Friday, May 16, 2008

NC Legislative Update: Friday Wrap Up

On Tuesday, May 13th State legislators headed back to Jones Street to begin the 2008 Legislative short session. The building was all a buzz between returning legislators and lobbyists the session was off to a fast start. This week and during the next few weeks it is all going to be about the budget.  

Press Conference Comments:

Representative Paul Stam during a Republican press conference on Tuesday, May 13 responded to a question about funding mental health services by pointing out that people with developmental disabilities were overlooked in the Governor’s budget. This was followed up by Senator Phil Berger speaking out this week for more training and recruitment of special education teachers. The Arc of North Carolina appreciates these two leaders support of families and people with developmental disabilities.

The Budget:

The Governor got the ball rolling on Monday when he presented his budget proposal. The Governor’s budget includes $68 million for Mental Health Services. Of that proposal is $4 million toward the START Crisis Model for people with developmental disabilities.
In Education the Governor’s proposal contains $12.5 billion for education from pre-K programs through University programs. The Governor’s budget did not include any additional funding for children with disabilities. During the 2007 academic year our State had 4,050 students with disabilities drop out of our high schools.

Health and Human Services Joint Appropriation Subcommittee:

There were two Health and Human Services Subcommittee meetings this week. The first took place on Wednesday, May 14 with Secretary Dempsey Benton presenting the DHHS budget proposal.

Secretary Benton presented the Crisis Service plan that is being put forth by the Division. For people with developmental disabilities, the long awaited funding proposal for START Model crisis program was presented. This will include nine (9) developmental disability teams linked to treatment facilities and 24 respite beds for people with developmental disabilities that will be housed at group homes instead of institutions.

On Thursday, May 15 the HHS Joint Subcommittee met again. This time it was legislative staff breaking down the Governor’s budget proposal. Representative Bob England chaired this meeting. Representative England let all the members know that the budget was on the fast track. After reviewing the line items budget requests Representative England opened the floor to committee members. Representative Beverly Earle requested that staff flag all expansion items in the Governor’s budget. Representative Earle continued by stating that, “It has come to my attention that there is no funding in this budget for new CAP/MR-DD Tier 1 slots.” Representative England followed up this comment by stating that, “There is an appropriation bill that addresses this funding request for CAP slots”. Both Representative England and Earle are primary sponsors on this appropriation bill. (Check out who else is supporting this bill-Action Alert)

At the end of the committee meeting it was announced that a joint committee appropriation report needs to ready for the big appropriation chairs by Wednesday, May 21, 2008. We are definitely in a sprint!

Education Appropriation Subcommittee:

The Governor’s budget proposal did not include any expansion in funding for children with special needs. In fact it shows a 2 million dollar reduction based on adjusted head count of children with special needs. There was also no funding to address the drop out situation in our State.

The good news is that the Governor’s budget was not received well by the committee members. In addition there are already several appropriation bills that will address the needs of special education students in our State. The majority of these bills are coming out of the Education Oversight Committee and the Dropout Study Commission.

Again leadership in the General Assembly have stepped up to address the critical need for increased funding for children with special needs. On Monday, May 19, 2008 two bills will be introduced in the House. The first is to raise the funding cap for special needs children from the current 12.5% to 12.75%. The second would be to increase supplemental funding for children with disabilities to $3,450.81 per child.

Action Alerts:

The Arc of North Carolina issued an action alert on Friday regarding the Senate and House Appropriation bill for funding for new CAP/MR-DD Slots.


County NC News said...

On June 10, during a press conference at the State Legislative Building, sponsors of House Bill 388 "Tax Credits for Children with Special Needs," felt compelled to move forward with the proposed legislation. Both State House and Senate members perceived a recent special needs education poll taken in North Carolina as a sign of support by the people for the bill's passage.

Julia Leggett said...

Dear County NC News,
Thanks for adding this comment to our Friday wrap-up.
The Arc of North Carolina, after very thoughtful and open debates, is supporting House Bill 388 Tax Credits for Children with Special Needs.
This bill was brought to us by parents whom we have worked with and supported and have had to make a difficult choice to homeschool their child.