and alcohol addiction treatment for more inmates. (Rep. Sutton)

H 2300/S 1677, Funds for School Health Centers. $625,000 for existing and new school-based and school-linked health care centers. (Reps. Insko, Coleman, Clary, Howard; Sen. Purcell)

H 2302, Continuous Alcohol Monitoring System. $500,000 to Community Corrections to monitor more closely those individuals who need more direct supervision. (Rep. Alexander)

H 2337, Osteoporosis Education Funds. $150,000. (Reps. Weiss, Alexander, Walend)

H 2361/S 1794, Funds for CAP/MR-DD Slots. $10 million to provide a match for federal funds. (Reps. Jeffus, Alexander, England; Sen. Dalton)

H 2370/S 1676, Fund Public Health Improvement Initiatives. A total of $80 million for various public health efforts, including: $23 million to local health departments for ten essential public health services, $12.5 million for the “Eat Smart and Move More” obesity prevention plan, $1.5 million for the Tobacco Quit Line, $10.4 million for additional school nurses, and $31 million to provide all recommended childhood vaccines to all children. (Rep. England; Sen. Purcell)

H 2372/S 1665, Funds for Autism Community Initiatives. $1 million to serve adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. (Rep. England; Sen. Purcell)

H 2389, Funds for Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils. $5 million for local juvenile crime prevention councils. (Reps. Bordsen and Love)

H 2393/S 1667, Funds/Aid to Community Health Centers. $10 million to provide primary and preventive medical services to uninsured or medically indigent patients. (Rep. England, Alexander, Neumann, Rapp; Sen. Purcell)


H 2288/S 1806, Continue the Dropout Prevention Commission. (Reps. Parmon, Fisher, Tarleton, Current; Sen. Malone. H 2288 is in the House Education Comm.; S 1806 is in Senate Rules.)

H 2289/S 1812, Study Raising Compulsory Attendance Age. (Reps. Parmon, Bryant, Fisher, Tarleton; Sen. Malone. H 2289 is in House Education; S 1812 is in Senate Rules.)

H 2324/S 1803, Statewide Aging Study. To begin a five-year study of the state’s readiness to deal with “the coming wave of older adults.” The bills appropriate almost $4 million for the study. (Reps. Farmer-Butterfield, Pierce, Boylan; Sen. Malone. H 2324 is in House Aging; S 1803 is in Senate Rules.)

H 2362, LRC Study/Smoking Prohibition in Foster Care. Would authorize a study of the impact of a smoking ban on foster care: would it make a difference to children’s health, and would it make a difference in the availability of foster parents? (Rep. Cotham, House Rules.)

H 2405, LRC Study/Alternative Medicines. To study the benefits of allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. (Rep. Jones; referred to House Health Comm.)



H 2373/S 1678, Clarify Corporal Punishment Policy, would specify who may administer corporal punishment in the schools: a principal, assistant principal, or teacher. They must be of the same gender as the student and trained in giving out corporal punishment. Substitute teachers could not do it. Spanking can be only by hand, on the buttocks, through the student’s clothing. Local school boards are to report on how many times corporal punishment has been administered, along with data on the age, gender, race, and special education status of those receiving it. Introduced by Rep. England and Sen. Purcell; referred to House Education and Senate Education Committees.

H 2339/S 1816, Amend Child Abuse, would increase the punishment level for misdemeanor child abuse. It would also create three levels of felony child abuse, ranging from recklessly (but not intentionally) causing serious physical injury (causing great pain and suffering) up to intentionally causing serious bodily injury (substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement). Introduced by Reps. Weiss and Clary and Sen. Boseman; referred to House Children, Youth & Families and Senate Judiciary II.

H 2340/S 1734, Transporting Children in Open Bed of Vehicle. Current law makes it illegal to allow a child under the age of 12 to ride in the back of a pick-up truck, but with exemptions 1) when an adult is present and supervising the child and 2) for counties with small populations. H 2340/S 1734 would raise the age to 16 and remove the exemptions. Introduced by Rep. Weiss and Sen. Purcell; referred to House Children, Youth & Families and Senate Judiciary I.


H 2189/S 1586, DV Victim Assistance, would expand the information law enforcement would be required to provide to a domestic violence victim, requiring that information about services (currently given to those receiving a protective order) be given with 72 hours. The bill also calls for a study of creating a statewide automated victim notification system for persons who have received a protective order. Introduced by Rep. McLawhorn and Sen. Boseman; referred to House Judiciary I; not yet referred to a Senate committee.


H 2105, Compensation for Erroneously Convicted, would increase the benefits paid by the state to someone who has been imprisoned and is then given a pardon of innocence (meaning that it has been determined that this person was innocent of the crime for which s/he had been imprisoned). The annual cash compensation would be increased from $20,000 to $40,000, with the maximum increased from $500,000 to $700,000. In addition, if the wrongly convicted person had been deprived of educational opportunities, the state would provide at least one year of job skill training and up to five years of tuition and fees at any UNC school. Introduced by Rep. Glazier; referred to House Judiciary II.


S 1668, Health Care Policy Council, would create a state council to conduct ongoing review and analysis of healthcare policies, programs, and plans to ensure access for North Carolinians to appropriate and affordable health care on a regular basis. The Council would make recommendations to the General Assembly, the Governor, and the public. The bill also allocates $300,000 for the operation of the Council. And, of interest to Raleigh Report folks, the Council would be named for Ruth Easterling and Bill Martin, two former legislators, advocates for health care for all, who have passed in recent months. Both were friends of the NC Council of Churches and past recipients of our Faith Active in Public Life Award. Introduced by Sen. Purcell; referred to Senate Appropriations. The NC Council of Churches supports universal access to basic health care and supports this bill as a step towards health care for all.

H 2229, Health Insurance Pool Pilot Program, would create in Buncombe and its surrounding counties a health insurance pooling program which should make it easier for small employers to afford to provide coverage to their employees. Introduced by Reps. Goforth, Rapp, Fisher, Thomas; referred to House Insurance.


H 2252/S 1681, Smoke-Free Motor Fleet, would require all automobiles in the state motor vehicle fleet to be smoke-free and would authorize local governments to make local motor fleets smoke-free. Introduced by Reps. Weiss and Williams and Sen. Purcell; referred to House Health and Senate Health Care.

H 2253/S 1686, Smoke-Free State and Local Building Grounds, would prohibit smoking within 50 feet of all state government buildings. The bills would also permit local governments to restrict smoking in and around local government buildings, as well as in libraries and museums not owned by the local government. Introduced by Reps. Weiss and Williams and Sen. Purcell; referred to House Health and Senate Health Care.

H 2254/S 1669, Community Colleges/Tobacco Free, would permit local community college boards to adopt policies prohibiting the use of tobacco products in their buildings, on their grounds, or at their events. Introduced by Reps. Weiss and Williams and Sen. Purcell; referred to House Health and Senate Health Care.


H 2230/S 1793, HPA/Expand Home Protection Program, expand a program to provide protection and assistance to homeowners who have lost their jobs and are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Homeowners filing for mortgage assistance under the program would be protected from foreclosure proceedings for 4 months. $3 million is allocated for the program. Introduced by Reps. Goforth and Underhill and Sen. Dalton; referred to House Judiciary II and Senate Judiciary II.


H 2219/S 1905, DPI/Curriculum on 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, would direct the Department of Public Instruction to develop appropriate grade-level curriculum materials on the 1898 Wilmington race riot. $199,000 is allocated. Introduced by Rep. Hughes and Sen. Dorsett; referred to House Education and Senate Approps.

S 1608, Defense of Marriage, would amend the state constitution to provide that marriage is the union of one man and one woman at one time. It would also prohibit the recognition of civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other similar relationships. Introduced by Sen. Forrester; referred to Senate Ways & Means. The NC Council of Churches opposes constitutional amendments defining marriage.

H 2237, Authorize No Postsecondary Education/Illegal Aliens. This bill would permit the introduction of a bill excluding the children of undocumented immigrants from being admitted to community colleges or the UNC system. Because this is a short session, the substantive bill cannot be introduced without this authorization bill. Introduced by Rep. Cleveland; referred to House Rules. The NC Council of Churches opposes the exclusion of the children of undocumented immigrants from the state’s higher education systems.

