Feb 26, 2016

NCGA Week in Review

This week, several legislative oversight committees met to discuss legislative issues facing the state. The committees heard presentations from key stakeholders and state government departments. These committees, and others, will continue to meet during the interim. The legislative session will begin on April 25th.

Economic Development

Yesterday, after hearing presentations on a potential bill draft, the Program Evaluation Subcommittee on Economic Development directed the Program Evaluation Division (PED) staff to make changes to a draft bill. The draft bill that will be presented at the next subcommittee meeting would establish a commission, headed by the Department of Commerce, to study the current economic development tiers and a newly proposed index system. The commission would have to make recommendations by 2018 on the best criteria and method of county ranking to use when determining which counties will receive aid from various state programs. The draft legislation would also allow the Department of Commerce to adopt and immediately begin to implement its newly proposed index system, also presented in committee, in place of the current tier system up until the commission makes it recommendation in 2018.

The potential legislation comes from the idea that the current tier system, which ranks counties either a 1, 2, or 3, is outdated. Currently, a county could be ranked a Tier 3, meaning they are overall an affluent county, even though there are economically distressed communities within the county. Tier 3 counties do not receive some of the state aid that does go to Tier 1 or 2 counties.

When the committee meets again next month, the PED staff plans to have changes made to a bill draft prepared for the members that combines recommendations from both the PED staff and the Department of Commerce. Also at the next subcommittee meeting the subcommittee will vote on the proposed legislation.

Click the links below to read more about the work that the PED and the Department of Commerce are doing to reform the current tier system.

Dept. of Commerce: Recommendations on Addressing Tiers & Distress

PED: Presentation on Findings, Recommendations, and Differences

PED: Recommendations & Critique of the Dept. of Commerce Recommendations


The House Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practices met on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss, early childhood education, principal leadership, and the federal reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Several presentations were made on early childhood education and the long term effects of pre-k education.

Director of the Office of Early Learning with DPI, John Pruette highlighted that the economic return on investment with pre-k programs has been determined to be $16 for every dollar invested.

Vice President of the South Regional Education Board (SREB), Joan Lord presented the SREB Early Childhood Commission Final Report to the committee. The Early Childhood Education Commission is charged to recommend policies for SREB states that would give more young children a solid start when they start school.

Dr. Dale Farran and Dr. Mark Lipsey from the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University, proposed that the studies on the long term effects of pre-k are not conclusive. Farrah and Lipsey suggested that there may be more effective ways to support the positive development of disadvantaged children.

President of the N.C. Partnership for Children, Cindy Watkins presented to the committee on the Smart Start program, an early childhood education program which works to set a strong foundation for pre-kindergarten aged children. Studies of Smart Start have shown that the program improves brain development when children are young and have higher brain plasticity.

Sydney Atkinson of the Division of Public Health Women’s Health Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) presented to the committee on the Teen Pregnancy Intervention Initiatives (TPPI) across the state. TPPIs have been shown to have positive outcomes for both teen parents and their children.

The committee heard from a panel of presenters on the importance of leadership in creating lasting change in failing schools. Betty Fry, a Senior Leadership Consultant at SREBV presented the SREB model to prepare principals to improve student achievement. Three principals on the panel expressed the importance of working directly with students and families to change the dynamic structure of a school. Dr. Shirley Prince of the N. C. Alliance of School Leadership Development noted that no failing school in the state has had successful turnaround with a strong principal.

Last, Federal Affairs Counsel at the National Council of State Legislatures, Lee Posey and Director of K-12 Reform at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Clair Vorhees provided the committee with a briefing on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as well as the state’s role in the implementation of the ESSA. The ESSA makes several changes for states regarding state legislative involvement as well as providing a new approach for accountability.

Health & Human Services

Joint Subcommittee on Statewide Early Education and Family Support Programs

The Subcommittee on Statewide Early Education and Family Support Programs, a subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health & Human Services met on Thursday. The subcommittee heard testimony and presentations on the state’s early education system, including NC Pre-K, Smart Start, and the child care subsidy program.

The subcommittee received an overview of the current early childhood education programs from John Pruette, the director of the Office of Early Learning within the Department of Public Instruction. Additionally, the subcommittee heard testimony from local early education leaders on their perspectives of how the state currently handles the early childhood programs and what recommendations they have to help them run more smoothly.

Last, the subcommittee received a presentation from Samuel L. Odom from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill and Kenneth A. Dodge from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University on the effectiveness and outcomes of early childhood education and family support programs.

Click here and here to review the information they presented to the subcommittee.

Joint Subcommittee on Justice & Public Safety and Behavioral Health

The Joint Subcommittee on Justice & Public Safety and Behavioral Health, made up of members from the Joint Legislative Oversight Committees on Health & Human Services and Justice & Public Safety, met on Thursday to hear about the work being done by Governor McCrory’s Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

The task force, established by Executive Order 76, aims to address in a comprehensive approach the better use of the state’s existing resources and to break down silos between government agencies and the private sector in order to better address mental illness and substance use disorders among the state’s citizens.

Read more detail about the task force’s work here.

