Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NCGA Update: Two Bills of Interest Make It Out of Committee-Plus Budget Update

Two bills of importance to the disability community made it out of their respective committees today and are on the calendar tomorrow for a floor vote.

The first of these is Senate Bill 248: Update Archaic Disability Terms. This bill is being sponsored by Senator Fletcher Hartsell and it comes out of the General Statues Commission. The People First Language bill directed the General Statutes Commission to review all existing general statues and to update disability language as recommended. This is the first bill to come out of that study. The bill was heard today in the Senate Health committee and it received a unanimous favorable report.

The second bill is House Bill 234: Juror Qualifications/Disabilities. This bill will update a current state statute that prohibits people who are deaf of hard of hearing from serving on juries. Although the Administration of Courts has been using the federal laws, including ADA to provide equal access to the jury process, it is more than time that we bring our state statute into line with the federal laws. The second part of the bill will permit any person with a disability who feels that they can not adequately serve as a juror to request to be excused, to defer or be exempted from jury duty by making a signed statement of the request including a brief explanation of the disability. This bill also received a unanimous favorable report by the House Judiciary A committee. It will be on the House floor for a vote tomorrow.

Budget Updates:

This week the House and Senate Joint Health and Human Services Appropriation Subcommittee met to discuss the governor's budget. During the Tuesday meeting a motion was made to vote on the proposed governor's budget and to accept it as a starting point for further cuts. This was a very unusual motion to be made by the committee. Chairman Nelson Dollar explained to committee members that they still need to find an additional 357 million dollars in cuts to get to their targets.

The remainder of the weeks presentations will focus on Medicaid and CCNC. There has been no indication from the chairs as to when the actual budget process will begin or how it will work.

However, we did get a bit of insight into what might happen next from the Joint Education Appropriation Subcommittee. Today this subcommittee held its last information/presentation appropriation meeting. They will now begin the process of working with staff on a subcommittee budget report. The next called meeting will be to show that report.

Former Governor Sighting:

Governor Jim Hunt was in the General Assembly today educating the new leadership on the importance of Smart Start. Smart Start is the signature education program from Governor Hunt's administration.

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