H 2284, Authorize Photo ID for Voters
H 284 would authorize the introduction of a bill which would require those wanting to vote to show a photo ID at the polling location. Introduced by Rep. Boylan; referred to House Rules. The US Supreme Court recently OKed an Indiana law requiring photo IDs of those wanting to vote. The down side of these laws was quickly evident, as several elderly nuns were unable to vote in Indiana’s presidential primary because they didn’t have the required identification. Ironically, their polling place was the convent in which they were living, and the precinct officials who had to turn them away were other nuns. (I am not making this up; you can’t make up stuff like this.)


S 1705, Lottery Name Changed, would change the name of the NC Education Lottery to the NC State Lottery. Introduced by Sen. Blake, referred to Senate Rules.


H 2097/S 1830, Repeal Transfer Tax. Last year, the General Assembly gave counties the authority to levy a land transfer tax of up to one-fourth cent if approved by voters in the county. To date, no counties have levied the tax and several have voted it down. H 2097/S 1830 would repeal the counties’ authority to levy this tax. Introduced by Rep. Gibson and Sen. Goodall; referred to House Rules and Senate Finance.

H 2111, Long-Term Care Insurance/No Limit.
Current law provides an income tax credit for the purchase of long-term care insurance, but there are income limits on who can claim the credit. H 2111 would remove the income limits. Introduced by Rep. Allred, referred to House Insurance.

H 2112, Homestead Exemption/$30K. Current law sets an income eligibility limit of $25,000 on the property tax homestead exclusion. H 2112 would raise it to $30,000. Introduced by Rep. Allred, referred to House Aging.

H 2326, Authorize Increased Income Limit for Homestead Exclusion, would permit the introduction of a bill to raise the income ceiling for the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $35,000. Introduced by Reps. Hilton, Setzer, and R. Warren; referred to House Rules.

H 2193, Suspend Collection of the Fuel Tax
H 2193 would lift the state gas tax for 90 days. Introduced by Rep. Boylan; referred to House Finance.

Suggested Action

The most important advice for grass-roots advocates is related to the speed at which the session seems to be moving. Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today! Make those contacts on the issues that are important to you. Enlist others to do the same. But do not delay.

One important bill carried over from last year is H 1291, the Racial Justice Act. It would enable defendants in death penalty cases to use statistical evidence to show that racial bias had affected either their conviction or their sentence. A press conference at the General Assembly today gave powerful witness to the need for this bill. Standing in front of the press room were three men who have been released from our state’s death row since last December. All three of these men—wrongly convicted and wrongly sentenced to death—are African American. As Rev. William Barber, pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro and president of the state NAACP, noted, “You can overturn a wrongful conviction, but you can’t unpack a wrong grave.” H 1291 was passed by the House last year and could be taken up by the Senate in this short session. It is being opposed by district attorneys, whose patterns of decision-making about what charges to bring and whether or not to seek the death penalty might be demonstrated in a racial-bias challenge.

If you want to express support for the Racial Justice Act, you should communicate with your senator and with three Senate leaders: Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue (the Senate’s presiding officer), President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, and Majority Leader Tony Rand.

If you aren’t sure who your legislators are, you can find out at the General Assembly’s website, You can also find e-mail addresses and other contact information for legislators

Act Naturally

Act Naturally
Rep. Ric Killian, R-Mecklenburg, has filed a bill calling for a study of televising legislative sessions. The legislation would require that the study examine the feasibility of televising floor sessions and select committee meetings, with the possibility that they be broadcast via the Internet. Not mentioned as a part of a potential study: how to compel people to actually watch the sterling oratory. (THE INSIDER, 5/28/08).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How Bad Laws are Made

How Bad Laws Are Made

By Scott Mooneyham

RALEIGH -- If you want to observe a case study of how a bad law is made, rush down to the Legislative Building right now.

Here are a few ingredients: a gubernatorial election, the slaying of a popular student leader, oodles of law enforcement officers and mayors crowding into the building.

The soon-to-be law at issue would get tough on criminal gangs. It would make it a felony for anyone to be a member of a "criminal street gang" while participating in "a pattern of criminal street gang activity." Being an organizer or recruiter of such a gang would be a higher grade felony.

The law defines a "criminal street gang" as any ongoing group or association of three or more people which has as one of "its primary activities the commission of one or more felonies."
With such remarkable language and circular definitions, college fraternities should hope that North Carolina lawmakers never make hazing a felony. And thinking back to that advice from mamas everywhere, per! haps all of us have more reason than ever to consider with whom we associate.

Passed by the House last year, the bill was put on the shelf by the Senate. But funny things happen in an election year. Charlotte Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory has been a big booster of the legislation. Not to be outdone on the get-tough-on-crime pandering, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, his Democratic opponent in the fall, suddenly became a big fan of the bill. Then, poof. The legislation began moving in the Senate.

In fact, the Senate approved a tougher version than the House, eliminating a provision that applied the law only to those 16 and older. The Senate did pass a companion bill aimed at preventing kids from joining gangs, but included no money for the effort.

Lost in all the tough talk at the legislature was the cost.

An estimate from legislative staff predicted one-time prison construction costs -- to house an additional 370 prisoners a year -- at $26 million. Ongoing operational costs to watch over those prisoners would rise to $11 million within a few years.

None of those estimates include how much the law might cost to defend in court if, and when, it's challenged based on constitutional guarantees of freedom of association.

But tough talk is mighty easy when you can avoid discussing which taxes you're going to raise or what ongoing programs you're going to cut to pay for it.

Of course, no politic! ian wants to be accused of being weak on crime. And the slaying of UNC-Chapel Hill's student body president, Eve Carson, only created more impetus for this kind of legislation.

Carson's slaying certainly showed deficiencies in the criminal justice system.
But considering what's been learned regarding the two people accused of the crime, wouldn't the money be better spent beefing up a broken probation system?

And shouldn't North Carolina's criminal laws focus on individual criminal acts, rather than beginning down the slippery slope of criminalizing associations?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Coalition Legislative Breakfasts

THE COALITION (formerly Coalition 2001) represents individuals and organizations statewide, that advocate for persons needing services and supports for mental health, developmental disabilities, and addictive diseases. MHA-NC was a founding member of the Coalition when it was formed in 1991. Since that time, each session The Coalition has recommended a budget to the North Carolina General Assembly. Each year during the Legislative session, The Coalition sponsors several advocacy events to bring local advocates to Raleigh to speak with their state legislators.
The Coalition Legislative Breakfast for the Central Region is scheduled for Wednesday, June 4. The Coalition Legislative Breakfast for the Eastern Region is scheduled for Wednesday, June 18.The Coalition Legislative Breakfast for the Western Region is scheduled for Tuesday, June 24.
At these events, the Coalition works to bring volunteer advocates (consumers, family members, and other advocates) from each legislative district to sit down and talk with their Legislators over breakfast. Registration is required for these events as the size of the room is limited and we want to ensure all districts are covered. This means we must limit the number of participants. If you are interested in attending please fill-out the Registration Form. A list of the counties for each region are listed below.

