Monday, June 30, 2008

Gender Responsive Programs Survey

Fellow Advocates,

*The North Carolina Girls Alliance is trying to find out where the Gender Responsive Programs are in the state. Can you please email this survey out to programs for youth across the state that are supported through your agency. It is very short and the completed surveys are set up to come back to the Alliance. Once we have the results we will share them with each of you. We really appreciate your assistance in this effort!

*The North Carolina Alliance for Girls is a voluntary group of agencies, practitioners, researchers, families and girls. The mission of the Alliance is to create and support partnerships among girls, families, practitioners, community members, policymakers and researchers to address the needs of girls through gender responsive programs and resources. Our goal is to identify and enhance conditions by which girls can live healthy, pro-social lifestyles. A program which is gender responsive is intentionally designed and implemented to address the needs of girls at-risk.

Please visit


Brandy BynumDirector of Policy and Outreach
Action for Children North Carolina

Friday, June 27, 2008

Offshore Drilling

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole has changed her stance on offshore drilling, saying North Carolina should have the option of allowing oil exploration off the state's coast. In a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press, Dole said she supports lifting a 27-year-old moratorium on Atlantic drilling that has prohibited exploration off the coast. "Now, more than ever, responsible and practical steps are needed to increase our energy independence and strengthen economic and national security," Dole said. She plans to sign on to a GOP measure allowing states to open areas at least 50 miles off their shorelines to exploration that could bring in extra revenue for the states. For years, Dole had supported the ban on oil exploration, saying it was necessary to protect tourism and marine habitat. But as gas prices have passed $4 a gallon, Dole has increasingly softened her stance on offshore exploration. She said at a forum last weekend with her Democratic challenger, Kay Hagan, that she still opposed the idea but would consider a measure if it came across her desk.
Hagan, like many Democrats in Congress, opposes the offshore drilling plan. Hagan's campaign said the drilling plan indicates that Dole and other politicians have given oil companies too much power over Washington. "In an election year, it's no wonder Sen. Dole is running from gas prices that are pushing $5 a gallon, pushing a faux plan that will do nothing to lower our gas prices in the short-term and will actually do harm to our coastline in the long-term," Hagan spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan said. Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have said offshore drilling could help the nation ease its dependence on foreign oil and provide short-term relief to gas prices. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has opposed the idea. Gov. Mike Easley said last week he sees a "very poor" chance that North Carolina would move to allow offshore drilling if the federal ban was ever lifted. (Mike Baker, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/26/08).
House Auction

The former home of Sen. Julia Boseman has been auctioned off on the New Hanover County courthouse steps. The house, where Boseman's former domestic partner, Melissa Jarrell, had been living, was effectively purchased by Regions Mortgage for $1,346,329. That's the amount the bank was owed on the house, including interest and late fees. It's possible someone still could offer a higher bid. Last week, foreclosure proceedings also were initiated against a lot owned by Boseman, D-New Hanover, and Jarrell in Landfall, an upscale gated community in Wilmington. According to court filings, the couple owed $443,247 on the property as of June 4. A hearing on whether to proceed with that foreclosure is scheduled for July 16. Boseman and Jarrell also are behind on mortgage payments and property taxes on three waterfront lots they own in Pender County, which are in Jarrell's name although Boseman is also listed on the $1.3 million mortgage.
According to the Pender County Tax Department, the former couple owed $3,184 in outstanding 2007 property taxes on the three other lots as of Tuesday. In a statement Wednesday, Boseman seemed to throw much of the blame for the ex-couple's financial troubles onto Jarrell. Boseman said she has tried "every effort" to prevent the properties from falling into foreclosure. But Ryal Tayloe, an attorney for Jarrell, said Jarrell takes issue with Boseman's statement that "the co-owner of these properties has refused to agree to any deed transfer or refinancing options." "Melissa has been willing to entertain a sale of one or all of the properties at any time," Tayloe said. "To say that Melissa has been uncooperative relative to any deed transfer or refinancing is inaccurate." Boseman has been involved in a custody dispute over the couple's son. She also admitted in court last year she had smoke marijuana several years ago. (Gareth McGrath, WILMINGTON STAR-NEWS, 6/25/08).
Honoring Israel

In the presence of Israeli and Jewish group officials, lawmakers recognized the 60th anniversary of Israel Thursday by passing a resolution honoring the occasion. Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said America and Israel are united by shared values and mutual interests. "Given the unity of common interests and beliefs, it should not be surprising that support for Israel remains one of the most pronounced and consistent bipartisan foreign policy values of the American people," Glazier said. The two countries also share a firm commitment to democracy, said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, who said she recently visited Israel. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/26/08).
Teacher Personal Days

Public school teachers would no longer be required to pay $50 when they take a personal day on a designated teacher workday during the school year under a measure approved Thursday by the Senate. Teachers receive two personal days a year, but must pay $50 to help the school pay for the cost of a substitute. Provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the budget would set aside $5 million so they wouldn't have to pay for one day. The bill approved Thursday also makes clear the payment isn't required when no substitute is needed on a teacher workday. The bill now returns to the House. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/26/08).
Park Records

A bill that would exempt the identifying information of children involved in local recreation programs from the state's public records law is headed for a conference committee after the Senate declined to back it Thursday. As approved by the House last week, the measure would have exempted a child's name, age, date of birth, and other identifiable information from public record. The N.C. Press Association has asked that the name of the child remain a public record. The bill's Senate handler, Sen. Tony Foriest, D-Alamance, told his colleagues Thursday that he thought the House bill was a good one. "It was brought to our attention that we could even make it a better bill," he said. After the Senate session, Foriest said the final product would likely allow the name to remain a public record.
Rep. Alice Bordsen, D-Alamance, one of the sponsors of the bill in the House, said she was disappointed in the Senate's action. Bordsen said she wants to make sure that parents have control over the release of their children's name. The press association has argued that if the bill were to become law, access to names of children for photo captions could be in jeopardy. Because of the procedure that Bordsen and the other House sponsors used to pass the bill in the House, the recreation records bill never went to a Senate committee. (Barry Smith, FREEDOM NEWSPAPERS, 6/26/08).
Child Abuse

Hospital officials would be required to report suspected cases of child abuse to police under a measure unanimously approved Thursday by the House. State law already requires hospital officials to notify county social services departments about suspicious child abuse, neglect and deaths. Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake and a sponsor of the bill, said a host of medical and law enforcement groups support the measure, which would build on existing state law that requires medical workers to report poisonings, bullet wounds and knife injuries to police. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/26/08).
Truck Beds

A bill that would prohibit children under 16 from riding in the open bed of a pickup truck got sidetracked Thursday amid concerns from House members that it could be too burdensome on rural families. The current law allows children 12 and older to ride in the back, with exemptions that allow even younger children to ride in the back if an adult is present and they live in one of 32 rural counties. It was the measure's removal of those exemptions that some lawmakers took issue with. Rep. Ronnie Sutton complained that many rural families in his district still need to use a pickup truck to ferry their kids. "When you get a family of about seven or eight and they want to go to church on Sunday morning, how's the father going to get them there?" said Sutton, D-Robeson. "Is he going to make two trips? How's the family going to get to Wal-Mart?" House members voted 70-40 to send the bill to a House judiciary committee to review it in light of Sutton's concerns.
Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, a primary sponsor of the bill, said Thursday that safety was her primary concern. "The major thing is that it becomes a law that says it's not safe for people to be in the back of a pickup," Weiss said. "It's about education and prevention." Too many children are still being injured or dying under the current law, according to supporters. Eight children died and 127 children under age 16 were injured while in the back of a pickup truck between 2002 and 2006, according to the North Carolina Child Safety Task Force. The bill would fine drivers $25 and assess two driver's license points. An amendment offered by Sutton and approved 93-20 on the floor would prohibit insurance companies from penalizing drivers ticketed for violating the law. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/26/08).