Additionally, the committee received a presentation on Vivitrol, an injectable form of naltrexone. Naltrexone is a medication that is used to help prevent relapses into alcohol and opioid dependence. Typically naltrexone is found in the form of an oral medication, but the supporters of the injectable Vivitrol argue that a monthly injection, instead of having to remember to take a daily pill, is much more likely going to prevent a person from relapsing.

The subcommittee will not meet again. They concluded the meeting by voting on a draft report of their findings and recommendations. This report will be presented to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committees on Health & Human Services and Justice & Public Safety for any action on the subcommittee’s recommendations.

Draft Final Report: Joint Study of Justice & Public Safety and Behavioral Health Subcommittee

Strategic Transportation Planning

The House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions met on Monday to discuss several transportation concerns facing the state as it continues to grow. Several subcommittees also met on Monday to discuss the specific needs of the state.

The full committee discussed the changing demographic of the state as well as the 2016 Transportation Debt Affordability Study.

Rebecca Tippet, the Director of Carolina Demography with the UNC Population Center, discussed the recent population growth trends in the state as well as future predictions. In her presentation, Tippet highlighted that population growth will continue to be seen primarily in the triangle region and Charlotte. Currently more than 40% of working North Carolinians work in Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Durham and Forsyth.

Deputy Treasurer of the State and Local Government Finance Division of the State Treasurer, Greg Gaskins, presented the 2016 Transportation Debt Affordability study. The Debt Affordability Committee annually advices the Governor and the General Assembly of the debt capacity of the General Fund and Highway Trust Fund for the upcoming ten years. The committee does not make recommendations regarding the use of available debt capacity.

Primary & Secondary Subcommittees

The Primary and Secondary System Subcommittees met jointly to discuss maintenance and construction issues facing the state with several industry representatives. The industry representatives each presented about their industry or association, their contributions to the state’s growth and maintenance of roads, and what they would like from the state.

Public Transportation & Aviation Subcommittee

The Public Transportation and Aviation Subcommittee met to discuss the public transportation needs of the state as metropolitan areas of the state continue to grow. The committee was focused on modes of public transportation.

The General Manager of GoTriangle, Jeff Mann, presented an update on the Durham-Orange Light Rail Project. Ridership with GoTriangle public transportation has grown from 1 million riders in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2015. The Durham-Orange Light Rail Project is a fixed guideway transit project that will run a 17-mile track. The project’s route was specifically designed to serve Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill and the UNC health care system. The light rail project plans to address the explosive growth in the triangle and increased congestion. The initial capital cost of the light rail project is $1.6 billion with annual maintenance and operating costs of $18 million. By 2040, GoTriangle estimates that the light rail will serve 23,000 daily riders.

Ports & Rails Subcommittee

The Ports and Rails Subcommittee met to discuss the freight railroad industry.

Franklin Rouse Jr, Chairman of the N.C. Railroad (NCRR) Company board presented to the committee on the freight rail corridor that runs from Charlotte to Morehead City – a total 317 miles of track. NCRR has worked with the state to expand freight rail service in N.C.

Carl Hollowell of the Railway Association of N.C. (RANC) Board of Directors discussed freight rail’s benefits to the state and infrastructure needs of freight rail tracks. There are a total 2,500 miles of freight rail tracks in N.C., employing 2,600 people in the state and serving 89 counties. The freight industry carries 1.7 million carloads of freight per year, equivalent to 6 million truck loads. RANC projects that the state’s freight rail needs will double by 2020 to support future growth. RANC projects a $5M per year public investment through N.C. Department of Transportation Rail Division to maintain and update freight rail.

The committee with reconvene on March 7, 2016.

Step Therapy

Continuing the discussion from the January committee meeting, the House Select Committee on Step Therapy met again on Wednesday to continue the discussion of step therapy protocols in the context of House Bill 821, Proper Administration of Step Therapy.

At the meeting four physicians testified against the current step therapy protocols in the state, and identified their support of HB 821, which supporters say will improve step therapy protocols in the state. The physicians, whose practices all focus primarily on patients with chronic conditions such as psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis, state that the step therapy protocols need to be limited and streamlined in order to prevent patients with chronic illnesses from becoming worse due to taking ineffective medications, as required step therapy protocols.

Proponents of step therapy, primarily pharmacy benefit managers and insurers, state that step therapy enhances cost savings and keeps them from having to pay for unnecessarily expensive medications.

The committee will meet again in March.

A Look Ahead to Next Week

Tuesday, February 29

  • Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC Health Choice - 9:00am
  • Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee & Subcommittee on Dental Board Case - 9:30am
  • Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy - 1:00pm
  • Joint Legislative Workforce Development System Reform Oversight Committee - 1:30pm

Wednesday, March 2

  • Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance – 9:30am

Thursday, March 3

  • Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology – 1:00pm

Friday, March 4

  • Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee – 9:00am


Harry Kaplan
Senior Vice President

Jeff Barnhart
Senior Vice President

Franklin Freeman
Senior Vice President

Bo Heath
Senior Vice President

John Merritt
Senior Vice President

Johnny Tillett
Senior Vice President

Kerri Burke
Vice President

Jillian Totman
Assistant Vice President

Sarah Wolfe
Assistant Vice President