CENTRAL REGION BREAKFAST – June 4 Co-Chairs: Elizabeth Cloud (919-872-1005), Sally Cameron (919-872-1005) and Ashley Cox acox928@gmail.comAlamance, Caswell, RockinghamCabarrus, Rowan, Stanly, Union, Davidson ( Piedmont )Guilford Cumberland Durham Johnston Orange- Person - Chatham Anson, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond , Lee, Harnett, Randolph (Sandhills)Bladen, Columbus, Robeson, Scotland (Southeastern Regional)Wake

EASTERN REGION BREAKFAST – June 18Co-Chairs: Connie Cochran (919-783-8898) and Sam Hedrick
Vance, Warren, Granville, Franklin, Halifax ( Five County )Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Hyde, Martin, Tyrell, Washington, Dare (Albemarle)Duplin, Sampson, Lenoir, Wayne (Eastpointe)Edgecombe, Nash, Wilson, Greene (The Beacon Center )Beaufort, Pitt, Craven, Jones, Pamlico, Bertie, Gates, Hertford, Northampton ( East Carolina Behavioral Health)Onslow- Carteret Brunswick, New Hanover , Pender (Southeastern)

WESTERN REGION BREAKFAST – June 24 C-Chairs: Jack Register (919-828-9650) and Julia Leggett (919-782-4632)
Buncombe, Madison, Mitchell, Yancey, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania (Western Highlands)Catawba, BurkeDavie , Forsyth, Stokes (CenterPoint)lredell, Surry, Yadkin (Crossroads) Alexander, Caldwell, McDowell (Foothills)Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln (Pathways)Mecklenburg Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Watauga, Wilkes, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain (Smoky Mountain)

Contact: Erin McLaughlin at 919-981-0740 x507 or

New Program Evaluation Website through the Division

New Program Evaluation Website. There isn't much up there in terms of reports right now, but please feel free to add this to your bookmarks.

Article on Collective Bargaining from Asheville Citizen-Times

*Blog Editor's Note* NASW-NC has joined the NC HOPE Coalition who is working on issues on collective bargaining for public sector employees.

‘Collective Begging’ Claimed
Bargaining Bill Supported
Asheville Citizen-Times, March 9, 1977
By: Jay Hensley, Citizen Staff Writer

RALEIGH – Firemen, school teachers, a city council and a college professor were among the supporters of a bill before the General Assembly Tuesday to allow units of government to bargain collectively with employee unions.
Dr. James H. Horton of the biology department of Western Carolina University at Cullowhee urged passage of the bill sponsored by Rep. Ernest B. Messer of Canton.
Two Firemen, Donnie Perry of the North Carolina Professional Fire Fighters Association and Bill Brawley of the firefighter’s association in Charlotte, called the law prohibiting collective bargaining a slap at free enterprise.
“We have collective begging – not collective bargaining,” Mrs. Barbara Brown of Winston-Salem, president of the North Carolina Federation of Teachers, told the House Committee on Manufacturers and Labor.
Wilbur Hobby, state AFL-CIO president, also spoke in favor of the bill at a public hearing in the auditorium of the Legislative Building.
The city councilman, Jerry Cohen of Chapel Hill, said Messer’s bill would not force any unit of government to recognize a union, but would enhance the state’s concept of free enterprise.
“I think that workers and local governments through unions and other groups are mature enough to bargain over their wages and conditions of employment,” Cohen said.
Messer, who had earlier in the day presented a similar bill before the House Committee on State Personnel, said that many of the things associated with unionization can now be done by governmental employees and that his bill would simply provide a channel of communications between workers and employers.
The prohibition against forming or joining unions was struck down in 1969 by the federal courts as unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, Messer said.
“This bill has nothing to do with whether they can or cannot organize. They can do that now, and they are organizing in such places as Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Durham, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Greensboro, Asheville and a few other places,” he said.
Messer told the committee there is nothing in the law now to prevent public employees from going out on strike, “but when they get to that point, the persons in charge of local government are prohibited from making any agreement. It’s not a very good situation.”
Some city governments, he said, are ignoring the law and negotiating with representatives of their employees. And, in other instances, a city council has had to hire a “middle man” to negotiate with employees to avoid breaking the law, Messer told the Committee.
Dr. Horton told the committee that the code under which the faculty of the university system operates has created extra layers of management within the system and stripped local campuses of much of their independence of action.

People of Color Justice and Unity Legislative Day - Wednesday May 28th

From our friends at the NC Chapter of the NAACP

There are only 5 days left until People of Color Justice and Unity Legislative Day. Attached you will find the day’s agenda. This legislative Day will be part of the historic movement to put the people back into the lawmaking process. Therefore it is critical that we get the full participation by your members and constituents. Our Senators and Representatives need to see that there is widespread support for real change in North Carolina politics.

Partners, we need your support to make this People of Color Justice and Unity Legislative Day a meaningful part of New North Carolina politics.

My brothers and sisters, we can make a difference in North Carolina.

God bless you,
Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, NC NAACP

Article on MH Workforce from Asheville Citizens Times

May 22, 2008
Mental health staffing suffers acute shortage

Leslie Boyd

The already inadequate work force in state’s mental health system will not grow fast enough to meet the needs of the population it serves, a state task force predicts in a new report.
The shortage of workers in mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services is national, but because of North Carolina’s tumultuous reform effort, the problem is particularly acute here.“It’s actually a crisis,” said Dr. Marvin Swartz, head of the Division of Social and Community Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. “And unless the population of this state stops growing, it’s only going to get worse.”Swartz also was on the state task force that issued the report, “Workforce Development Initiative,” last month. The report offered recommendations to recruit and retain mental health workers.

None of the recommendations will lead to a quick fix, Swartz said.“I’m afraid we’ve become too enamored of market solutions for complex social problems,” he said. “My personal view is that privatization has not worked.”People still are leaving the system faster than they can be replaced, said Jane Ferguson, CEO of Appalachian Counseling. “They burn out, and they leave,” she said. “We’re losing these really great people because they’re just tired.”The turnover rate among service providers across the state is at 78 percent a year, and it’s not just among the lowest-paid workers, said John Tote, director of the N.C. Mental Health Association. One of Appalachian’s top employees, Ken McAbee, the director of child and family services, just resigned to take a job with Transylvania County Department of Social Services as a child protection worker.“There’s just too much change, too much instability, and none of it makes things better for the people we serve,” he said.McAbee said he had a case last fall where the person needed a lot of supervision, so he requested 25 hours of one-on-one services a week. The request was denied, and the person was approved for 25 hours over 90 days.“We appealed it, and it took four months for the appeal to be heard,” McAbee said. “When we got the approval, it was for more hours than we had requested in the first place. How much time and money was spent on that?”McAbee also said the new crisis beds in the system are all but inaccessible in a real emergency.“You have to do six hours of paperwork,” he said. “Approval can take two days.”Blair Clark, co-founder of Parkway Behavioral Health Services, said the system is improving, but at too slow a pace.“The constant changes have slowed down a little,” he said. “But some people are still falling through the cracks.”When mental health reform privatized the delivery of services, the safety net was shredded, said Mike Hopping, a psychiatrist who left the system five years ago, early in the state’s mental health reform. He says he left because of the immorality of a system that puts more stock in regulations than it does in the people serves. When he quit, he was the medical director at Blue Ridge Area Program, which later spun off its services to New Vistas Behavioral Health and became Western Highlands Network, the management agency for eight counties in Western North Carolina.When mental health reform forced the area programs to stop offering mental health services and treatment, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists were laid off, and they no longer were eligible for state benefits in the new privatized system. Many jumped ship before they could be laid off, going to other state jobs where they would be able to keep their pensions and health benefits.Fewer workers were available in the system, Hopping said, and paperwork increased. Ferguson said providers average two or more hours of paperwork for each hour of services they provide, and much of the time is taken up putting the same information on a half-dozen different forms.Hopping believes state and federal regulators made compliance more difficult during the 1990s to save money. “What government did was to choke the system with paperwork and regulations,” Hopping said.

“The budget went through the roof because everybody had to hire more staff, and when times were lean and (government) funds were cut, the paperwork wasn’t. So you had to keep your business office intact. The only place to cut was services.”Swartz said mental health workers — especially those who work one-on-one with patients — are paid poorly, and many are hired as part-time workers with no benefits.“The state system could hire people and pay their benefits, but a small company can’t necessarily do that,” Swartz said.One solution, he said, would be to let small companies to buy into the state’s benefits system.Tote supports that idea.“If you’re a private provider contracting with the state, you ought to be able to opt into the state insurance plan,” he said.

Joe Ferrara, CEO of Meridian Behavioral Health Services, said his company has started training and hiring peer-support workers — people who have a mental illness or are recovering from an addiction — to work with clients.“We hire them full time with benefits and pay $10 an hour,” he said. “We have good workers and less turnover, and we have the added benefit of putting people to work who often have a hard time finding jobs. It’s win-win for us and for them.”