*Blog Editor Note* This is a legislative priority for the Covenant for NC's Children. NASW-NC has a seat on the Covenant Board of Directors and was part of the lobby effort on this bill.
Sex Offender Registry

A House judiciary committee has approved legislation that would require sex offenders to provide law enforcement officers their e-mail addresses, online user IDs and screen names. State law already requires sex offenders to provide the state with their home addresses, photographs and fingerprints. The reporting measure would go into effect on May 1, 2009, and would apply to all offenders who are already required to register on the database. The bill, which is now headed to a House Finance Committee, would dovetail with another measure lawmakers are considering which would prohibit sex offenders from using social networking Web sites which are accessible to children. The provisions were inserted into a bill dealing with child seat safety technicians. Another child seat technician bill is in the Senate. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/26/08).
Jessica's Law

A bill that would impose tougher sentencing and monitoring requirements on child sexual predators has hit a snag. The budget doesn’t include money for the new prison cells that will need to be built to house violators of the law. “The current budget… does not factor in the cost of this bill,” said Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake and chair of a House judiciary committee that is looking at the bill. Legislative fiscal analysts estimate that the proposed law, which would give a minimum 25-year prison sentence to an adult convicted of raping a child younger than 13 years old, would cost about $1.5 million for 20 new prison cells. Other costs would put the total at an estimated $2 million for the first year of the new law.
Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland and a bill sponsor, said he did not think the snag was a delay tactic and was hopeful that the bill would still be approved before the General Assembly adjourns. The Senate handler of the bill, Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, was also optimistic. “That’s not a reason it won’t get passed,” Hoyle said. The bill passed the House last year. Earlier this month, a modified version of the bill passed the Senate. The House committee is now reviewing the changes made by the Senate.
The bill would also require lifetime GPS monitoring for people who rape children once they are released from prison. It would also strengthen sex-offender registry requirements. People on the registry would be prohibited from being on the premises of places where children are known to congregate, such as schools, playgrounds and children’s museums. The proposed law would require a 30-year sex-offender registration for people convicted of offenses against a minor or for violent offenses. The current law requires a 10-year registration. The measure, the Jessica Lunsford Act, is named for a 9-year-old Gaston County native who, after moving to Florida, was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a sexual predator in February 2005. (Barry Smith, FREEDOM NEWSPAPERS, 6/26/08).
Black Fine

Former House Speaker Jim Black has paid half of his $1 million fine on a state political corruption conviction, his lawyer said Thursday. Black is currently serving a five-year prison term in federal prison on a separate federal corruption conviction. The $500,000 payment helps him for now avoid receiving state prison time after he leaves federal custody. Black was supposed to pay the entire fine by July, or he could face nearly two years in prison on a plea he made last year to a bribery charge. But Superior Court Judge Don Stephens agreed Thursday to give him six more months to pay the remainder. Black has tried to sell real estate to generate funds to pay off the penalty but has been unsuccessful, according to his attorney, Whit Powell. "It's going to be settled," Powell said. "He's doing everything he can," he added. The Wake County district attorney's office, which prosecuted Black, assented to the delay, Assistant District Attorney David Sherlin said Thursday night.
Stephens granted another six-month delay last December. At the time, Black signed a promissory note and deed of trust directing any proceeds from a property sale to pay off the fine. In a prepared statement through his attorney, Black pointed to the fact that the fine's proceeds are required to go to the public schools. "I always intended to leave a portion of my estate to help secure the enhancement of North Carolina's public schools, and while this payment comes a bit premature, I gladly give it knowing that North Carolina's children will be the beneficiaries," Black said. Black is scheduled to be released from prison in February 2012. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/26/08).
Pension Fund

A bill that would loosen investing restrictions placed on the $70 billion state pension fund could be heard in the Senate Finance Committee next week. Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, a co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee and sponsor of the bill, said legislation eliminating a 5-percent cap on alternative investments may be taken up by the committee, but might also not be considered this year. The bill would put alternative investments -- venture capital, real estate trusts and hedge funds -- under the same investment cap as stocks. Currently, stock investments are limited to 65 percent of the portfolio. The legislation would also allow investments in derivatives, which are contracts tied to performance of interest, currency, credit or other indexes. Hoyle said that he filed the bill because of interest from State Treasurer Richard Moore's office. He added that previous efforts to diversify pension fund investing have been successful, producing higher returns. "It's not some! thing that I'm going to run without a lot of vetting. We're not going to do anything that is crazy," Hoyle said.
But the State Employees Association of North Carolina has expressed reservations about the bill, and derivatives have taken a hit lately on Wall Street and in the press. The Florida pension fund recently sued insurance giant AIG because of losses associated with its derivatives portfolio. And banks took $9.97 billion in derivative-associated losses, much of them associated with the mortgage crisis, in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Financial managers use derivatives -- which are really just bets and not the actual ownership of a company or commodity -- to try to manage risk associated with an underlying investment. (THE INSIDER, 6/27/08).
Budget Boot

A News & Observer reporter was barred Thursday from entering a meeting between House and Senate budget negotiators. Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, could not cite a reason under the public meetings law why a reporter would be excluded. But he said the meeting had nothing to do with the budget. "Because we were just hearing a report from staff," Rand said. "It had nothing to do with negotiations." He said the report was an "economic briefing," adding that it was "just a staff thing." Budget negotiators were the only lawmakers attending. A glimpse into the meeting showed Dan Gerlach, senior budget adviser to Gov. Mike Easley, and legislative fiscal workers addressing the lawmakers. Gerlach left several minutes later. When asked what the meeting was about, he replied, "Talking about the budget."
After the meeting broke up, Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham and the House's chief budget writer, said his team had nothing to do with the decision to close the meeting. "They ran you out of there," he said of the Senate budget negotiators. "That was their meeting. It wasn't mine." Republicans, who are in the minority, and advocates of open government have been critical of the budget-writing process, saying the spending plan is being put together behind closed doors. (Dan Kane, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/27/08).
Budget Negotiations

House and Senate budget negotiators reached an important deal on targeted tax cuts late Thursday as they pushed toward resolving final differences on a $21.3 billion state spending plan. House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson, said differences remain on education and capital projects, but that negotiators planned to work well into Thursday night to try to resolve them. Holliman predicted that a final budget deal would be struck soon, with House and Senate votes on the plan by the middle of next week. Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was less optimistic.
The negotiations took place amid news that an expected $151 million budget surplus for the current year would be nearly cut in half. Besides $70 million less in one-time money, which would accrue to state reserves, the drop in revenues means $45 million less in recurring money of the upcoming fiscal year, according to the State Budget Office. Gov. Mike Easley wrote to legislators that he understood that the news would make balancing the budget a more difficult task. Legislators, though, didn't seem fazed. Budget negotiators agreed to a tax-cut package that will include expansion of an Earned Income Tax Credit for poor families, a property tax break for disabled veterans, extension of a small business health insurance tax credit, elimination of the state gift tax and tax relief for some small businesses who owe uncollected sales taxes.
The EITC would be expanded from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent of the value of the federal tax credit for this year, rising to 5 percent in the following year. The tax breaks were expected to total around $50 million. Hoyle was insistent that the tax relief for bakers, cabinet makers and interior designers -- who say they were caught in changing sales tax definitions -- be in a final deal. "These people without exception tried to comply with the law," Hoyle said. Not included in the deal was a Senate proposal to provide a tax cut for those using home heating oil. (THE INSIDER, 6/27/08).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Union Money

One of the nation's largest unions is targeting North Carolina elections. The Service Employees International Union announced this week that it will spend $85 million targeting swing states for the presidential election as well as races for governor, U.S. senator and U.S. representative. Among the ten swing states it listed is North Carolina. It is not yet clear which races the union is targeting or how the spending will dovetail with traditional efforts by its recent affiliate, the State Employees Association of North Carolina. (Dome, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/26/08).
Campaign Finances

