LEGISLATIVE REPORT - March 5, 2019
Last week kicked off with Governor Cooper’s State of the State address to the General Assembly, where he reinforced familiar themes, including Medicaid expansion, increased spending on education and rural broadband. Cooper also called for more cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.
Despite the calls for harmony, some of the most contentious policy battles continued to heat up. A group of legislators, including Rep. Gale Adcock, a nurse practitioner, introduced the SAVE Act, which would remove the requirement for physician supervision from advanced practice nurses (APRNs) like nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and certified nurse anesthetists.
As expected, another group of legislators – Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell), Rep. Julia Howard, (R-Davie), Rep. Bill Brisson (R-Bladen) and Rep. Gale Adcock (D-Wake) – introduced legislation to halt State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s changes to the State Health Plan. The changes, which Folwell says would save the Plan millions, include tying providers rates to Medicare rates. Providers and hospitals claim that the changes would close hospitals and impact access for state employees. The new bill would create a commission to study potential changes to the State Health Plan, while prohibiting any changes to the current status quo while the study is being conducted.
The fight over ABC privatization also switched into high gear as a group of legislators, police chiefs and advocacy groups held a press conference to oppose as-yet introduced changes. The opponents cited concerns about increased alcohol access and consumption that they say would result from privatization, as well as lost local government revenues. Dan House, president of the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police and Wrightsville Beach police chief, said his town currently gets about $500,000 annually from ABC store revenues. As mentioned in previous issues, Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) has vowed to introduce a bill this session to privatize North Carolina’s ABC system.
On the Medicaid front, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) gave an update on major legislative initiatives to the Joint Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services. The presentation focused on major policy goals, including Medicaid transformation, ways to attack the opioid crisis and the new Early Childhood Action Plan. The plan got a high-profile kick-off on Wednesday when researchers, policymakers, philanthropists, and early childhood leaders joined Governor Cooper, Governor Hunt and Secretary Cohen in Raleigh. It was developed in response to an executive order from Cooper and provides ten goals around early childhood health, development, and learning, along with measures for tracking progress for each goal.
For those who want to see a bit more of the legislative process, a new bill was introduced last week to televise N.C. House sessions. House Bill 218 would install video equipment in the House chamber to stream legislative sessions and to make archived footage available to the public. According to the bill’s sponsors, North Carolina is one of only seven states without online video streams of legislative sessions.
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