NC HIV Advocacy Day June 4

Save the date! Wednesday, June 4, 2008! Register for HIV Advocacy Day at ! Please join Equality NC and the NC AIDS Action Network (NCAAN) for HIV Advocacy Day to advocate on behalf of people infected and affected with HIV/AIDS. Register in advance and find more details at . Lunch will be provided to those who register in advance. Limited transportation assistance is available by calling (919) 834-2437 ext 11. Don't forget to register in advance at , and help us speak up for those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in North Carolina! We look forward to seeing you on June 4th!

*Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC is a member of the NC AIDS Action Network

This message sent by our friends at Equality NC

Coalition Rally a Success

Mental health rally upbeat - from N&O - an AP Story

PHOTO - District 41 Rep. Ty Harrell, left, shakes hands with Tommy Cox during a rally at the Legislative Building by more than 40 groups that advocate for mental health patients.

Staff Photo by Shawn Rocco

Gary D. Robertson, The Associated Press

RALEIGH - Advocates for the mentally ill lobbied the legislature Wednesday, seeking more money for community-based services in a public treatment system that keeps struggling under the weight of reforms started seven years ago.

Also attended by patients and their families, the annual gathering took on a relatively upbeat tone after months of finger-pointing over who is to blame for the failure of the 2001 reforms to improve overall care in the system. Coalition leaders said it's time to look forward.

"Too often we talk about a system like it's something out there somewhere," John Tote, executive director of the Mental Health Association in North Carolina, told a midday rally across the street from the Legislative Building. "You all are the system. The system is about people."
The hopes of the hundreds of advocates -- also representing the developmentally disabled and groups that provide substance abuse treatment -- were buoyed by news from budget meetings Wednesday morning. A draft of recommendations approved by a joint House-Senate subcommittee overseeing mental health set aside $30 million to build up teams to treat people where they live.

There's also new leadership within Gov. Mike Easley's administration, led by Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton, who has won high marks so far.
"We're very optimistic about getting reform on the right track," said Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, co-chairwoman of the House subcommittee.

This year, state lawmakers and regulators face pressure to fix a system that has foundered.
Mental health programs were supposed to shift away from institutional care to community-based treatment by private providers. But the state's institutions are being used more than ever, and some rural areas have few private providers, leading to uneven care statewide and forcing patients to find other treatment.

"We need system reform. We need to keep people out of jail," said John Owen of Saxapahaw, who has been a mental patient.

A report last fall found the state may have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars by overpaying providers of certain nonmedical services called community support. The Broughton state mental hospital in Morganton hasn't received federal funding since last summer, when safety problems surfaced following a patient's death.

Insko told the crowd she expects this year's session will focus on improving treatment and safety standards at state hospitals. She hopes legislation also will place beds for mental health patients in local hospitals.

According to documents released by the joint House-Senate subcommittee, members largely agree with several items in Easley's budget.

While the legislators' dollar amounts differ from the governor's proposal, the subcommittee wants to set aside $30 million for crisis response and more than $9 million in improved staffing and training at state hospitals.

Lawmakers also want $8 million in matching funds that could provide in-home services for an additional 1,000 patients.

Benton's department also has proposed consolidating some local mental health offices to reduce administrative spending.

Easley's budget also called for raising the tax on alcohol to help pay for more than $60 million in mental health improvements, but legislative leaders have said they won't back higher taxes this session.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 20 briefing from The NC Justice Center

This update comes from our friends at the NC Justice Center *Blog Editor Note*

GOV’S BUDGET: BTC Analysis Shows How Easley Pays for It

Analysis by the NC Budget & Tax Center explains how Governor Easley found the money to pay for his spending priorities in his recently released budget proposal.
The proposal includes nearly $400 million in spending reductions. For example, Governor Easley cancels a scheduled increase in reimbursement rates for Medicaid health-care providers – a cut that may be difficult to swallow given rising health-care costs. He also gets rid of plans to cover inflationary cost increases for items like public-school textbooks and supplies. The governor uses the available money to pay for teacher and state-employee pay raises and to shore up his signature education initiatives.

This will likely set up a contentious process as the budget moves through the General Assembly. Legislators will have their own priorities this election year, and there isn’t enough money available to make everyone happy. Stay tuned to NC Justice News for updates of the budget process.

Ø BTC Reports: The Governor’s Proposed Budget – Revenue Slowdown Forces Difficult Choices
Ø Asheville Citizen-Times: Editorial -- Tweaks Needed, but Easley's Budget Priorities Sensible
Ø Fayetteville Observer: Accounting -- The Debate over Dollars is not Substitute for Funding Mental Health
Ø News 14: Sin Taxes Becoming Popular Proposals

HOUSING: Budget Should Prioritize Housing Issues

The governor’s budget includes a small increase in funding for foreclosure prevention counselors and the same level of funding for the Home Protection Pilot Program, but more needs to be done. It does not include any funding increase for legal service providers who defend homeowners against foreclosure, nor does it increase funding for the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), which provides financing for the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing.

As the nation faces a foreclosure crisis and growing numbers of families have trouble finding affordable housing, it would make sense for the state to put resources into both foreclosure prevention and the HTF. Homeowners need help from non-profit counselors and legal service providers. The Home Protection Pilot Program, which helps laid off workers avoid foreclosure, is also essential and should be made available statewide. In addition, putting more money into the HTF would not just increase the supply of affordable housing; it would also create jobs and give struggling parts of the state an economic boost.

Ø TAKE ACTION – Let your state legislators know they should make stopping foreclosures and creating affordable housing priorities in the budget

EDUCATION: Funding Committee Makes Recommendations

The Joint Legislative Study Committee on Public School Funding Formulas met last week to finalize proposed legislation for the 2008 Session. Draft bills include legislation that will rename the Low-Wealth Supplemental Fund to the County Baseline Assistance Allotment, and another bill to allocate $3 million to increase funding for identifying and educating academically gifted students.

Most importantly, the committee plans to submit legislation to create a long-term study of the state's numerous public school funding formulas. The study committee already has the funds necessary to complete the study. These formulas provide money to school based on myriad criteria and are in desperate need of being updated and simplified.

Ø BTC Reports: What Does a Sound, Basic Education Cost? It is Time to Find Out

TRANSPORTATION: Committee Heads Down the Same Old Road

The General Assembly’s 21st Century Transportation Committee is recommending that the state issue a bond for up to $1.75 billion for transportation and use almost all of that money to build new highways. But most North Carolinians would benefit much more if the state focused its transportation dollars on improving and repairing existing roads and bridges.

The American Society of Engineers gave North Carolina roads a “D,” and this disrepair costs North Carolina drivers an estimated $1.7 billion a year in vehicle repairs and operating costs. In addition, North Carolina’s bridges rank as the 11th worst in the United States, according to the American Automobile Association. Focusing on new construction instead of maintenance is what got North Carolina into this situation in the first place.

Ø Progressive Pulse: Confusions out of the 21st Century
Ø Justice Center: At the Crossroads -- Recommendations for the Future of Transportation in North Carolina

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: Worker Shortage Looming

A new report shows boosting the resources of the NC’s community colleges will be essential to address a coming workers shortage. The NC Center for Public Policy Research finds community colleges will have to produce 19,000 more graduates each year to fill the demand for labor over the coming decade. That’s a 75% increase over the current graduation numbers.

Ø NC Center for Public Policy Research: Community Colleges are Key to Addressing Transition In State’s Economy, says Center
Ø Raleigh News & Observer: Worker Shortage Predicted

The report says the state should expand educational opportunities for the growing population of immigrants – both documented and undocumented – in order to fill this need. Coincidentally, the report came out the same week NC’s community colleges closed the doors to undocumented immigrants. System President Scott Ralls says the State Board of Community Colleges changed its open-door policy because the Attorney General’s Office told them they had to. However, Ralls said the colleges would happily reopen their doors to undocumented immigrants if the advice changes, because, “I believe that broadly available education has more social benefit than social cost.” Here, here, Dr. Ralls.