The State Board of Elections is still probing the campaign finances of three Mecklenburg County Democrats, elections officials said this week. The review began last year after an analysis by The Charlotte Observer found that tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to about 20 legislators were unaccounted for in campaign finance reports. Kim Strach, deputy director of the elections board, said she and her staff are continuing to look at the campaign and bank records of Reps. Beverly Earle and Drew Saunders and Sen. Malcolm Graham. Strach declined to comment on the details of the investigation and said she could not give a timetable for when it might be completed. "A lot of these issues have been addressed, and we're continuing to try to resolve them," Strach said.
In August, the Observer identified 120 contributions totaling about $80,000 over six years that were not disclosed in campaign reports. Political action committees had reported giving the money, but candidates had not reported receiving it. Strach said that Graham's bank has taken longer than expected to provide records required for the review, through no fault of Graham. His campaign had $9,650 in discrepancies, according to the Observer's analysis. Saunders' reports showed $15,250 in discrepancies, more than anyone else. He later amended his campaign reports and said Tuesday he is confident the board will eventually clear him of any wrongdoing. "I know that the funds are there, so I don't have any anxiety about it," he said. Earle had the second highest discrepancy total, with $10,700. She also said she would wait for the elections board to finish reviewing her records. "All my money's been deposited," she said. "They have everything that I have." All three legislators had! served as their own campaign treasurers before last year. They said they now employ professionals to maintain their records. (David Ingram, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/25/08).
Union Money
Hospital Deaths

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has reclassified the cause of death of a patient whose death was among 82 questionable hospital patent deaths highlighted in a News & Observer series on failed mental health reforms. Donald Michael Jones, who had bipolar disorder, died July 27, 2006, after a stay at Cherry Hospital. He swallowed 28 antidepressants. His original death certificate indicated he died of a heart attack. Though internal reports from 2006 show hospital officials knew Jones' death was linked to an overdose, that information was not shared with the medical examiner — a potential violation of a state law requiring deaths by accident or suicide to be reported.
No autopsy was performed before his body was sent home to be buried by loved ones assured he died of natural causes. His death has now been ruled a suicide. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's office is re-examining the deaths highlighted by the newspaper, and Jones' is the first to be reclassified. John D. Butts, the chief medical examiner, said it is rare for his office to issue new findings after a death certificate is finalized. In March, Gov. Mike Easley announced that hospital administrators would have to report all deaths at state hospitals to the medical examiner by telephone. Often the very doctors responsible for a dead patient's care make that report. If the medical examiner is told the patient died of natural causes, as happened with Jones, the issue is often not pursued.
A pair of bills under consideration in the legislature would require the medical examiner to review all state mental hospital deaths. "When someone is in our custody, we owe them safe harbor," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, the primary sponsor of the Senate bill. "The loophole is that if you called and said it was a natural death he [the medical examiner] wouldn't go. I don't think someone telling the medical examiner why a patient died is sufficient. We want the medical examiner to go and determine why they died." (Michael Biesecker, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/26/08).
Racial Justice Act

More than 300 clergy member sent a letter to lawmakers Wednesday urging them to approve legislation that would give capital murder defendants the right to challenge prosecutions on grounds of racial bias. Several ministers, death-penalty opponents and lawmakers held a news conference Wednesday to highlight the Racial Justice Act. The bill would allow defendants to argue that race improperly played a role in a prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty or in them receiving the sentence. A judge could reduce the sentence to life in prison without parole. The bill passed the House last year and now sits in a Senate committee. The ministers said North Carolina can't afford to be impatient and imprudent when it comes to the lives of its citizens, even those accused of murder. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/25/08).

*Blog Editor Note* NASW-NC supports this bill as well.
Nobel Winner

The Senate adopted a resolution Wednesday honoring Oliver Smithies, the first Nobel Prize winner on the full-time faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Last fall, Smithies and two others received the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work creating a technique to manipulate genes in mice. Smithies has been a professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school since 1988. The British native, who was escorted to the Senate floor for the reading of the resolution, said he's enjoyed his time in North Carolina. Joining Smithies on the floor was UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser, who is stepping down from the post next week. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/25/08).
School Integration

Gov. Mike Easley issued a proclamation and lawmakers passed a resolution Wednesday honoring seven black residents who were involved in the integration of North Carolina public schools 50 years ago. "There's a group of people that went beyond the norm, the group of people that went that extra mile to bring North Carolina to where it is now," said Rep. Larry Womble, D-Forsyth, as the House debated the resolution. "Just think if they had not taken that step as students." The seven were among the first wave of black students to enter white public schools in the fall of 1957. In a ceremony at the Executive Mansion, Easley presented each of the former students -- Girvaud Roberts Justice, Josephine Boyd Bradley, Brenda Florence, Jimmy Florence, Dorothy Counts Scoggins, Delois Huntley and Gwendolyn Bailey Coleman -- with an Old North State Award and a proclamation recognizing the 50th anniversary of school integration. "The path to social justice is oft times difficult and in consta! nt need of individuals determined to advance its cause," the proclamation read.
Also visiting Easley was Craig Phillips, the superintendent of the Winston-Salem school district in 1957 when Bailey Coleman broke the color barrier. The House and Senate resolution commemorating the importance of the 1957-58 school year also remembered several students who participated in the first wave of integration but have since died. Superintendents for the Charlotte and Greensboro systems were also remembered. North Carolina's public schools were not fully integrated until 1970. (Natasha Robinson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/25/08).
New Laws

Gov. Mike Easley has signed into law measures that toughen sentences for some vandals, seek to protect individuals involved in child custody cases from identity theft and establish a special trust fund to handle a possible settlement over the so-called "Road to Nowhere." One measure elevates vandalizing property worth $5,000 or more to a felony punishable by up to one year in prison. That law takes effect Dec. 1. Current state law sets vandalism -- no matter what the damages -- as a misdemeanor offense. Another measure, sponsored by Rep. Bob England, D-Cleveland, removes a requirement that child support court orders include the social security numbers of individuals involved in the support proceedings. That law becomes effective Oct. 1.
A third measure seeks to address a possible monetary settlement between the federal government and Swain County over a road that was destroyed during the construction of Fontana Dam. The federal government promised in 1943 to rebuild the road through the Great Smoky Mountains. However, the project was never completed. The federal government has recommended a financial settlement with the county. The settlement money would be managed through the trust fund. (THE INSIDER, 6/26/08).
Carbon Monoxide

The Senate has tentatively approved legislation that would require landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors in rental homes and apartments by 2010. The bill, which passed Wednesday by a vote of 47-1, also would authorize the state's Building Code Council to study how detectors should be installed in new homes or apartments. Sen. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland and the bill's sponsor, said the legislation seeks to make the detectors as common as smoke detectors, which have been required in rental properties since 1996. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless fuel byproduct that can lead to death within minutes of exposure. Seventy-eight people died accidentally from carbon monoxide poisoning from 2000 through 2005 in North Carolina. A final Senate vote could come as soon as today. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/25/08).
Park Records

The Senate postponed a vote Wednesday on a bill that would exempt identifying information about children participating in local recreation programs from public records. Sen. Tony Foriest, D-Alamance, said the House-approved bill would keep the name, address, age, phone number and other identifying information, as well as information about the child's parents, outside the purview of the public records law. Foriest said that the bill would help keep the identities of children participating in county and municipal recreation programs from child predators. Other senators, however, had reservations. "It sounds to me like they're going overboard," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. Some senators also complained that it was unfair or inappropriate for the Senate to have a floor vote on the bill when the bill hadn't had the opportunity to go through the normal Senate committee process. House lawmakers gutted an already-approved Senate bill to create the measure.
Representatives from the N.C. Press Association have opposed the bill, saying that it could keep photographers from obtaining the name of a child in a photo for caption information. On Wednesday, Foriest sought to address that concern, saying the proposed change wouldn't prevent newspapers from covering games sponsored by local recreation departments or prevent reporters and photographers from obtaining the children's names. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said that information about children could still be released to the press by getting parents to sign consent forms. A vote on the bill is scheduled for today. If the Senate approves the measure, it will be sent to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature. If senators decline to approve it, a conference committee could be appointed to come up with a final bill. (Barry Smith, FREEDOM NEWSPAPERS, 6/25/08).
Low Turnout

Tuesday's runoff primary saw a record-low turnout. The election, which included only one statewide race, attracted about 1.9 percent of voters to the polls, according to the State Board of Elections. Six weeks ago, the initial primary brought a record-shattering 37 percent turnout. Tuesday's vote featured only a race for the Democratic candidate for labor commissioner and two local legislative races. "It might be the election officials who are the largest bloc of voters," state elections director Gary Bartlett said during voting Tuesday.
Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said in a news release that Tuesday's vote took about $4 million to operate about 3,000 polling places and process the ballots of about 75,000 voters. That comes out to more than $50 per voter, he said. "Local taxpayers foot the bill, not the state, which may be one reason why state lawmakers have been slow to address the problem of expensive, low-turnout runoffs," Hall said. Hall supports instant runoff voting, in which voters can mark a first and second choice on the ballot. The state has tested the system, but it is not used widely. "There's got to be a better way than these embarrassing statewide runoff elections," Hall said. (Mike Baker, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/25/08; Dome, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/26/08).
Anti-Tax Rally

