Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NCGA: Finance Package Update

We have been receiving word that the House and Senate are very close to a negotiated finance package.
Looks like we may see it tomorrow with the budget being rolled out on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week.

NCGA: SB 293 Juror Qualifications/Electronic Juror List

This bill was heard on the House floor yesterday and after much heated debate a motion to re-refer was presented by Representative Faison.  This bill has been heard by three committees and received a unanimous favorable report from each committee. It also was voted on by the Senate 49 Yes to 0 Nayes.

The bill will be in House Ways and Means today at 1pm a committee that has already discussed this bill. Representative Faison will be presenting an amendment on the bill and advocates are very concerned that this amendment will again pull us out of compliance with the ADA.

It is becoming clear to many in the disability community that there is still much education to be done regarding basic civil rights for people with disabilities. It is sad since 19 years ago President Bush signed into law the most comprehensive civil rights legislation for people with disabilities, The Americans with Disabilities Act.

NCGA: Senate Finance Meeting Update

Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee met to present the concepts behind their soon to be released finance package. The basics include broadening the tax base by taxing services that are not currently taxed and lowering the individual income tax.  We are still waiting for an actual bill.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

Continuing Resolution:
It is looking more and more like we will need to have a third continuing resolution in order to keep state government operating.  Currently we have a continuing resolution that sets the spending at 84% of the current FY 2008-2009 budget.  We expect that the next continuing resolution will again lower that percentage. The current CR will expire at midnight on July 31, 2009.

After Governor Perdue stated that she would not support any budget with an income tax surcharge on all workers, budget negotiations came to a standstill and the long awaited finance/revenue package became history.  This week we expect House and Senate leadership to begin to work on a new revenue package. With the delay in passing a budget, we expect to start hearing about more services being cut to people with developmental disabilities. We are also anticipating that providers of critical services will begin to see delays in receiving payments for services provided. 
We will keep you updated on all developments.

Bills of Interest:
Senate Bill 293: Juror Qualifications/Electronic Juror List (Deaf Juror Bill) will be on the House calendar tonight for its second and third reading. This bill had received considerable attention regarding the original floor debate. We are continuing to request that you use the Action Alert on this blog to contact your Representative and ask them to vote yes for the bill.

Friday, July 24, 2009

NCGA: Budget Update-Negotiations Begin Again

Yesterday, Governor Bev Perdue objected to the 2 percent income tax surcharge effectively killing the compromise agreement between the House and Senate.

What this means is that the finance package that had taken so long to be agreed upon is now off "the table" and we are back to square one.

Currently North Carolina's government is running under a continuing resolution that sets spending at 84 percent of the current budget (FY 2008-2009).  This current continuing resolution is slated to expire on July 31.  We had hoped that the budget would be voted on by no later than Thursday evening and that a third continuing resolution would not be needed.  That scenario is no longer valid. We are getting reports that a third continuing resolution is being worked on right now.

We received reports today that negotiations will not begin again until Tuesday. We are hoping this is incorrect and that leaders of the House and Senate will understand the importance of coming to a compromise finance plan sooner rather than later.

As we receive more information we will be posting it here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

NCGA Update: Senate Bill 810: Affordable Housing/No Discrimination Passes Last Committee Heading to House Floor

Today the House Judiciary III committee gave a favorable report to Senate Bill 810: Affordable Housing/No Discrimination.

Senate Bill 810 makes it a violation of the NC Fair Housing Act to discriminate in land-use decisions or permitting of developments based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicapping condition, familial status, or the development contains affordable housing for families or individuals below 80% of area median income. 

SB 810 is supported by a broad cross section of NC organizations:
• NC Home Builders Association
• NC Housing Coalition
• Apartment Association of NC
• ARC of NC
• NC Association of Realtors
• Disability Rights NC
• NC Justice Center

We sincerely thank Senator Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) for leading this effort this session.

NCGA: HHS Budget

HHS Budget:
So far there have been no notice of Appropriation Subcommittees meeting to present their conference reports. If we get a notice we will post it here.

NCGA: Budget Wrap Up Now in Sight

This week the House and Senate Democrats hammered out a finance package that would bring in close to $990 million in revenue. This agreement ends the battle over how to raise revenue in order to offset some of the most devastating cuts in Health and Human Services and Education.

The revenue plan will call for a 1-cent increase in the sales tax, a 2 percent surcharge on personal and corporate income tax liability, a tax on items downloaded over the Internet, a 10-cent per pack increase on cigarettes, an increase in the beer excise tax of 5 cents per six pack, a 4-cent per bottle tax in wine, and a 4 percent increase on tax on liquor. The sales tax increase does not have a sunset clause however, the income tax surcharge would expire in two years.