Ø Raleigh News & Observer: Colleges Await More Advice on Illegals
Ø Raleigh News & Observer: Point of View – Misinterpreting ‘Public Benefits’
Ø Asheville Citizen-Times: Editorial – Decision Unfairly Penalizes Illegal Immigrants’ Children
Ø Raleigh News & Observer: Editorial – A Chance Denied
Ø Charlotte Observer: For the Record – Don’t Deny Them Education

WORKERS RIGHTS: Unionization Increases Wages

Unionization significantly boosts the wages of workers across the income spectrum, with low-wage workers seeing the greatest benefit, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The report, The Union Advantage for Low-Wage Workers, shows union membership in North Carolina boosted the wages of low- to middle-income workers by between 11% and 14% from 2003 to 2007. Unionization raises the wages of the typical low-wage worker by 20.7% nationally.

Unionization increases workers’ bargaining power in the labor market and helps to restore the balance of power in the employer-employee relationship. State lawmakers should remove the barriers to unionization that exist in North Carolina, and the first step must be the repeal of the law that prohibits public-sector workers from engaging in collective bargaining.

Ø NC State AFL-CIO: Unionization Increases Pay of Low-Wage Workers
Ø Center for Economic and Policy Research: The Union Wage Advantage for Low-Wage Workers

EVENTS: People of Color Day, Crucial Conversation, and Mike Farrell

Three important events are coming up this week and next. The NC NAACP and the NC Association of Community Development Corporations are holding the People of Color Justice and Unity Legislative Day at the Legislative Building on May 28.

Ø NC Policy Watch: Calendar Event – People of Color Justice and Unity Legislative Day
NC Policy Watch and Common Cause North Carolina are holding a Crucial Conversation luncheon on “Big Money in Local Politics.” The discussion will look at why it cost so much to run in city council and mayoral races and ways North Carolina can make local politics affordable.
Ø NC Policy Watch: Crucial Conversation – Big Money in Local Politics
The North Carolina Justice Center welcomes Mike Farrell – AKA BJ Hunnicutt from M*A*S*H – for a reading of his book, Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist. Join us Friday, May 23 at 7 p.m. at Quail Ridge Books & Music.
Ø Quail Ridge Books: Mike Farrell Book Signing

Monday, May 19, 2008

US Senate Race

U.S. Senate Race

Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole is predicting a hard-fought race to keep her seat next fall. In her first blog post on her new election site, Dole says she expects to have to defend her record against numerous attacks. "There will be careless attacks -- personal attacks -- votes and issues taken out of context --maybe even outright falsehoods," Dole writes. Recent polls show Dole just a few points ahead of Democratic challenger Kay Hagan, a state senator from Greensboro. National pundits are beginning to wonder whether Dole, who was in Raleigh on Sunday to give the commencement speech at the St. Mary's School graduation ceremony, could be in trouble next fall. Dole's new campaign Web site,, follows the model of those of many of the presidential candidates, offering ways for readers to interact with the campaign, register to vote and make donations online.

(U.S. Senate Race).

Illegal Immigrant Admissions

Illegal Immigrant Admissions

Several state community college system officials said Friday that they would like to open their doors to illegal immigrants, but that their hands are tied for now. "We have no choice but to follow the advice of the [state] Attorney General's Office," said State Board of Community Colleges member Joanne Steiner, a retired executive from Wake Forest. "In this case, that's not where our hearts are. ... I feel very sad about it." Meanwhile, Scott Ralls, president of the system, said he'd happily admit illegal immigrants if he gets new legal advice. "I believe that broadly available education has more social benefit than social cost," Ralls said after a meeting of the State Board of Community Colleges.

Earlier this month, the system barred illegal immigrants from seeking degrees at all 58 of its campuses, a position that legal experts say is the most restrictive in the nation. College officials based the decision on a May 6 advisory letter from Attorney General Roy Cooper's office. That letter said federal law appears to prohibit illegal immigrants from getting post-secondary education at state colleges and universities and recommended that the community colleges seek more information from the federal Department of Homeland Security, which enforces the law. Several board members, along with Ralls, said they are waiting for the Attorney General's Office to provide more clarity on what federal law allows. Once they get that clarity, they said, they will consider whether to reverse their position on educating students regardless of legal status. In the meantime, they said, they must follow the legal advice they have.

They said they could not rely on a statement from the Department of Homeland Security, made to The News & Observer earlier this month, which said North Carolina has authority to determine who is admitted to its colleges. Ralls said he met with the Attorney General's Office on early last week to ask whether the statement had changed their advice. "They said their advice stood," Ralls said. Officials in Cooper's office say they have asked the federal government for clarification of the law, which they called "unsettled." The University of North Carolina System will continue admitting illegal immigrants at out-of-state tuition rates until the clarification is received.

(Kristin Collins, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/17/08).

Inspection Contract

Inspection Contract

Some lawmakers are questioning North Carolina's role in inspecting health care providers for the U.S. government following the loss of federal funding at Haywood Regional Medical Center in Clyde. Under a contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the state takes federal money to inspect hospitals, clinics and nursing facilities, as well as the state's psychiatric hospitals. But Rep. Charles Thomas, R-Buncombe, said the deal appears to leave the General Assembly without oversight. State health officials have refused Thomas' requests for records related to Haywood Regional, saying the federal government doesn't allow them to release such documents. "If you've got employees or groups within departments that are completely exempt from any oversight by their actual employer, then that's just ripe for problems," he said. In February, inspectors with the state Division of Health Service Regulation, which controls the inspection money, found problems with how Hayw! ood Regional staff administered medication.
Thomas said he filed his request for records related to Haywood Regional to find out the "state of mind" of state health officials as they looked into the 170-bed hospital. But a lawyer in the state health department told Thomas in a letter that the agency couldn't hand over any documents. The letter says the Medicare agency "claims that since the work at Haywood was pursuant to the contractual agreement between (the Medicare agency) and the Division that the records do not belong to the state." The Medicare agency invited Thomas to file a public-records request at the federal level, but Thomas said that wouldn't pry loose the e-mails between state officials he's looking for. "I'm still concerned that they could be hiding something," he said Thursday. This year, North Carolina received more than $6.6 million in federal funds for hospital inspections. Jeff Horton, acting division director, said the contract prevents the state from having to pick up the full tab of the inspect! ions. He also said that oversight is provided by the U.S. government.
Rep. Bob England, D-Rutherford and a member of several legislative committees with oversight of state health matters, was surprised to learn the state does the inspections that can lead to cuts in federal funding. England said he would look into the General Assembly's access to such documents. "I would be concerned, I think, of any activity performed by state government, by state officials doing any function that results in information being accumulated that was not available," said England, D-Rutherford. Thomas, meanwhile, suggests asking legislative researchers to look into whether the state's contract with the federal government should be changed.

(Jordan Schrader, ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES, 5/18/08).

Popular Vote

Popular Vote

Advocates for electing the president by popular vote are renewing their call for a change in the way North Carolina distributes its electoral votes following an intense Democratic presidential primary in the state. A bill that passed the state Senate last year and is awaiting action in the House would add North Carolina to a coalition of states that pledge to elect the president by national popular vote instead of the current state-by-state system. The legislation doesn't take effect until it is passed by enough states to total 270 electoral votes, the number needed to elect a president. Once they reach that number, all of those states will award their electors as a bloc to the winner of the national popular vote.

North Carolina would no longer be a safe Republican state that both parties' presidential campaigns typically ignore in the November election, said Barry Fadem, president of National Popular Vote. He was lobbying several House members last week as the General Assembly convened for this year's session. Pointing to spikes in voter registration and turnout driven by the Democratic primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Fadem says the change would make candidates fight for every vote they could get and in areas seldom visited by presidential candidates or their surrogates. Republican leaders counter that the proposal would flip the election on its head. A presidential candidate could lose North Carolina by a wide margin but receive all 15 of the state's electoral votes. "That thing tells our voters that the state would support the very candidate they repudiated," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake and House Republican leader. North Carolina hasn't seen a competitive presiden! tial election since 1992 because Republicans consistently have won the state.