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole told a crowd of about 800 conservatives gathered for a "Take Back Our State" rally that the upcoming election was the most important that he could remember in his lifetime. "If we don't wake up America, things are going to happen that are going to change your life for a long, long time -- and not for the better," Dole said. The rally, sponsored by anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity and held behind the Legislative Building, included a band, barbecue dinner and a giant pig statute with a sign reading, "Stop Pigging Out With Our Tax Dollars." Dole, the featured speaker, began with a series of one-liners, several poking fun at himself. "I figured the Senate would certainly have to shut down after I left," he told the crowd. "But they kept on doing the same thing they did when I was there -- nothing."
Once his talk shifted to serious topics, Dole sought to shift blame for the country's current economic woes from President Bush to the two years of "liberal control" of Congress. He ran off of list of indicators, from employment to home equity value, showing that the country was in better shape before Democrats won congressional majorities. A number of conservative groups, from the North Carolina Republican Party to the John Locke Foundation, set up tents at the event. Before Dole spoke, former state Sen. Robert Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican running for lieutenant governor, said the Russian Duma enjoyed more freedom of speech than the Democratic-controlled state Senate. (THE INSIDER, 6/26/08).
Marijuana Study

A woman who once served as the nation's highest ranking medical official thinks North Carolina should join 12 other states in legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders told a House committee on Wednesday that the federal government, beginning in the 1940s, had needlessly restricted the use of marijuana as a drug that could be used to treat pain. Although calling for more study to critically examine the benefits of marijuana as a pain-killing drug, Elders touts it as a way for cancer patients to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy. The House Science and Technology Committee hosted Elders while considering a resolution from Rep. Earl Jones, D-Guilford, the committee chair, that calls for legislation to study the issue.
Elders became well-known for her controversial comments during her two years as surgeon general and was fired by President Clinton in 1994. She didn't shy away from controversy on Wednesday either. Elders compared marijuana to aspirin and Tylenol, noting that both can lead to death. "You can't kill yourself smoking marijuana," she said. But Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, challenged Elders on touting the benefits of marijuana. Avila questioned Elders about carcinogens in the plant and cited medical journal articles on the lack of studies looking at its long-term effects. "I'm in favor of study, but not at the North Carolina level," Avila said. Afterward, the Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League said setting public policy with so little information made no sense. "This is really not a safe drug to take," he said. (THE INSIDER, 6/26/08).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Highway Patrol

Gov. Mike Easley has named Walter J. Wilson the new commander of the State Highway Patrol. Wilson will replace Colonel Fletcher Clay, who is retiring June 30. Easley has also appointed Jamie J. Hatcher as lieutenant colonel. He will replace Lt. Colonel Cecil Lockley, who retired earlier this month. Both Wilson and Hatcher, who are currently serving as majors in the patrol, will assume their new roles July 1st. Wilson, a Tarboro native, has served on the Patrol since 1980. Hatcher, a Duplin County native, joined the patrol in 1982. (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 6/24/08).
Campaign Hire

Dave Woolf, a former Army officer and campaign manager for Bob Orr's gubernatorial campaign, will serve as Rep. Bill Daughtridge's campaign manager in the race for state treasurer. Daughtridge announced Woolf's hiring on Tuesday, and cited his diverse professional background in making the decision. Daughtridge, a Republican, faces Democratic Sen. Janet Cowell of Raleigh in the race. (NEWS RELEASE, 6/24/08).
Lottery Money

With the transfer of $68.6 million to a dedicated state education fund Tuesday, the state lottery surpassed the total it raised last year for education programs. The transfer means the fund has received nearly $318.8 million so far this fiscal year, which ends July 1. Education programs received $313 million for all of last year. The money is used for class-size reduction and pre-kindergarten initiatives, public school construction and college scholarships. The Legislature projected the lottery would give net profits equal to $350 million to the fund this fiscal year. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/24/08).
Sit-In Marker

State officials on Monday unveiled a new historical marker commemorating a 1957 sit-in at a racially segregated restaurant in Durham. On June 23, 1957, seven black people sat in the whites-only section of the Royal Ice Cream parlor in Durham and ordered ice cream. After refusing to leave, they were arrested and charged with trespassing. They were later found guilty and fined $10 each. Their case was appealed through the state courts -- unsuccessfully -- and ultimately referred to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear it.
Three surviving members of the sit-in attended the unveiling of the highway historical marker at Union Baptist Church in Durham. Later this year, the maker will be placed near the former site of the Royal Ice Cream parlor, a brick building at North Roxboro and Dowd streets torn down in 2006. The Royal Ice Cream sit-in preceded by about three years a better-known protest in Greensboro. In that protest, four black college students sat down at the whites-only lunch counter at Woolworth's and asked to be served. They were refused, and were credited for launching sit-ins across North Carolina and the South as a nonviolent protest against segregation. (Lisa Rossi, THE HERALD-SUN, 6/24/08).
Landfill Permits

Although a state law has effectively barred Waste Industries USA Inc. from building its Black Bear landfill in Camden County, the company is still asking the county to renew its permits for the project. Ven Poole, vice president for corporate development with Waste Industries, described the permit request as a matter of procedure. "It has to be renewed every two years," he said. Because the permit that is being requested is the same as the permit which lapsed, Poole said he expects the permit to be approved. "It meets all the same criteria, so there should be no problem," he said.
But County Attorney John Morrison is recommending that county staff not re-issue the permits at this time because of the state law banning the type of landfill Waste Industries wants to build. "They can't renew," Morrison said. Instead, Morrison is recommending that county staff extend the landfill developers' application for the re-issuance of the permits. That would allow Waste Industries and its subsidiary, Black Bear Disposal LLC, to have their permits re-issued should they prevail in a court battle with the state. The company is asking in a lawsuit to either move forward with the project or be reimbursed millions for their expenses to get the project to a late approval phase.
Waste Industries has asked a Wake County Superior Court judge to declare unconstitutional legislation that effectively barred it from moving forward with the landfill project. The legislation prohibits the construction of waste dumps within five miles of a national wildlife refuge. The landfill in Camden would have been built within a mile of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Waste Industries says the legislation is unfair because it is aimed specifically at blocking the company's efforts to build a 490-acre landfill in Camden. (John Henderson, THE DAILY ADVANCE, 6/24/08).
Hagan Fundraising

U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan is making a last-minute fundraising push before a fundraising deadline next week. Hagan campaign manager Crystal King said in an e-mail to supporters Tuesday that they need strong fundraising numbers to show everyone that the campaign can keep pressuring incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Campaign finance reports for a period ending Monday are due next month.
Dole had reported some $3.2 million in cash available to spend through mid-April. Hagan reported having $317,000 cash on hand. The Democratic state senator from Greensboro has said she will need about $10 million to mount a strong challenge. King said the fundraising will help show that the race is competitive. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/24/08).

Truck Beds

Truck Beds

Children under the age of 16 would be barred from riding in the open bed of pickup trucks under a measure approved Tuesday by a House judiciary committee. Current law allows children as young as 12 to sit in the cargo area. The bill also would remove exemptions that now allow passengers of any age to ride in a truck bed if in a rural area or if riding with an adult. Drivers caught violating the ban would face a $25 fine and an insurance point on their driving record. Another panel recommended the bill earlier. The measure now goes to the full House for consideration. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/24/08).