We are expecting to see finance meetings on Thursday or Friday. Yesterday, Representative Holliman stated to Laura Leslie (WUNC) that the budget conference report would be presented on Monday with votes occurring on Tuesday and Wednesday. If this happens as planned there will be no need for any additional continuing resolutions.

We expect to see House and Senate committee meetings begin to close down starting Monday.
After a very difficult session it looks like we are at an end.

Monday, July 20, 2009

NAD-National Association of the Deaf-Post on SB 293

The National Association of the Deaf has written a blog post regarding the House debate on SB 293. This post includes the unofficial transcript of the proceedings.

It is an interesting read. Take a look and then take action by calling your Representative and asking for them to vote YES on Senate Bill 293: Juror Qualifications/Electronic Juror List.

If your Representative is Representative Rick Glazier, Representative Deborah Ross or Representative Ruth Samuelson, please take a moment to send them a "Thank You" for speaking in favor of Senate Bill 293.

NCGA: Action Alert Senate Bill 293 Juror Qualifications/Electronic Juror List :Take Action Today!


Take Action Today! Call Your North Carolina House Representative! Tell Them To Vote Yes on Senate Bill 293: Juror Qualifications/Electronic Juror List


Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, a juror cannot be excluded from service simply because he or she is deaf.

Senate Bill 293: Juror Qualifications/Electronic Juror List changes our existing law to permit people who are deaf to serve as juror.

This legislation also specifies that if a person who is deaf is selected as a juror that the court will appoint a qualified interpreter to interpret the proceedings to the deaf person.

The United States Supreme Court recognized in Tennessee v. Lane that:

It is not difficult to perceive the harm that Title II [of the ADA] is designed to address. Congress enacted Title II against a backdrop of pervasive unequal treatment in the administration of state services and programs, including systematic deprivations of fundamental rights. For example, "[a]s of 1979, most States . . . categorically disqualified 'idiots' from voting, without regard to individual capacity."  The majority of these laws remain on the books, and have been the subject of legal challenge as recently as 2001. Similarly, a number of States have prohibited and continue to prohibit persons with disabilities from engaging in activities such as  . . .serving as jurors. . . .  The decisions of other courts, too, document a pattern of unequal treatment in the administration of a wide range of public services, programs, and activities, including the penal system, public education, and voting. Notably, these decisions also demonstrate a pattern of unconstitutional treatment in the administration of justice. 

Senate Bill 293 will bring our state into compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tell Them:

To vote YES for Senate Bill 293: Juror Qualifications/Electronic Juror List.

This legislation will bring North Carolina law into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Currently in the United States there are approximately 100 deaf practicing attorneys and three seated deaf US judges. 

How to find your Representative:

Or call 919-733-7928

Friday, July 17, 2009

NCGA Budget Update: Work Continues

Not much more to report regarding the budget process. Appropriation chairs from the House and Senate are continuing their negotiations. In the meantime we are not hearing any updates regarding the finance package.

When we get more news we will let you know.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NCGA: Continuing Resolution 2.0 Update

The House and Senate have agreed on a continuing resolution today that will keep the North Carolina government operating at 84% of the current budget.  The continuing resolution will expire on July 31, 2009. Governor Perdue will sign the continuing resolution today.

NCGA: Budget Update-Negotiations Continue

This morning the House and Senate Appropriation chairs were presented the HHS Special Provisions by the HHS Conferee Chairs.  It does look like progress is happening and we may see the budget being wrapped up early in the week. However, as we stressed yesterday, the finance package is far from a "done deal".

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NCGA: Continuing Resolution 2.0 Update

The House today voted to not concur with the Senate continuing resolution. The bill will now be referred to the quickest conference committee of the session.  The House and Senate will need to pass a new continuing resolution by tomorrow, the original deadline that was set by the first continuing resolution.  The sound you are all hearing is the tick tock of the legislative clock!

NCGA: Budget Update

The House and Senate continue their work on the budget. There have been multiple meetings this week between the House and Senate appropriation chairs and the Health and Human Service appropriation chairs. These are all very positive signs that may mean that we are nearing the end of the budget process.

Finance Package:
However, we are also hearing that the finance package is far from a "done deal". Work still continues on both finding a compromise plan that will appeal to the House and Senate, as well as finding the needed votes for a tax package in the House.

Monday, July 13, 2009

NCGA Legislative Update: Continuing Resolution 2.0

Laura Leslie at WUNC is reporting that there will be a second continuing resolution as budget negotiations appear to be nearing an end.

NCGA Legislative Update: Budget Negotiation Update

On Friday, Senate and House appropriations chairs and leaders met to agree upon a final budget spending figure. The Senate and House have agreed to a $18.9 billion dollar budget.  They have not yet worked out all the details regarding a revenue package that will raise $990 million in new money.

Here is a quick recap of what the two chambers original budget totals were:

Senate passed a budget that spent:
FY 09-10 $20,048,773,017  ($20.1 billion)
FY 10-11- $21,284,428,623

Senate included a tax package of $500 million in their budget.

