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Dec 2, 2022

North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

This week, Governor Roy Cooper (D) spoke at the North Carolina Medium- and Heavy-Duty (MHD) Electric Vehicle State Policy Bootcamp and Showcase hosted by the Electrification Coalition to highlight the importance of electrifying MHD vehicles in North Carolina.

“North Carolina has already made great progress in electric vehicle manufacturing, and we’re well-positioned to be at the head of the global market transition to zero-emission vans, buses and trucks,” Governor Cooper said.

North Carolina has made progress in the clean energy sector this year. Over the summer, electric vehicle manufacturer, VinFast, announced they were building a manufacturing facility in Chatham County. Last month, the Department of Environmental Quality announced they were awarding $6.8 million to fund the infrastructure and building of 104 new electric vehicle charging stations along North Carolina highways. In October, DEQ announced that they were changing out 161 school buses and deploying at least 43 new electric powered school buses. 

While Governor Cooper focused on highlighting the state's achievements in the clean energy sector, and even made a trip to Washington, DC, to speak at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, which came from a North Carolina farmer, the General Assembly has turned their attention to the state's education system.

New Laws

Several new laws passed by the legislature this year took effective this week, including: 

House Bill 252: Bail Bond/Bondsmen Provisions/Other Changes includes various clarifying and technical sections that become law this week while the remainder of the bill went into effect earlier this year. 

House Bill 315: Arson Law Revisions provides descriptive changes to the laws currently on the books, including expanding the definition of “places of worship” to include synagogues, temples, longhouses and mosques, and increases the punishment for certain arson offenses.

House Bill 607: Various Court Changes makes several changes to the General Statutes requested by the Administrative Office of the Courts. One provision that went into effect this week gives magistrate additional authority to accept domestic violence ex parte orders or civil no-contact orders when a clerk’s office is closed.

House Bill 615: Jordan’s Law makes changes to the state’s domestic violence-related rules by removing enforcement gaps in domestic violence protective orders while waiting on courts to act. If a hearing for renewing a domestic violence protective order is scheduled for a date after the current order is set to expire, then a judge can temporarily renew the existing order, given they receive an ex parte application from the plaintiff. This could extend the order either to the date of the renewal hearing or 30 days from the date of expiration, whichever happens first.

House Bill 674: Require DNA Various Convictions/Other Matters also makes changes to the state’s domestic violence-related rules by requiring DNA samples from anyone convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of various domestic violence and assault offenses. During this summer's bill signing, Governor Roy Cooper said it would “strengthen the state’s DNA database used to catch criminals by including domestic violence and assault crimes.” Another provision of the bill, which went into effect earlier this year, prevents sexual assault victims from being billed for forensic exams related to their assault.

House Bill 911: Regulatory Reform Act of 2022 contains several provisions adjusting state regulations that went into effect this week, including conforming the state standards for lead dust clearance levels to federal standards.

Senate Bill 201: Various Motor Vehicle and Transportation Law Changes incorporates requests made by the Department of Transportation, auto dealers, among other stakeholders, including the creation of a Class I felony for anyone possessions a stolen catalytic converter.

Senate Bill 339: 2022 Wildlife Resources Commission Amendments comes at the request of the Wildlife Resources Commission, in response to recent wildlife disease outbreaks throughout the state, and provides the Commission with the authority to charge an individual with a misdemeanor if that person breaks rules the Commission creates to respond to a wildlife disease emergency.

Senate Bill 424: Private Protective Services Licensing Modifications makes various changes to the definitions and classifications of private protective service personnel.

Senate Bill 766: Organized Retail Theft enforces more serious felonies when the value of property over a 90-day period exceeds $50,000. Crimes of “organized retail theft,” which include professional shoplifting and retail crime rings where a thief does not act alone, are already on the books, but now, store owners can recover stolen goods more quickly and sue thieves for specific damages.

Education Oversight Meeting

The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee met Tuesday to hear updates on the state’s Read to Achieve program that became state law in 2012 and was reformed during last year’s legislative session with the Excellent Public Schools Act. Dr. Michael Maher, Deputy State Superintendent of Standards, Accountability, and Research at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and Amy Rhyne, Director of the Office of Early Learning within DPI, gave lawmakers a presentation on the department’s progress responding to the legislation. The good news, according to Rhyne, was that North Carolina’s K-2 students are catching back up to pre-pandemic literacy levels quicker than other states. However, their data showed that just 47% of third grade students were proficient in reading last school year.

Representative John Torbett (R-Gaston) asked the presenters when the state could expect to see high levels of reading proficiency among third graders. Dr. Maher spoke to the Excellent Public Schools Act, and the literacy coaches they have hired in every school district, and soon to be every school. Dr. Maher told committee members he was not comfortable providing a timeline for proficiency, but said he felt that when the literacy coaches model was fully implemented, meaning as this year’s kindergarteners move along over the next three years and become third graders, he expects “to see extremely significant results.”

The committee also discussed the millions of dollars of federal funds that were initially allocated for learning loss recovery but have not yet been spent by school districts. Representative Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), the committee co-chair, urged the DPI representatives to look to the districts and help them find ways to “up our game” on addressing learning loss.

Teacher Pay Changes

The State Board of Education held their monthly meeting Thursday, and unanimously approved a motion that will potentially change the way teachers are paid. Since 2021, the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC), which is made up of dozens of education stakeholders throughout North Carolina, has been working on a draft model for a new multi-level licensure system. The model would base educator compensation on effectiveness instead of the current system of linking compensation to the number of years a teacher works. Effectiveness would be based on student growth, which would be measured by principal and student reviews, as well as tests. The state board has also been examining ways to reform the way the state measures growth and accountability.

So far, no model has been formally built out. The motion is just the first step and allows the state board to receive the “Blueprint for Action” which is a representation of the work PEPSC has completed so far. Van Dempsey, who leads the PEPSC, told board members this week that the Commission needed the state board to formally request changes to the way teachers are licensed and paid before they could finalize a model. The motion called on State Superintendent Catherine Truitt (R) to identify how the Blueprint aligns with the goals and objectives of both the state board and the Department of Public Instruction, which Truitt oversees. The motion also asks PEPSC to make recommendations on policies or rules that would be necessary to implement field testing or piloting of the Blueprint.

The current Blueprint for Action includes ten action points, including recommending higher compensation for educators and securing funding for new infrastructure for schools and districts. Neither the State Board of Education nor the Department of Public Instruction can unilaterally change the way teachers are licensed and compensated. Instead, they will hear PEPSC’s final recommendations and subsequently make their own recommendations for legislation to the General Assembly.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Tuesday, December 6
3:00PM: House Select Committee on Advancing Women in STEM