*Blog Editor Note* This is a legislative priority for the Covenant for NC's Children. NASW-NC has a seat on the Covenant Board of Directors and is active in the lobby efforts. JR
Anti-Gang Legislation

A measure aimed at curbing the state's growing gang problem is awaiting Gov. Mike Easley's signature after winning Senate approval Tuesday. The "Street Gang/Prevention and Intervention" bill cleared the House last week. The legislation tasks local Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils with developing programs to tackle delinquency, substance abuse and gang prevention. Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would create new crimes for gang activity. That bill has passed the Senate but has not cleared the House. Key to both bills is $10 million in gang prevention funding that is contained in the House and Senate budget proposals. The prevention legislation needs the money to start programs, and House leaders say they won't pass the punitive legislation without the money for prevention. (Dan Kane, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/25/08).

*Blog Editor Note* This is a key legislative priority for NASW-NC. We worked to stop the previous incarnations of this bill because there was no funding for Appropriations. We are in support of this as long as the funding makes it through the budgetary process. The companion bill is still making its way through the legislative process. JR

Tutoring Bill

Tutoring Bill

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand says he doesn't plan to pursue this session legislation that would require college students to spend 20 hours a semester tutoring or mentoring public school students. College officials voiced a lot of concern about the measure, said Rand. He said he plans to rework the bill to be more "volunteer oriented" and not something that creates a new bureaucracy for volunteerism. "It would require a great deal of planning," said Rand, D-Cumberland.
Rand filed his bill after two college students were recently killed by gunfire in the Triangle: UNC-Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson and Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato. The community service program would be named after them. It would have required most students entering UNC system schools and private colleges in the fall to begin volunteering. Private colleges would have had to participate or lose out on two state financial aid programs. By Jan. 1, 2012, all bachelor's degree recipients would have had to have completed the community service requirement. (THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/24/08).

Sex Offenders

Sex Offenders

The House and Senate need to work out their differences on a proposed law that would make it a low-grade felony for registered sex offenders to use social networking Web sites. Sen. Walter Dalton, a Rutherfordton Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor, said the House deleted provisions that should have been included, such as making it a felony to lie to a SBI agent and making in-person solicitation of minors and online solicitation separate offenses. Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's office said the state prosecutor wants those provisions added back to the bill.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper started pushing for the law last year. Back then, the proposal included a requirement to have social networking sites obtain parental consent before they allowed children to join. Since then, MySpace and Facebook came to agreements with state attorneys general to add safeguards to protect minors from sexual predators. Many sections of the original bill, including the provision that would have required parental consent for a child to join a social networking site, have been removed. (Dome, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/25/08).

Wrongfully Convicted

Wrongfully Convicted

A House judiciary panel gave its approval Tuesday to a bill that would more than double the amount of money that wrongfully convicted people could receive from the state. The measure would allow criminally convicted individuals who have been declared innocent by the governor to receive $50,000 for each year they spent behind bars. Current state law allows $20,000 per year. They would also be able to receive tuition money and job skills training.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland and the bill's sponsor, said boosting the payment will help erroneously convicted people make up for the time they spent behind bars. The bill now heads to the House Appropriations Committee. Gov. Mike Easley most recently pardoned Darryl Hunt, who served 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. Hunt was exonerated by DNA evidence last year. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/24/08).

Jenkins' Bill

Jenkins' Bill

Sen. Clark Jenkins, the primary sponsor of a bill that would allow wider boats on North Carolina highways, is an owner of a marina near Nags Head that claims on its Web site to be the fastest-growing new fishing marina in the state. But Jenkins, D-Edgecombe, said he didn't disclose his interest in Broad Creek Fishing Center & Marina when he shepherded his bill through two Senate committees because it wasn't necessary. "I don't have a conflict of interest, in my opinion," Jenkins said in an interview Tuesday. He said that's because the entire sportfishing industry would benefit from his bill, not just his marina. He also said he had consulted with an attorney who works for the General Assembly who told him he had no conflict. Senate leader Marc Basnight said he agrees with Jenkins and added: "I don't see how it benefits him. It benefits the person pulling the boat."
Jenkins' bill sailed through the Senate last week 47-0 and is scheduled to be heard at 11 a.m. today by the House Committee on Transportation. The legislation would eliminate the need for a permit to pull a boat-trailer combination that's between 8.5 and 10 feet wide, and would drop a prohibition against pulling one on Sundays and holidays, when beach traffic is heavier. The measure would also allow longer and heavier trucks on state highways. State law says that no legislator shall participate in a legislative action if they conclude "that an actual economic interest does exist which would impair the legislator's independence of judgment." It also says that it's OK if the benefit to that legislator is no greater than the benefit to owners of other similar businesses. Jenkins did not vote on his bill when the Senate approved it last week. He said he was out of town on business.
State Highway Patrol officials say the longer trucks and wider boats that the bill would allow on state highways would endanger other motorists. DOT Secretary Lyndo Tippett said in an interview Tuesday that he also opposes the bill, agreeing with the patrol on the danger issue. (Pat Stith, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/25/08).

Legislative Runoffs

Legislative Runoffs

Justin Burr has defeated Rep. Ken Furr in the Republican primary runoff for the 67th House District covering Stanly, Union and Montgomery counties. Furr was appointed last August to succeed Rep. David Almond, who resigned. Burr, who won with 58 percent of the vote Tuesday, faces no opposition in November. Meanwhile, Snow Hill Mayor Don Davis triumphed Tuesday in his race against State Board of Education member Kathy Taft in the Democratic contest for the 5th Senate District covering Greene, Pitt and Lenoir counties. Davis, who took 63 percent of the vote Tuesday, will face outgoing Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, in November to succeed retiring Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/24/08).

Labor Commissioner

Labor Commissioner

Mary Fant Donnan clinched the Democratic nomination for labor commissioner on Tuesday, defeating former labor commissioner John Brooks in the Democratic primary runoff. She had about 68 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting Tuesday. Donnan will face Republican incumbent Cherie Berry in November. "I'm very excited, and this positions me well for the fall," Donnan said. "Voters are ready for and responded well to the message that there needs to be an emphasis on better supports for working families and small business."
Donnan, a program officer at the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem, finished first in the four-person party primary on May 6 but failed to get the more than 40 percent of the vote required to avoid a runoff with Brooks, the commissioner from 1977 to 1993. Both argued that Berry, who is seeking her third four-year term, has failed to protect North Carolina workers adequately or push for more apprenticeship training. Donnan, 46, worked in the labor department from 1994 to 2001. She received the endorsements of the third- and fourth-place finishers in the primary, as well as the state AFL-CIO. (Gary D. Robertson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/24/08).

Education Shortfalls

Education Shortfalls

State education officials warned Tuesday that they might have to withhold $50 million from school districts so they could have money for fuel and teacher bonuses. "I don't want to say it's all doomed, but I do want to sound an alarm and warning that we're heading in the wrong direction," Howard Lee, chairman of the State Board of Education, said during an emergency board meeting. The state Department of Public Instruction reimburses school districts for most of their fuel costs and also administers the performance-based teacher bonus checks. But Philip Price, associate state superintendent for financial and business services, said that lawmakers are working on a compromise spending plan that would give less money for K-12 public education than what had been adopted by either the House or Senate.
Price said the increased funding for bus fuel in the conference budget would still leave a $30 million shortfall for reimbursing districts. Additionally, Price said that the conference budget allocates $37 million less than projected to pay for bonuses under the state's ABCs of Education program. While the state may make up some of the shortfall, Price warned districts that they still might be short $50 million. Shortly after the state board meeting, Senate leaders said they would seek to boost the fuel money and teacher bonuses. Sen. Linda Garrou, D- Forsyth and a chief budget writer, said they would agree to additional $20 million increases for both fuel and bonuses. "We've got to do better," Garrou said. " She and Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said they did not know where the money would come from. (T. Keung Hui, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 6/25/08).