House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said no decisions have been made on whether the popular-vote bill will come up for a vote. Last year, national Democratic Party officials privately urged state Democrats to put the brakes on the legislation, facing the prospect of having to suddenly fight for big states such as California and New York. It's unclear if the national party's objections persist. Currently, each state essentially holds its own presidential election. Each state has a certain number of electors and awards them to candidates based in some fashion on the popular vote. The electors gather for the Electoral College several weeks later and elect the president. Twice, including President Bush's election in 2000, the candidate who won the necessary electoral votes and became president actually lost the popular vote. Four states have enacted the popular-vote plan.

(Mark Johnson, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/17/08).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bills filed in the Senate Wednesday May 14 2008

Below are bills that have been introduced in the Senate. This is not the comprehensive list. Only bills of interest to Social Workers. If it is a major policy initiative of NASW-NC it will be highlighted. Today is the first day of the short legislative session. To view these bills go to and look to the right side of the page for bill lookup. You can view bills by number or name. Be sure to select the correct legislative session. Questions should be addressed to NASW-NC Director of Advocacy & Legislation, Jack Register at


Bills filed in the House Wednesday May 14 2008

Below are bills that have been introduced in the House. This is not the comprehensive list. Only bills of interest to Social Workers. If it is a major policy initiative of NASW-NC it will be highlighted. Today is the first day of the short legislative session. To view these bills go to and look to the right side of the page for bill lookup. You can view bills by number or name. Be sure to select the correct legislative session. Questions should be addressed to NASW-NC Director of Advocacy & Legislation, Jack Register at

HB 2126 (Alexander) CHILD CARE SUBSIDY FUNDS * Key Bill*

Tax Credits

Tax Credits

More than 1,000 corporate taxpayers in North Carolina avoided paying a total of almost $32 million in taxes to the state last year. However, the number of eligible companies taking tax credits and the amount of those credits taken were significantly lower in 2007 than in past years as economic activity slowed and the state's tax-credit system began transitioning to a more narrowly focused program. Corporate tax credits claimed under the William S. Lee Quality Jobs and Business Expansion Act declined by more than 65 percent in 2007 from the year before, to less than $32 million, according to a state Department of Revenue report released May 1. Lee Act tax credits generated for claims that can be taken in future years declined by 67 percent from the year prior, to $57.5 million.

Bill Spencer with the Department of Revenue's Policy Analysis and Statistics Division, which compiles the annual report for lawmakers, said the likely reason for the decline in participation is the transition to the new Article 3J tax credit program, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2007. Most of the tax returns processed in 2007 were generated from the 2006 tax year, which still fell under the old Lee Act rules. Approved in the mid-1990s, The Lee Act was designed to help the state become more competitive as other states were beginning to offer lucrative grants, loans and other incentives. Since then, North Carolina legislators have created the Jobs Development Investment Grant and expanded the One North Carolina Fund. Those programs offer cash grants and rebates for big economic development deals.

The Lee Act allows credits to be taken for a company's investment in new jobs, machinery and equipment, research and development, and worker training based on the tier level of the county in which the company is located. The Article 3J tax credits enacted in 2006 are more narrowly focused on job creation and property investment in more distressed regions.

(Amanda Jones Hoyle, TRIANGLE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/09/08).

Staying In

Staying In

Despite previous efforts to lose his bid for the 40th House District seat, Stan Morse now says he's in the race to win. Morse won last week's Democratic primary for the Wake County seat, despite endorsing his primary opponent, campaigning against himself and issuing his concession speech the day before the election. Still, Morse carried 55 percent of the Democratic vote in his Republican-leaning district. He'll face one-term GOP incumbent Rep. Marilyn Avila on the November ballot. Avila is the former chairwoman of the Wake County Republican Party and is employed as an administrator for the John Locke Foundation. Morse said Wednesday he will accept no campaign contributions or endorsements from PACs or special interest groups. He said he will take contributions of $100 or less from individuals, but that he intends to run a low cost, bare bones campaign. A consultant to the printing industry, Morse said he intends to print his own campaign signs using all recycled or waste mat! erials.

(Michael Biesecker, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/15/08).

Edwards Endorses Obama

Edwards Endorses Obama

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has endorsed Barack Obama for president. Edwards, a former North Carolina U.S. senator, made the announcement Wednesday at an Obama rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. "There is one man who knows in his heart that we have to build one America -- not two -- and that man is Barack Obama," Edwards said. Obama, who introduced Edwards as "one of the great leaders we have in the Democratic Party, " responded by saying he was grateful to him for coming to Michigan and giving his endorsement. The endorsement comes at a time when political observers are questioning Obama's appeal to white, blue-collar voters, a group to which Edwards openly appealed. Edwards's endorsement also brings in tow 19 convention delegates he won in early party selections. He could urge them to give their support to Obama, though they would not be obligated by party rules to do so.

(John Sullivan and Julie Bosman, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5/14/08).

Death Penalty

Death Penalty

Rep. Rick Glazier and others called on leaders across the country Wednesday to scrutinize the death penalty and its application to help prevent executing innocent inmates. Glazier, D-Cumberland, spoke in the legislative auditorium as part of a panel that included legal scholars, a filmmaker, a minister and a Chicago Tribune investigative journalist. The discussion stemmed from the national premiere of a documentary, "At the Death House Door." The film, co-directed by Peter Gilbert and Steve James, is set in Texas and explores the effects of the death penalty on condemned inmates and a death row chaplain who was charged with comforting them before the execution. Two themes quickly emerged during the discussion: the effect of race on criminal cases and wrongful convictions. Glazier wore a button encouraging people to "Support the Racial Justice Act." A co-sponsor for that legislation, he said that race cannot be ignored as factor in convictions. "There is too much anecdotal an! d statistical evidence to say that race doesn't play a role, because it does," he said.

The Racial Justice Act would allow condemned inmates to use statistics to try to prove their race was the reason prosecutors sought the death penalty against them. The bill was passed last year by the House and is waiting on consideration by the Senate. A few legislators attended the discussion, including two more of the bill's primary sponsors -- Rep. Earline Parmon and Rep. Larry Womble, both Forsyth Democrats. Sen. Daniel Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, and representatives from anti-death penalty groups also attended the meeting. In North Carolina, executions remain on hold despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Kentucky's lethal injection method. North Carolina's method is similar, using the three-drug combination. The first renders the inmate unconscious, the second paralyzes all muscles except the heart and the third stops the heart.

(Titan Barksdale, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/15/08).

Community Colleges

Community Colleges

The state community college system will have to produce thousands of additional graduates each year to deal with a looming worker shortage in North Carolina, according to a new report by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. By 2016, the state's population is expected to grow by 15 percent, and a huge wave of baby boomer retirements means community colleges will need to produce 19,000 more graduates each year -- a 75 percent increase over current numbers. The nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank calls for more state money for faculty salaries, equipment, student services and academic programs in high-demand areas such as health care. It also predicts North Carolina will need to tap into the rising number of legal and illegal immigrants. In the past decade, North Carolina's Asian population has increased 128 percent and the Latino population has jumped 394 percent, the center said.

The report comes two days after the community college system announced it would no longer admit illegal immigrants on the advice of the state Attorney General's Office. That policy will be in place until there is further guidance on the issue from the federal government. No matter how the issue is decided, community colleges will be a big part of the solution in churning out workers for the new economy, said Scott Ralls, the system president, who reversed policy this week on admitting students in the country illegally. At some point, if the interpretation of federal law opens college doors to them, Ralls said, then they will need to be trained and educated to be full participants in the state's economy. If not, he added, there will be more pressure on North Carolina to solve the workforce shortage in other ways, such as by preventing high school and college dropouts.

(Jane Stancill, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/15/08).

Public Records

Public Records

A workshop on North Carolina's open records laws drew about 40 officials to Gastonia on Tuesday. The workshop, hosted by Attorney General Roy Cooper and the N.C. Press Association, was based on a new "Guide to Open Government and Public Records" booklet that the Press Association and Cooper's office unveiled in February. The booklet is designed to give clear, condensed basics of the state's laws on open records and meetings, said association director Beth Grace. A three-member panel gave a brief overview of the state's open records laws and discussed related scenarios. Law enforcement officers, lawyers and officials from Gaston, Lincoln, Cleveland, Union, Mecklenburg, Caldwell and Catawba counties attended.

