Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Arc of North Carolina 2007 Legislative Review

As The Arc of North Carolina prepares for its annual convention, which starts tomorrow, we want to share this legislative review with the community.

The legislative session has ended. It was a long session and lots of policy moved through to the Governor’s desk. The Arc of North Carolina with our coalition partners was instrumental in lobbying for important policy issues that effect people with disabilities in our state.

Bills that Made it to the Governor’s Desk:

The following bills passed the state house this session and were signed by the governor. The Arc of North Carolina actively supported these bills.

HB 91: Same Day Voter Registration.
The Arc working with NC Fair Share, Democracy North Carolina, and Alliance of Disability Advocates this legislation will permit people to register to vote and cast their ballots at early voting sites across the state. Early voting sites in our state are HAVA accessible.

HB 915: Offer Sign Language in Schools and Colleges
The Arc supported this legislation with our coalition partners including Alliance of Disability Advocates, The Autism Society of North Carolina and the North Carolina Association of the Deaf. This bill made American Sign Language a modern foreign language and encourages our high schools, colleges and universities to offer American Sign Language classes.

SB 753: Disability History and Awareness Month
Alliance of Disability Advocates, North Carolina Youth Leadership Network, The Arc of North Carolina, the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities and the MS Society of North Carolina supported this important legislation. October is now Disability History and Awareness Month. Disability history and culture will now be integrated into the standing curriculum of our public schools during the month of October. North Carolina is the third state to pass this ground breaking legislation.

HB 554: Assault Disabled Person/Institutional Setting
This legislation raised the criminal penalty for assaulting a person with a disability in an institution from a misdemeanor to a felony.

SB 1147: Dealer MV Inspections/Records/MV Registration
The Arc worked to insert an amendment in this bill that would make it easier for persons with severe profound disabilities, who do not drive but may purchase a vehicle, to register that vehicle by proxy.

Bills we need to continue to work on that are eligible for the Legislative Short Session:

HB 12: Students Inelligible for Special Education Protection.
This bill protects a narrow group of students with disabilities who are entitled to special education services and protection under the law. This bill prevents school systems from automatically suspending unidentified students with disabilities when school systems failed to identify and serve these children. This bill was approved by the House Select Committee on Education of Students with Disabilities and received a favorable report from the House Education Committee before passing the House this session. This legislation is now awaiting a Senate Education Committee hearing.

HB 1366: School Violence Prevention Act.
This bill made it through the House and a stripped down version made it through the Senate. It returned to the House to be re-referred to Judiciary I. This legislation is also known as the “Bullying Bill”. The bill would standardize the definition of bullying and harassing behavior and it lists the students most vulnerable in our school system. The list includes students with disabilities.

SB 388: Fair Housing Act Amendment.
This bill made it through the Senate committee on Commerce/Entrepreneurship/Small Business only to get derailed at the Senate Appropriations committee. This legislation would remove

Additional Policy:
The following policy issue was not a bill but was brought to our attention by a member of the disability community.

The Arc of NC also worked with the Insurance Commission on issues regarding the new insurance rates for modified vehicles. The Commissioner of Insurance is working to correct a rule change that made medically modified vehicles fall under the same risk assessment as modified street vehicles. We are keeping up with these changes and will notify when changes happen.

Study Bills:
We are currently advocating that this legislation be studied during the session break.
HB 1641: Study Disabled Access to UNC Facilities.
This bill passed the House Committee on Education and was included in both the House and Senate Study Bills. This legislation will study accessibility for students with disabilities on all sixteen UNC campuses. The study will also look at models of accessibility, such as the ones being used at the University of Illinois and how we can make these models a reality in North Carolina.

The Budget:
DHHS Budget
The Arc lobbied an amendment to increase the number of CAP slots in the Senate budget to 300 CAP slots. In the final budget we were able to hold those 300 CAP slots. The Arc also expressed our concerns regarding the Special Provisions on sliding fee scales and CAP/MR-DD Co-Pays. The outcome on the sliding fees scales was satisfactory with the rates beginning at 300% above poverty level. The CAP/MR-DD Co-Pay will be studied first by the Department of Health and Human Services. There will be public hearings on this issue and we will notify our membership of these meetings. The results of the study will then be presented to the General Assembly before any co-pay schedule is put in place. The Arc will be closely monitoring the progress of this policy.

Education Budget
The budget allocated $5,000,000 for the 07-08 and 08-09 fiscal years to LEAs to support special education and related services for students with identified disabilities. This increases the funding factor by $42.01 per student in funded headcount bringing factor to $3,199.57 per student.

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