State Employee Rally

State Employees

They rallied outside the Legislative Building. They put a full-page ad in The News & Observer. They called for initiatives not likely to be passed by this year's General Assembly. In all, about 200 members of the State Employees Association of North Carolina gathered behind the Legislative Building on Tuesday to call for a higher pay raise and collective bargaining rights. And in the newspaper, and in speech, the group urged legislators to strip State Treasurer Richard Moore of his authority as sole trustee over the state pension funds. "That's our money, so we shouldn't have one person playing with our money," said SEANC executive director Dana Cope.
The full-page newspaper ad cited state pension fund losses of $4 billion during the first quarter of 2008 as a reason for giving investment authority to a board of trustees. Prior to his speech, Cope said he believed a board would have limited the losses, even as markets in general lost money. "A board would have provided more sets of eyes," he said. Moore's office, though, released a letter sent to legislators on Monday, signed by a number of state retiree and local government organizations, stating that divesting the treasurer of sole investing authority would increase risks for the pension fund and undermine a strategy of slow but steady returns. The letter also called North Carolina's state employee pension funds "the envy of many across the country …"
Sara Lang, a spokeswoman for the treasurer's office, said the change supported by SEANC calls for study and debate, not scare tactics. "It is unfortunate that SEANC continues to scare retirees and public workers about their pension fund," Lang said. SEANC leaders also targeted legislators for not providing more substantial pay increases. Cope said the group's goal was to convince budget negotiators to raise state employees' raises to 3 percent, the same amount provided to teachers in both the House and Senate budgets. Boosting the pay hike from 2.75 percent to 3 percent would cost just $8 million, Cope said. (THE INSIDER, 6/25/08).


Smoky Mt News
Training cops to handle mental health patients

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

It had been a long day for Adam Meyer.

The young man who has battled mental health issues for most of his life had entered another period of crisis, and had been waiting more than 48 hours for a bed to open up at one of the state's mental health hospitals.

It had been a long day for the person accompanying Meyer as well. In almost all cases, a sheriff or a transport person hired by the sheriff's department must wait with a patient until they're admitted to a state hospital — sometimes for days.

What happened next is disputable. But Meyers' mother, Patricia Frisbee Meyer, alleges when her son reached up from his bed at Haywood Regional Medical Center to speak with his social worker, the transport worker misinterpreted his actions and choked him in a forceful restraint.
Haywood County Sheriff Tom Alexander says the department investigated Meyers' complaint and that appropriate action was taken. While he can't speak further on the matter, he would say that the long waiting times are hard on everyone involved.

"A lot of these people get upset when they're sitting for hours. They get agitated, and I don't blame them," he says. "It's not an excuse, but that's the fact of the situation."

Too little funding

Chalk it up to a misunderstanding or a broken system, but the bottom line is that what happened to Adam Meyer might have been prevented.

That's the mantra being used by advocates of the Crisis Intervention Team program, which aims to train law enforcement officers how to better deal with individuals suffering from mental health issues.

Supporters of the program say it's an invaluable tool to prevent misunderstandings and mistreatment of mental health patients. They're not claiming it will fix the system completely, but that it will make officers' jobs easier.

Through the CIT program, a local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness or another agency pairs with sheriffs departments and mental health service providers to form a task force that studies current policies and procedures in place for handling mental patients. A 40-hour training session on a wide range of topics is then offered to law enforcement.

The state of North Carolina was so taken with the program that it set aside $2,000 to give to each local management entity (LME) — the organization in charge of overseeing a region's mental health system. In a 15-county LME like Smoky Mountain Center for Mental Health, which represents the western region, that breaks down to about $130 a county.

"The issue is, what can you do meaningful with $2,000? " says Tom McDevitt, area director for the Smoky Mountain Center.

McDevitt says his agency and others suggested that the state set aside the money that would be given to each LME and pool it together to create a training program.

"They should have kept their $50,000 and put on a series of three to four regionally sponsored CIT training sessions," McDevitt says.

But he says the state ignored that idea and instead doled the money out individually. As a result, LME's are limited on how much they can help law enforcement gain access to the training.
"The funding is not enough to implement the program," acknowledges Molly Richardson, director of emergency services for the Balsam Center.

As a result, Smoky Mountain has had to get creative.

"Our plan is to basically use that very small amount of money to at least try and have educational events for law enforcement in our area to at least learn what it's about," McDevitt says. "That's as far as we can go with that little bit of money."

Limited resources

Sheriffs departments appear to support the CIT concept.

"I think it will make the process more smooth," says Macon County sheriff Robbie Holland. "It will give those first on the scene additional training, and I fully support that."
Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran agrees that the training could better equip officers to handle encounters with mentally ill individuals.

"I'm sure that we would change our approach a lot of times if we knew exactly what we were dealing with. On commitments, all we know is what we're told," he says. "That's very limited information."

Debra Dihoff, executive director of NAMI North Carolina, says that "often, when symptoms become out of control, police don't know to recognize symptoms of mental illness."

Data compiled by the Memphis Police Department — the first in the nation to implement the program — showed that before training, 20 percent of encounters with mentally ill people resulted in arrest. After training, that dropped to 1 percent, according to Dihoff.

But as helpful as the CIT program may be, law enforcement budgets are already stretched — and they may not be able to justify training that isn't mandatory. They may also not be able to afford to spare manpower in already understaffed departments.

"The main reason we haven't done it is a lack of manpower, because we're a small agency. Whenever you say you have four people that want to take off to go to this training, those four people have to be replaced by four other people," Holland says.

That's easier for bigger agencies with 300 or more employees, like Wake or Pitt counties, says Alexander. But it's harder for rural agencies in WNC, which employ a much smaller number of deputies.

"I believe in training, but then sometimes, you have to weigh out the cost. The manpower and the ability to be able to get it — you can't stay in school all the time, because work goes on," Alexander says.

To make CIT training more accessible to law enforcement agencies, Alexander suggests getting it accredited through the state Sheriff's Standard and Training Commission. That way, it could become part of the mandatory curriculum.

Forming a partnership with a local community college could also help. Agencies often do this to complete other training. The community college receives a certain sum for attracting a certain class size. In exchange, the college might provide things like refreshments, a luncheon and class pins. The LME also steps in and provides curriculum notebooks.

In one case, the state NAMI organization offered to reimburse the gas costs accrued by law enforcement agencies in five rural counties that traveled to a regional CIT training.
All in all, a partnership between all interested parties could be the most effective way to ensure officers receive the training they need to deal with mentally ill individuals.

Can it be implemented?

But the Smoky Mountain Center says so far, forming a partnership has been challenging. Besides Holland, it doesn't appear than any other law enforcement agency west of Buncombe County has made CIT training a budget priority.

"We've already made overtures to try and give reimbursement for pay and registration to send law enforcement staff, particularly sheriffs," says McDevitt. "We had little to no interest in anybody wanting to go anywhere."

McDevitt says that besides crunches in budgets and staffing, departments worry that they won't have the funding or infrastructure to keep CIT in place. And what's the point in training if it doesn't effectively take root?

"They say, we'll get exposed to this, and not be able to do anything to put CIT place. Where's the infrastructure? We don't have this, we don't have that," he says. "My approach is yeah, that's a given, but we can do these two or three things that would be an improvement."

Like so many other aspects of North Carolina's mental health system, it seems that CIT training is another instance where the state is promoting something without setting up the appropriate infrastructure or funding to carry it out.

And the problems law enforcement has with the mental health system won't be fixed with CIT training alone. Long waiting times, for example, will only be helped by adding more state hospital beds, and teaching officers how to deal with mental patients in the short term won't address the lapse in long term care due to a shortage of psychiatrists.

"We can train our people how to pick them up and deliver them to wherever, but all the training you give these officers in the world — unless you train them to be psychologists or something — is not going to solve the problem," says Alexander. "That's what the mental health field needs to understand. Don't blame it on the deputies and police officers. We do the best we can."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Time Sensitive Announcement from DHHS regarding incident to billing model

Time Sensitive Announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has heard the concerns expressed regarding the change in billing for provisionally licensed clinicians announced on June 2, 2008 in Implementation Update # 44.

In order to address the concerns, DHHS is announcing today a change in that policy. The Department will implement the changes to the Medicaid "incident to" policy outlined in Implementation # 44; however, DHHS is removing the prohibition against Local Management Entities (LMEs) continuing to bill on behalf of agencies employing or contracting with provisionally licensed clinicians.

Effective July 1, 2008, the services of provisionally licensed clinicians may be billed to Medicaid and Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services funds in three ways: 1) when those clinicians are engaged in providing enhanced services, such as Intensive In-Home, Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient, Assertive Community Treatment Team, etc.; 2) when they provide outpatient therapy under the revised "incident to" policy and their services are billed under the supervising physician’s provider number; and 3) when they provide outpatient therapy and the services are billed through the LMEs using "H" billing codes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Legislative Update from our Friends at Action for Children


Action for Children NC is pleased to bring you this state and federal legislative update.