Grace said it was coincidence that the training comes less than a month after media groups from across the state sued Gov. Mike Easley for the "systematic deletion, destruction or concealment" of e-mail messages believed to be public records. David Lawrence, a professor at the UNC School of Government, said state employees' e-mails are considered public records if they contain information related to public business -- even if that e-mail comes through a personal account. The state Department of Cultural Resources has guidelines for when e-mail can be destroyed, but those are now being scrutinized in light of the lawsuit. Grace said she expects to hold one or two more "on-the-road" regional public records training sessions this year.

(Deborah Hirsch, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/14/08).

Goodwin and Son

Goodwin and Son

Rep. Melanie Goodwin is juggling her duties as a legislator and caring for her newborn son during this year's short session. Earlier this month, the Richmond County Democrat became the first lawmaker in state history to have a baby while holding office. Now she is bringing her son, Jackson, daily to the Legislative Building. She was back in her seat on the House floor when Speaker Joe Hackney brought the General Assembly to order Tuesday for the first time since last September. "I hope that young women who are concerned about serving in the Legislature and having a small child see this as an opportunity and wouldn't let it stand in their way," Goodwin said. "I think we can do both."

At Goodwin's request, Hackney's staff located an office at the General Assembly to serve as a nursery. Her family decorated the office before the delivery with a bassinet, changing table, rocking chair, wall hangings and rugs covered with animals and bright colors. Goodwin hired a nanny -- with personal funds -- who is caring for Jackson in the nursery while she attends committee meetings and receives visitors in her legislative office. Carol Teal, executive director of Lillian's List of North Carolina, which works to elect and support female Democratic candidates to the Legislature, said the accommodating environment Goodwin and the House have created for Jackson probably wouldn't have been available even 10 years ago. "We're really happy that with a support system that she can still be there and do the great job that she's done," Teal said.

(Gary D. Robertson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 5/14/08).

Still Legal

Still Legal

An e-mail being circulated throughout the state seeks to alert people to a new law banning motorists from speaking on cell phones while driving starting July 1. The only problem is that it's completely untrue. The state has not implemented such a ban, and lawmakers indicate one isn't in coming anytime soon. ''It's another Internet hoax," said Rep. Mark Hilton, R-Catawba. The phantom law was to allow hands-free devices such as Blue Tooth technology. California's recent approval of a similar ban may have spurred the rumors, officials said. Hilton said he received many e-mails and phone calls from constituents on the issue in the past couple of weeks.

The General Assembly has taken action in recent years to limit some cell phone use while driving. Legislation in December 2006 banned cell phone use by teen drivers under age 18 while driving. In 2007, cell phone use was banned for school bus drivers transporting students. A bill that would ban hand held cell phone use passed a Senate judiciary committee last year, but stalled. Hilton and Sen. Austin Allran said the bill has little chance of passing anytime soon. ''I don't think there is much support for it," Hilton said. "I certainly don't support it."

(THE NEWS & RECORD, 5/14/08).

Basnight & Berger

Basnight and Berger

Senate leader Marc Basnight said Wednesday that there won't be any tax increases this year. In a brief speech to the North Carolina Chamber Wednesday afternoon, Basnight said that the legislature will focus on boosting education and fixing the mental health care system. "I don't believe you'll see taxes this year whatsoever -- any kind of increase," said Basnight, D-Dare. Gov. Mike Easley has proposed raising alcohol and cigarette taxes to help pay for higher teachers' pay and improvements to the state's mental health care system.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader Phil Berger told the group that teachers should be paid differently. Berger said teachers should get extra pay for working in challenging environments or for taking jobs that school systems are having trouble filling, such as those in math, science and special education. "More money, blindly spent, by adding to existing strategies is not the right answer," he said. He criticized Easley's proposed budget for cutting a pilot program that used pay as an incentive to hire math and science teachers. Berger also called for the state to make "a serious commitment" to career, vocational and technical education.

(Dome, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/15/08).

Ethics Dispute

Ethics Dispute

A potential ethics violation involving an unnamed legislator is at the heart of a dispute over which state agency has the right to enforce state ethics laws. Republican State Auditor Les Merritt argues that it never hurts to have more watchdogs eyeing government officials. But lawmakers who supported the ethics laws -- approved in the wake of scandals involving lawmakers and public officials -- say their goal was to create a single, unbiased agency to keep an eye on public officials. On Wednesday, the legislature's ethics committee agreed to a bill that would prohibit the state auditor from investigating possible ethics law violations. Instead, the State Ethics Commission would have sole authority to enforce ethics laws.

Officials in Merritt's office argue that giving the ethics commission sole authority to investigate such matters would mean essentially that only the legislature can keep an eye on legislators. That's because the commission is required to turn over any findings it has about lawmakers to a legislative committee, which then determines whether any public action should be taken. Legislative leaders say there are good reasons -- based in politics and the state's constitution -- to keep the auditor out of the picture. The North Carolina Constitution prohibits executive branch agencies from sanctioning lawmakers. Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said the law was designed to have a nonpartisan commission, not an elected official such as the auditor, review ethics cases. The commission includes four Democrats and four Republicans. "He's a political entity," Basnight said of Merritt. "He could be a Republican or a Democrat."

The issue surfaced when an anonymous tipster contacted the auditor's office about a potential ethics violation involving the legislator, wrote Tim Hoegemeyer, general counsel to in Merritt's office, in a letter to the Legislative Ethics Committee. Investigators pulled the legislator's ethics paperwork, listing property holdings, business interests, stock portfolios and other economic interests. In the course of its investigation, the auditor's office learned that the legislator, who has not been publicly identified, had asked the Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion. The commission, which is required to keep much of its work secret, declined to help. Merritt's office finished its investigation and drafted a report on the legislator. The report has yet to be released. The ethics commission says it cannot by law discuss the case.

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said lawmakers shouldn't be too quick to shut out the auditor. Berger said he is concerned about the openness of ethics cases involving lawmakers. "It seems to me from a policy standpoint that a process that either has some independence or openness, or both, is what we need as much as possible," he said. Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a nonpartisan government watchdog, said the state's new ethics system should be given a chance to work. He said he supports having the ethics commission enforce the ethics law. "I think it's fair to trust that a bipartisan committee is going to find the right answer," Phillips said.

(Benjamin Niolet, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/15/08).

Korean Vets

Korean Vets

Former Gov. Jim Hunt watched from the Senate chamber on Wednesday as a resolution honoring Korean War veterans was approved. A Hunt first cousin killed in the war, Lawrence Hunt, was cited in the resolution. Lobbyist Zeb Alley, also a Korean War veteran, explained that Lawrence Hunt's death brought about his first meeting with Jim Hunt. Alley and Lawrence Hunt had been best friends in Korea. But after being wounded, Alley returned home to North Carolina.
After his friend was killed, Alley attended Lawrence Hunt's funeral in Pleasant Garden, outside of Greensboro. There, he met 14-year-old Jim Hunt. Alley, of course, would eventually become a top Hunt aide. Another Korean War veteran, Sen. Charlie Dannelly, D-Mecklenburg, sponsored the resolution. He talked about the dire circumstances of the soldiers who served there. "I honor these men from the deepest part of my heart," Dannelly said.

(THE INSIDER, 5/15/08).

Budget Push

Budget Push

House budget subcommittee chairs were given spending targets -- as much as $100 million dollars below amounts included in Gov. Mike Easley's budget -- as legislative budget writers pushed toward a timetable that has the General Assembly approving a spending plan by June 27. Figures released by legislative staff on Wednesday put estimated General Fund revenue at $21.179 billion, which was $353 million less than that in Easley's plan. The figures did not include $165 million in cigarette and alcohol tax increases endorsed by the governor and pretty much dismissed by legislative leaders.

The initial legislative proposal shows $183 million more put into Rainy Day Fund reserves and the Repair and Renovation Fund. Easley's budget put a total of $126 million into the two funds. Legislative budget writers acknowledged that the reserve amounts might change. "Every number is subject to change," said Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth, a co-chair of the Senate budget writing committee. "We need to look carefully at how we fit all these pieces of the puzzle together." Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, said the House might well look at using some portion of the money as a way to finance state employee pay raises. State law requires that half of remaining fund balances at the end of the fiscal year be rolled into the two reserves.

The $309 million put into the reserves in the preliminary revenue availability would meet the statutory requirement based on an estimate that $619 million will remain unspent on June 30. Of course, the legislature makes the statutes. It could change the requirement or simply appropriate money from the reserves in the next fiscal year. Without any additional cuts to the budget, the figures show $485 million available for new spending. But teacher bonuses, education enrollment increases and $42 million to meet rising gasoline costs for school systems -- an item not included in Easley's budget -- reduced the amount to $289 million.

House budget writers are mulling over spending targets with a deadline to prepare a budget bill in three weeks. The same timeline has the House approving a budget bill by June 6, with the Senate voting on its plan two weeks later and budget negotiators starting to work through differences by June 20.

(THE INSIDER, 5/15/08).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Debate over dollars not a substitute for funding mental health

Accounting: The debate over dollars is not substitute for funding mental health.

The N.C. House and Senate Republican leaders say they’re for it — appropriating whatever funds are necessary to “address deficiencies in the state’s mental health program.” The House majority leader seems sympathetic to it, too.

The Speaker calls mental health funding a “priority,” whatever that means. Priorities can be high, low or in between. But at least it shows interest, and that’s good.
With the governor also on board, how can it fail?

Easy as pie.

Gov. Easley is the only one who’s willing to dwell at length on the distinction between merely appropriating revenue and creating it. His preference is a booze tax that would generate $68 million to begin undoing the colossal mess the state made by trying to privatize mental health care in the name of “reform.”

Granted, Easley knows as well as the rest of them that (a) this is the “short” session, (b) the session may actually be short this year because the lawmakers are eager to adjourn and go campaign, (c) even a sin tax is a tough sell in an election year, (d) the surplus is smaller than last year’s and (e) the economy is on a down slope. If you want to dismiss this as political grandstanding, you’ll get plenty of agreement.

Eventually, though, all those other politicians who would never, ever engage in political grandstanding themselves will be closely watched as they seek ways to clean up behind themselves while working within existing revenues. Or as they backpedal away from a responsibility to fix what the legislature broke, including no few people who could have been given a shot at a normal life.

A year ago, with North Carolina belatedly owning up to the failure of reform, the state ranked 43rd in the nation in spending for mental health care. A federal monitor called the system “overwhelmed” and a private advocacy group protested the legislature’s perennial raids on the mental health budget. Some lawmakers sought to pretty things up with a one-time infusion of cash.

They’ll need stronger medicine than that this time around. Vulnerable people have been sent “home” by the thousands to communities in which the private sector either would not or did not rise to the challenge, leaving them to take up residence in hospitals and jails, under bridges and in other situations you can scarcely imagine. They’re waiting for help.
Those who survive will be waiting next year, too — unless the current crop of lawmakers demonstrates its great commitment by wringing what’s required out of a budget that is being twisted at both ends.

Fayetteville Observer Wednesday May 14, 2008

May is Foster Care Awareness Month: Today's State of Things on WUNC

Today on the State of Things:

Foster Care in North Carolina

May is National Foster Care Month. In North Carolina, there are almost 11,000 children in the foster care system, ranging from infants to 18-year-olds. While foster care placement is a necessary intervention for many families, a 2007 study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that children have better life outcomes when they remain with their families. Joining host Frank Stasio to discuss the current state of the foster care system in North Carolina and what lies ahead are guests Ashley Rhodes-Courter, a former foster child and author; Jane Volland, director of the North Carolina Guardian Ad Litem program; Kevin Kelley, assistant section chief for Child Welfare in the Department Of Social Services; and, Chuck Harris, assistant director of the Durham County Department of Social Services.

LISTEN LIVE at noon: 91.5 FM Chapel Hill/ 88.9 FM Manteo/ 90.9 FM Rocky Mount
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Anti-Gang Initiative

*Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC did not support the legislation proposed in the 2007 Session because of the lack of prevention funding and the implications of third partities being able to identify suspects as potential gang members. This guilt by association could lead to further penalties.

Anti-Gang Initiative

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that Wake and Durham counties have been chosen to participate in a "comprehensive anti-gang initiative" that includes $2.5 million in federal funding. The Triangle is one of four regions across the country receiving this latest round of federal money to thwart gang-related crimes. Wake and Durham will split the money 50-50. Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip said at a news conference at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport that $1 million of the funding will go toward efforts to prevent young people from joining gangs. Another $1 million will be used by law enforcement for criminal prosecution, with the remaining $500,000 used to help former gang members make a successful transition after they are released from prison.

(Thomasi McDonald, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/13/08).

LinX Database

LinX Database

Officials with 20 law enforcement agencies announced Tuesday the creation of a new database that they say will increase police cooperation and help catch criminals in North Carolina. The North Carolina Law Enforcement Information Exchange will be built and paid for by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The impetus for the database, which is also called LInX, came after terrorist attacks on the USS Cole in 2000 and the Pentagon and World Trade Center in 2001 showed authorities needed to communicate better, NCIS officials said. The system will be up and running by mid-July, according to NCIS officials.

The North Carolina database will be the 9th LInX system in the country. Participating departments have access to each other's records as well as those from the hundreds of departments in other LInX systems. Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said the database will give his investigators quick access to police reports and mug shots, as well as suspect and vehicle descriptions from numerous other agencies. It also will connect local law enforcement to federal databases, including those of military police. That's an ability Evangelous said he never thought possible prior to law enforcement changes that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. "This is a big step forward," he said.

(David Reynolds, WILMINGTON STAR-NEWS, 5/13/08).

Execution Protocol

*Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC supports a moratorium on the death penalty in NC. In the 2007 Session NASW-NC was part of the coalition working to end death penalty for those with Serious and Persistent Mental Illness.

Execution Protocol

The Council of State was not required to hear from death row inmates before revising execution procedures in North Carolina, attorneys for the council argued in court documents filed Monday. The attorneys were responding to inmates' lawyers who said the panel acted illegally by not hearing from inmates or their representatives. The council contends that the inmates don't have the right to challenge the protocol in court because the state Department of Correction offers inmates a way to challenge it. The council, a group of the state's top elected officials, also contends that the prisoners have failed to show they are harmed by the execution protocol. "Injury only occurs if the execution protocol is improperly implemented," the council's response said.

Like most states, North Carolina uses a three-drug combination, the first to render unconsciousness, the second to paralyze all muscles except the heart, and the third to stop the heart. The Council of State took up the protocol issue after a Superior Court judge decided a nearly 100-year-old law requires the council to approve changes to North Carolina's method of execution. The council decided that a physician must monitor a condemned inmate's "essential body functions" and tell the warden of Central Prison if the inmate shows signs of suffering. The fight, along with other legal challenges, has effectively put executions on hold in North Carolina.

(Dome, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 5/14/08).

Easley & Email

Easley and E-mail

A lawsuit accusing Gov. Mike Easley's administration of violating the state's public records law through the "systematic deletion, destruction or concealment" of e-mail messages should be dismissed, Easley's attorney's argued Tuesday. In a motion filed in Wake County Superior Court, state lawyers for Easley argued the court has no jurisdiction in the matter filed by several media outlets and organizations. The lawsuit accused Easley's press office of telling cabinet agency employees to delete or destroy e-mails sent to and from the governor's office. That would be a violation of state law. The administration has denied the claims.

The state's Public Records Law only allows relief when someone has been denied access to a public record by compelling a government entity to disclose the public record in the custodian's custody, the lawyers wrote. "The clear, unambiguous language of the Public Records Law establishes only a single cause of action and a single remedy," wrote the attorneys, who include Andy Vanore, Easley's legal counsel.

The lawsuit also seeks declaratory judgments under other portions of state law that find Easley violated the Public Records Law and that policies giving individual state employees the right to destroy e-mails about state business don't comply with the records law. Michael Tadych, a lawyer representing the media groups, said the plaintiffs "remain hopeful that we can get it resolved informally, but I don't know if we can." A court hearing on the case has been tentatively scheduled for June 30.