It was a busy week at the General Assembly, as advocacy groups and elected local officials from across the state filled the legislative compound to meet their legislators. Lawmakers were also hard at work this week to approve crucial legislation, and budget talks between the two chambers have been going well, according to a top negotiator. Representative Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters this week that budget writers in the House have finished their work and said they were in “a good place.” Both House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said this week that they still expect to pass a budget bill and adjourn the short session by July. The two leaders expect to meet early next week to begin working on an agreement, before meeting with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. So far, there are indications that both chambers are open to Governor Cooper’s proposal of additional pay raises for state employees and teachers. However, the Governor has not yet publicly indicated if he will support a budget that does not expand Medicaid or adopt his other top policy proposals.
Earlier this week, three bills passed during the legislature’s short session were signed into law by Governor Cooper.
Senate Bill 448: Amendments to Schedule VI of the CSA passed both legislative chambers without many revisions or debate. The newly enacted law will allow a prescription drug approved under federal law and classified as a Schedule VI controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act to be lawfully used in the state of North Carolina. The intention is to decriminalize medicinal marijuana if the FDA and DEA both approve it as a prescription drug. This bill does not legalize medical marijuana in North Carolina. Another bill that passed the Senate but has not passed the House, Senate Bill 711: NC Compassionate Care Act, would legalize and regulate the sale of medical marijuana.
House Bill 315: Arson Law Revisions began as a recommendation from the legislature’s Joint Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety. The law will increase the punishment for certain arson offenses, including second degree arson, and for burning an occupied commercial structure. The bill also creates a new Class F felony for serious injuries suffered by firefighters, fire investigators, or other law enforcement officers responding to a fire caused by arson. The law will also require criminal history background checks of individuals applying to work at a fire department, and prohibit a fire department from hiring a person with a conviction of arson.
Senate Bill 347: Captive Insurance Amendments passed the General Assembly swiftly without any dissenting votes. As the title suggests, the law makes technical changes to the laws governing captive insurance companies in the state. There are some substantive changes that amend existing captive insurance laws to incentivize redomestication to North Carolina, including a provision providing a premium tax holiday for two years for captives that relocate into the State. The bill also allows any captive insurance company, regardless of the size, to apply to the Commissioner of Insurance for a financial hardship exemption from the annual audit requirement.
State Health Plan Data Transparency
This week, the Senate unanimously approved House Bill 169: State Health Plan Data Transparency. The legislation streamlines access to information needed by healthcare providers working under the state health plan, and provides more affordable healthcare to state employees. The bill cuts costs for third-party providers performing services to state employees by allowing providers to access the pricing and procedure data from its services. This allows providers to view data each month and use it to perform services more efficiently. In turn, state employees benefit as overall costs for healthcare will be reduced and outcome data will be more readily available to individual providers, creating a faster and more accurate healthcare service.
The act also contemplated privacy, mandating that all data disclosed to the third party stay confidential. Competitors will be unable to request data gleaned from third party providers under the bill when seeking to levy a competitive bid for the State Health Plan. Additionally, the bill follows Federal HIPPA requirements and the recently enacted Federal Surprise Billing Act.
The bill is now back in the House awaiting a concurrence vote with the changes made by the Senate.
Upcoming Legislative Meetings
Monday, June 13:
2:00PM: House Session
4:00PM: Senate Session
Wednesday, June 15:
9:00AM: House Transportation