Conferees Appointed and Conference Committees Started
Highlights of Senate Budget
Key Bills
Action Alerts

Federal:Medicaid Regulations: House Reaches Agreement with the White House
Senators Introduce JJDPA Reauthorization Bill

Conferees Appointed and Conference Committees Started
The NC Senate Appropriations Committee sent its budget to the Senate floor this week after hearing only six amendments, and the full Senate passed it on Thursday. The House did not concur with the budget, and both houses have appointed conferees. HHS conferees began meeting today (Friday) and will continue through the weekend and into Monday. Other committees will likely start on Monday. Advocates are getting the impression, though, that the controversial decisions like Health Choice funding are not likely to be decided in these public conference sessions, but instead by the big chairs closer to the middle of next week.
Please visit Action for Children’s website for a line-by-line comparison of the Governor’s, House and Senate budgets in the areas of Public Education, HHS, Justice and Public Safety, and

Highlights of Senate budget
Action for Children Top Priority Items:
NC Health Choice: The Senate increased Health Choice by only $1.7M (compared to the House’s $10.4M) and mandated that enrollment be frozen in September. Enrollment can be unfrozen in April only if the federal government reauthorizes SCHIP and/or provides additional funding. Senator Hagan amended the bill to allow re-enrollment to begin as soon as more federal dollars are allocated to SCHIP (even if it’s prior to April 1), but still only 2.4 percent growth will be allowed this fiscal year (without the freeze, about 8 percent growth would be expected) and if the state does begin enrolling children again, the state share would have to come from existing resources within HHS.

A few key points:
A freeze in Health Choice is more harmful than you might think. Last time the program was frozen (in 2001), the rolls declined 18 percent over six months, and kept declining another 14 percent over four months even after the freeze was lifted. If that repeats itself, 36,000 children would be affected. A Sheps Center study (UNC Chapel Hill) found that the freeze caused financial hardship among affected families and children went without insurance, since parents could not afford premiums even when their employers offered insurance.
The Senate is trying to paint this as the federal government’s fault. It is true that SCHIP has not been reauthorized (though Congress tried twice and was vetoed by Bush), but every year Congress provides enough extra funds for “shortfall” states to cover their costs.
NC has been allocated enough federal money to keep Health Choice open until at least May 2009.

In order to stay open, however, the Senate needs to allocate the $10.4M state share to draw down the federal dollars.
Congress and health care advocates fully expect SCHIP to be reauthorized in March 2009 (or sooner) when a new administration is in place. (Congress—both liberals and conservatives—are 2-to-1 in favor of reauthorization and additional funding, and Governors across the ideological spectrum have been very vocal on the need to reauthorize and increase funding for SCHIP.) If for some reason Congress didn’t act in early 2009, the NC General Assembly is back in session in January and could begin acting then to freeze enrollment, as necessary.
All federal programs are reauthorized regularly, and the process is not usually used as an excuse for not allotting the necessary state dollars. No other state has issued a freeze warning on their SCHIP program. The Senate does not have to freeze Health Choice. Advocates will be working hard to move the HHS conference committee back toward the House proposal for children’s health insurance.

NC Kids Care: The Senate eliminated all the funding from NC Kids’ Care ($7M), citing federal obstacles to its implementation. They have pushed back the implementation date until July 1, 2009, which may not be legal and certainly is not workable. Advocates are working to get some funds back into the program this fiscal year, to get it up and running.
Child Care Subsidies: The Senate followed the House’s lead and allocated $9M in TANF funds for increased child care subsidies: enough to remove 1,100 children from the waiting list and prevent another 900 from losing their subsidies.

JCPC Funding: Like the House, the Senate reallocated recurring dollars to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils ($22.6M), but reduced the JCPC expansion funds from the House-proposed $1M to $200K. Advocates and JCPC service providers are working to move the JPS conference committee back to the House proposal.

Tax Package:
The Senate’s tax package was not included in the budget but considered separately. It includes an $18M tax break for the wealthy in the form of a repeal of the gift tax. It also includes a reduction on sales tax on propane fuel oil, which is used most often to heat lower-income homes. The Senate tax package does not increase the EITC percentage, and the budget does not include the House-recommended funds for EITC outreach. This will be a point of debate in conference committee.

Other Senate budget highlights include:
Public Education

More at Four: $41M in recurring funding (House: $23M nonrecurring);
Dropout grants: $8M (House: $15M);
Disadvantaged Student Supplemental Fund: $5M increase (House: $7M);
Per student funding for those with disabilities and the academically gifted: Increases similar to the House;
Child nutrition standards: $2M (House: $4M).
Learn and Earn: Increased funding for high schools equal to House, but cut online program more;
End of grade writing tests (4th, 7th, 10th grades): Eliminated, like the House.
Legislative Study Commission on public education funding formulas continued;
House programs not funded in Senate budget: Positive Behavior Support, Graduation Project, Transfer Center for 21st Century Skills, NC Science, Math and Technical Education Center, NC Humanities Council Teacher Institute Program.

Health Choice: $1.7M, which will force the program to freeze enrollment in September. Amendment passed on first reading to re-open enrollment upon receiving increased federal funding; growth cap of 2.4%. (House: $10.4M and increased growth cap.)

NC Kids’ Care: Eliminated for this fiscal year (House: delayed start until April 1, 2009);
Child care subsidies: $9M from TANF, same as House;

Foster care and adoption rate increases: Same percentage increase as House (30%), but appropriation is $140K lower;

Mental Health/DD/SA: $93M cut from community support programs (House: cut $86M), offset by a $36M one-time reserve for phase-in of community support reductions;

Medicaid: Freezes provider rates at 75% (House: freezes at 50.5%);

Health Net Grants: $2.8M (House: $3.8M);

Smart Start: $1M (House: $500K);

Child Welfare Collaborative: $900K, same as House (to fund more child welfare education in 4 universities);

Adolescent pregnancy prevention programs: $325K (House: $75K), plus a new $400K line-item. In addition, the Senate did not put the program on continuation review, like the House did. Over $1M has been cut in the last few years from these programs, even though teen pregnancy is the leading cause for girls dropping out of high school.

Juvenile Justice
JCPC funding restored: $22.7M, same as House;
JCPC expansion funding: $200K (House: $1M);

Additional positions in DJJDP: $726K, same as House (detention staff, nurse, psychologists);

Street Gang Prevention Act funding: $10M, same as House;
Support Our Students program: $200K cut, same as House.
JCPC-related studies included in House and Senate budgets:
Sentencing Commission: JCPC program effectiveness;
JCPC Funding Formula study: To propose a more current formula.

Home Protection Pilot Program: $3M, to expand statewide (House: $2M);
Housing Trust Fund: $2M, same as House;
Housing 400 Initiative for disabled persons: $7M, same as House.

Key Bills
Juvenile Justice:
HB 2492: Amend Release of Juvenile Escape Info was returned to the House Judiciary III committee and amended to include only adjudicated youth, not those simply alleged of committing a crime, lessening the negative impact of the bill somewhat. The bill then passed the full House.
SB 1358: Street Gang Prevention Act has passed the Senate and House.
Child Maltreatment:
HB 2339/SB 1860: Amend Child Abuse will be heard in House Judiciary I Committee on Tuesday.
HB 2338/SB 1733: Hospital Report Child Injuries will be heard next in House Judiciary II Committee.
HB 2340: Transporting Children in the Open Bed of a Vehicle will be heard in House Judiciary I Committee on Tuesday.
HB 2487/SB 1891: Change Format of Drivers’ Licenses. Different versions of the bill have passed both houses. The House version will likely be taken up in the Senate.
HB 2341/SB 1736: Child Passenger Safety Technician Liability. Different versions of the bill have passed both houses. The House version will be taken up in Senate Judiciary I Committee.
SB 132: Protect Children from Sexual Predators Act expands scope of pornography laws, increases penalties for sexual exploitation of a minor, makes it illegal for registered sex offenders to access social networking sites online and forbids them to get name changes. The bill passed the Senate and House.
HB 2471/SB 1924: Require Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Passed House Insurance Committee and will go to House Judiciary II next.
HB 2254/SB 1669: Community Colleges/Tobacco Free. Passed Senate and first reading in the House and went to House Committee on Health.
HB 2253/SB 1686: Smoke-Free State and Local Bldg Grounds. Passed Senate.

