Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Arc of North Carolina September Legislative Update

This month’s legislative update will cover a review of the North Carolina General Assembly’s Special Session, the first Joint Legislative Oversight Committee Meeting on Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Services Reform and an update on SCHIP, ADA Restoration Act and CMS proposed rules changes.

General Assembly Special Session
On Tuesday September 11, 2007 the House and Senate adjourned closing both the Special and Extra Special Session. The following legislation passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Mike Easley.
House Bill 4-Session Law 2007-552 Extra Session is titled: Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund. This legislation will allocate $60 million from the General Fund to the Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund. The Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund will have an allocation of $5 million for the 2008-2009 Fiscal Budget.
This legislation passed the House with a vote of Ayes 61 No 44 and passed the Senate with a vote of Ayes 25 and No 16.

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee MH/DD/SA
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee for MH/DD/SAS Reform met on Tuesday, September 25, 2007. The agenda included a formal introduction of Secretary Dempsey Benton who is replacing Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom and Secretary of DHHS Secretary Benton stated that he is looking forward to working with the Legislative Oversight Committee on improving MH DD SA. He stated that Governor Easley had an overriding goal for the department to do as much as possible to fix the MH DD SA system, enhance accountability and identify long term structural improvements.
Dr. Alice Lin gave an overview of her report on the state of LMEs and the overall progress of MH/DD/SA system reform. Dr. Lin pointed to the speed at which NC moved through system reform. She stressed that it takes time for reform to take hold. Lin spoke to the need to develop provider capacity in implementing the remaining crisis services and in brining SA into the system. During Dr. Lin’s presentation she did briefly address the urgent need to look at developmental disability services and to maybe look at moving them out of MH/SA. The second section of the meeting agenda was dedicated to the closure of the state psychiatric hospitals. The final topic on the agenda was a report from different state departments. These included a review of the Housing 400 initiative, a report on the increase in CAP slots and the need for LMEs to focus on ways to move people with developmental disabilities centers into the community.
The next Joint Legislative Oversight Committee meeting is scheduled for October 31, 2007. The main focus of this meeting will be Substance Abuse Services.

Federal Policy Updates
SCHIP – State Children’s Health Insurance Program
SCHIP compromise legislation (H.R. 976) was passed by both the House and the Senate this month. The legislation would authorize an additional $35 billion over the next five years to increase the number of children enrolled in SCHIP from 6 million to 10 million. Funding for this legislation will come from a 61-cent increase in the federal tobacco tax. This compromise legislation included a 6-month moratorium on implementation of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) proposed rule changes. These rule changes would affect Medicaid’s rehab option and school based services.
North Carolina Senators voted as follows:
No Vote: Senator Elizabeth Dole and Senator Richard Burr
North Carolina Representatives voted as follows:Voting Yes: Representatives Butterfield (D 1st), Price (D 4th), Miller (D 13th), Shuler (D 11th) and Watt (D 12th).Voting No: Representatives Coble (R 6th), Etheridge (D 2nd), Foxx (R 5th), Hayes (R 8th), Jones (R 3rd), McHenry (R 10th), McIntyre (D 7th), and Myrick (R 9th).

ADA Restoration Act
H.R. 3195, the ADA Restoration Act
During the month of September, The Arc of the United States and other leading disability rights organizations have been working on securing sponsors for this legislation. This bill must get through four different committees in the House that have jurisdiction over the ADA. The first of these hearings will occur on Thursday, October 4. The ADA Restoration Act will restore the intent of this legislation that has been eroded by recent Supreme Court rulings.
The following North Carolina Representatives have signed on to support this legislation: Representative G.K. Butterfield (D 1st), Bob Etheridge (D 2nd), David Price (D 4th), Howard Coble (R 6th), and Brad Miller (D 13th).

Medicaid/CMS Proposed Rules Update
The Arc and UCP signed on to a letter along with other school and disability groups to have Congress agree to a 1-year moratorium on CMS rules on administrative and transportation claiming under Medicaid for special education students.
Continuing Resolution Update
The Congress passed and the President signed a Continuing Resolution that kept the government functioning under the budget for the previous fiscal year. The agreement that will continue until November 16, 2007 secures funding for all current government programs including SCHIP.

In depth articles on these topics are located in the blog archive. You can access this archive by scrolling down the left side of this page.

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