House passed a budget that spent:
FY 09-10: $18,583,763,145  ($18.6 billion)
FY 10-11: $19,402,877,454

House included in their budget a tax package that raised $780 million. 

The new House and Senate agreed upon budget is set at $18.9 billion  which would increase the House budget by $300 million.

Three departments are targeted to receive restoration funding and the funding items will be at the discretion of the subcommittee conference chairs.  The three departments are Education, Justice and Public Safety and Health and Human Services.

Advocates will be working during the week to see that the Department of Health and Human Services receives a large enough portion of the restoration funding to ensure that critical services are not devastated by the current budget crisis.  To restore the worst of the cuts DHHS would require an additional appropriation of $150 million dollars.  This is the numbers leaders in the House and Senate will be hearing from health care advocates across the state.

Friday, July 10, 2009

NCGA Legislative Update: Senate Bill 208: People First is Now A Law!

The Arc of North Carolina extends its congratulations to the North Carolina Self Advocates Association on the signing of SB208: People First into law.

Today Governor Bev Perdue signed SB208: People First. The legislation will now be known as Session Law 2009-264.

Background What the Bill Does:
This bill directs the Legislative Services Office to incorporate into its drafting training of legislative drafters the preference to avoid language that implies that a person as a whole is disabled, equates a person with his or her condition, or is regarded as derogatory or demeaning.

To avoid any unintended consequences of altering existing legislation or creating legislation that would be in conflict with existing legislation; this bill will direct the General Statues Commission to recommend to the 2010 reconvened session of the General Assembly and to the 2011 Regular Session of the General Assembly any statutory changes and drafting policies needed to make the General Statutes and administrative rules refer to a person with a disability as a person first.

Legislation similar to this bill have been passed in New York, Nevada, District of Columbia, Florida, Louisiana, and Minnesota. Several additional states have removed the term “mental retardation” from their Department and Division names.

Friday Wrap Up: Committee Meetings, Bill Updates and Other Information

After a long 4th of July break and a week where both sides met briefly to discuss the budget, it is clear that budget negotiations have reached a stand still.

The House and Senate appropriation chairs spent the majority of the week working on their proposals to the other chamber. There were no joint meetings between the Senate and House Appropriation chairs this week.

There are two main issues that have caused this stand still in the budget process. The first is the significant differences on how to raise revenue and the second is once the revenue package is agreed upon how will the additional revenue be allocated to Education, Health and Human Services and Justice and Public Safety.

The Finance Conference Committee chairs are also in a stand still regarding how to raise the revenue with the House and Senate firmly entrenched in their legislative proposals.
The Senate has a package that will raise around 1.2 billion dollars the first year by radically changing how taxes are collected. The Senate package would expand sales tax collections to services while over time lowering the rate. The House uses a more traditional approach including sales tax increase and an increase in income tax for the highest tax brackets.

In addition to the debate between the appropriation chairs and the finance chairs, this week Governor Perdue set forth her tax plan. Governor Perdue presented a menu of tax options that include a temporary one-cent sales tax increase and a two-year surcharge on individual income taxpayers making at least $500,000.

It was unclear as the week ended if the Governor’s call to go above the $1 billion dollar revenue figure had any impact on lawmakers. What is clear is that there is growing concern in the House that there may not be the needed 61 votes to get a revenue package passed that goes over the $1 billion dollar mark.

This weekend Senate and House Appropriation chairs will be remaining in Raleigh to continue the budget process. In the meantime, both the House and the Senate are preparing a second continuing resolution as the current continuing resolution is slated to expire on July 15, 2009.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

NCGA: Budget Update

There seems to be little movement in budget negotiations between the House and Senate appropriation chairs.  There also is hardly any noticeable movement with the House and Senate finance chairs.  Basically we are experiencing a stalling budget negotiation.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Report on 2008 Disability Voting

The American Association of People with Disabilities released the following report on the 2008 election. The report indicates that due to the passage of the Help America Vote Act there was an increase in voting by people with disabilities.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

NCGA: Senate Bill 208 People First On the Way to the Governor

Yesterday the Senate voted to concur with the House on SB 208:People First. The vote was 49 Yes and 0 No votes.  The bill will now go to Governor Perdue for her signature. Congratulations to all of the self-advocates who have worked so hard to make this happen!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Legislative Victories: SB 526 School Violence Prevention Act

Last evening Governor Bev Perdue signed SB 526: School Violence Prevention Act into law. This was an amazing victory for disability rights advocates across the state! Congratulations!

NCGA: Senate Bill 208 People First Update

Senate Bill 208: People First will be on the Senate calendar today for a concurrence vote! This is the last stop for this advocate driven legislation. Next stop the Governor's desk. Congratulations to the many self-advocates in North Carolina who made this happen!