Action Alerts
Health Choice
Please contact key Representatives and Senators who will be deciding which Health Choice proposal to go with over the next few days.
In the House: England, Insko, Alexander, Michaux and Earle
In the Senate: Basnight, Rand, Nesbitt and Dalton.
Message in the House: Stick to your original proposal. The Senate proposal does not make sense and is based on the falsehood that NC does not have enough federal funds to run the program this year.

Message in the Senate: Go with the House proposal. Mention the points outlined above:
A freeze is very harmful and has widespread negative repercussions, and
There is sufficient federal money now to fund the program almost to the end of next fiscal year, and everyone is expecting Congress to reauthorize and increase funding for this program before then (at least by March 2009). Many federal programs go through reauthorization processes: states don’t stop participating while that process is going on.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Percentage Increase(Alert from our friends at the NC Justice Center)
The House’s tax package includes an increase in the EITC percentage from 3.5 percent to five percent of the federal EITC. The Senate does not support this proposal, instead proposing a tax break for the wealthy: the elimination of the gift tax, which already applies only to gifts above $12,000 given to an individual person (spouses and nonprofits exempt).
Please contact your Representative and Senator to let them know you support tax credits for low-income working families, not tax breaks for the wealthy.

Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils Funding
The Senate and House have agreed to restore JCPC funding ($22.6M) but differ on the amount of expansion funding.
Please contact Senate and House leadership, as well as JPS Committee conferees in the House and Senate, to encourage them to fund the full $1M House-proposed expansion. These programs have not had an increase in almost a decade; as the state’s population grows, they are serving more children with the same amount of resources.

Medicaid Regulations: House Reaches Agreement with the White House
House negotiators have reached an agreement with the White House on an emergency supplemental package that, if enacted, would provide a temporary 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted their benefits and an extension of the moratoria on six of the seven Medicaid regulations (the one exception is the outpatient moratorium). The House approved the package, which now goes back to the Senate for action, likely next week.

Senators Introduce JJDPA Reauthorization Bill
Sens. Specter, Leahy and Kohl introduced legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, increasing funding for prevention, intervention and treatment programs to reduce the incidence of juvenile crime. The bill urges states to make key juvenile justice system improvements and establishes some guidelines, procedures and restrictions. It funds mental health and drug treatment programs for juvenile offenders and encourages states to address minority overrepresentation in the system. Improvement grants help states bring their systems into compliance with the Act.

Thank you,
Action for Children North Carolina

Action Alert: NC Against Domestic Violence


The NC Senate has passed their version of the state budget and funding for domestic violence priorities is NOT INCLUDED.
The House budget does include funding for domestic violence programs and for House Bill 44.
We need you to act now to ensure that domestic violence is included in the final budget.
Members of the Senate and House are meeting in conference TODAY to work out a final budget.
We need your help to ensure that the priority items on NCCADV’s 2008 Legislative Agenda receive funding.
* * * * * *
Please contact the legislators listed at the end of this e-mail TODAY and ask them to include the following priorities in the final budget. The members especially need to hear from you if you live in their district.
You can click on the name to send an e-mail or call the switchboard in Raleigh at 919.733.4111 and ask to speak with the legislator. Please leave a message if you reach the legislative assistant.

1. Please include funding for local domestic violence programs.
v Approximately 90 domestic violence programs in the state provide crisis intervention services for all 100 counties, including shelter, crisis counseling, court advocacy and support groups.
v At least 501 women, children, and men have been murdered as a result of domestic violence in NC from January 1, 2002 – June 4, 2008, according to information collected by the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
v NC ranks 11th in the nation for the number of per capita homicides committed by men against women in our state in 2005, according to the Violence Policy Center.
v Local domestic violence programs responded to over 119,000 crisis line calls and served over 47,000 victims in person in FY 2006, including 5,550 children who received shelter services, according to the CFW/DVC.
v Over 1,100 victims were denied shelter at local domestic violence programs in FY 2006 because of a lack of capacity, according to the CFW/DVC.

2. Please include funds for House Bill 44.
Summary: HB 44 strengthens the enforcement of protective orders by reducing the number of prior convictions required from 3 to 1 to charge an offender with a Class H felony for violation of a protective order.
v Violation of a domestic violence protective order is a serious crime and is a red flag to the court system that the offender may commit a homicide.
v If we expect offenders to obey domestic violence protective orders, violations must be strictly enforced with meaningful consequences.

v An offender who violates a domestic violence protective order not only offends the victim, but also offends the court by violating the judge's order.

v 83 women, men, and children were murdered in NC because of domestic violence in 2007.

v HB 44 will save lives.

Senate Conferees
Sen. Linda Garrou, Co-Chair (Forsyth)
Sen. Charles W. Albertson, Co-Chair (Duplin, Lenoir, Sampson)
Sen. Charlie Smith Dannelly, Co-Chair (Mecklenburg)
Sen. Bob Atwater (Chatham, Durham, Lee)
Sen. Doug Berger (Franklin, Granville, Vance, Warren)
Sen. Stan Bingham (Davidson, Guilford)
Sen. Julia Boseman (New Hanover)
Sen. Daniel G. Clodfelter (Mecklenburg)
Sen. Janet Cowell (Wake)
Sen. Walter H. Dalton (Cleveland, Rutherford)
Sen. Katie G. Dorsett (Guilford)
Sen. Tony Foriest (Alamance, Caswell)
Sen. Steve Goss (Alexander, Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes)
Sen. Malcolm Graham (Mecklenburg)
Sen. Kay R. Hagan (Guilford)
Sen. Fletcher L. Hartsell, Jr. (Cabarrus, Iredell)
Sen. David W. Hoyle (Gaston)
Sen. Ed Jones (Bertie, Chowan, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton, Perquimans)
Sen. John H. Kerr III (Greene, Pitt, Wayne)
Sen. Eleanor Kinnaird (Orange, Person)
Sen. Vernon Malone (Wake)
Sen. Floyd B. McKissick, Jr. (Durham)
Sen. Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. (Buncombe)
Sen. William R. Purcell (Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Stanly)
Sen. Joe Sam Queen (Avery, Haywood, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Yancey)
Sen. Tony Rand (Bladen, Cumberland)
Sen. Larry Shaw (Cumberland)
Sen. John Snow (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, Transylvania)
Sen. R. C. Soles, Jr. (Brunswick, Columbus, Pender)
Sen. Richard Stevens (Wake)
Sen. A. B. Swindell (Nash, Wilson)
Sen. David F. Weinstein (Hoke, Robeson)

House Conferees
Representative Michaux, Co-Chair (Durham)
Representative Adams, Co-Chair (Guilford)
Representative M. Alexander, Co-Chair (Mecklenburg)
Representative Crawford, Co-Chair (Granville, Vance)
Representative Haire, Co-Chair (Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain)
Representative Jeffus, Co-Chair (Guilford)
Representative Tolson, Co-Chair (Edgecombe, Wilson)
Representative Yongue, Co-Chair (Hoke, Robeson, Scotland)
Representative Holliman, Co-Chair (Davidson)
Representative Owens, Co-Chair (Camden, Currituck, Pasquotank, Tyrrell)
Representative McLawhorn (Pitt)

Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety:
Representative Bordsen (Alamance)
Representative Love (Harnett, Lee)
Representative Goodwin (Montgomery, Richmond)
Representative Kiser (Lincoln)
Representative Mobley (Bertie, Gates, Hertford, Perquimans)
Representative Spear (Chowan, Dare, Hyde, Washington)
Representative Sutton (Robeson)
Representative R. Warren (Alexander, Catawba)
Representative Ray (Iredell)

Thank you for your help!

If you need assistance or have any questions, please contact Beth Froehling at or 1.888.232.9124.

NC Latino Resource Guide

The Latino Resource Guide produced by the Networks and Wake County Human Services is now online at the Wake County government website. I know many of you are not in Wake County, but state-wide and national resources are listed/included as well in this document.
To access, click on the link: