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Old North State Report

July 26, 2019

Old North State Report – July 26, 2019

School Safety Omnibus

A bill to make schools safer in NC is one vote away from going to Gov. Roy Cooper after passing the House unanimously on Tuesday. The legislation is the result of six years of study and dozens of meetings with hundreds of stakeholders across the state. The measure includes statewide funding for an app that lets students report potential threats anonymously, as well as a new digital panic alarm system to be installed in schools. It requires mandatory, standardized training for school resource officers in crisis response and de-escalation and also requires school districts to put together threat assessment teams and conduct emergency drills. Senate Bill 5 doesn't contain any new restrictions on guns or gun ownership. Lawmakers avoided that topic entirely. The bill needs one final vote in the Senate before it heads to Cooper. (Laura Leslie, WRAL NEWS, 7/23/19)

https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/Senate/PDF/S5v5.pdf

NC Gerrymandering Trial

July 15th marked day one of a NC trial debating the merits of district lines approved by the Republican-led legislature in 2017.  The 2017 lines were drawn to replace a previous set from 2011 ruled unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering.   Political scholars and pundits say this trial is less about racial gerrymandering, and more about political disenfranchisement.  The plaintiffs in this case are the NC Democratic Party and Common Cause, and their claim is that Democrats in NC cannot win a majority in the legislature due to extreme gerrymandering.  Attorneys for the Republicans have countered by arguing the State Democratic party simply does a poor job of recruiting winnable candidates.  The outcome of this trial has significant implications moving forward, as redrawn lines would be implemented for the 2020 election cycle.  Under current state law, whichever party controls the legislature after the 2020 elections will be in charge of redistricting to draw the maps for every election through 2030, using new census data from 2020.  Nine days of witness testimony later, and the trial is nearing an end.  The following articles provide a great overview of the trial and key players.

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article232677422.html

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article233105817.html

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article231422113.html

Opioid Risk

Conversations about the national opioid epidemic often focus on hardest-hit states such as Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.  Few people have analyzed county-by-county trends, where those state's policies can make a difference. But a new study, published last month in an open-access version of the Journal of the American Medical Association, classified 412 counties as "high-risk" and 1,485 as "not high-risk." Among those, 41 of NC's 100 counties qualified as "opioid high-risk" counties.  "That was one of the highest states that we found in terms of the number of counties relative to the total number of counties in the state," said Rebecca Haffajee, a University of Michigan public health professor who ran the study. "That tells us that North Carolina and these counties, in particular, need to think about how to get more providers to those areas."  Counties were deemed “high risk” if they had higher than the national rate of 12.5 opioid-related deaths per 100,000 people and lower than the national rate of 9.7 providers of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, for opioid use disorders.  NC's DHHS is spending two-thirds of a recent $12 million federal grant to fight the opioid epidemic on direct treatment for uninsured people with the remaining third spent on "linkages to care" or support for housing, case management, employment and other social factors, said Kody Kinsley, who works in behavioral health for DHHS. "A lot of other states that have expanded Medicaid are able to use their Medicaid program to pay for treatment, and they can pump almost all of their federal grant money into linkages to care," Kinsley said. "That's a big reason why we continue to struggle in this fight."  Kinsley went on to say, “We suspect one in 20 people have a substance use disorder in North Carolina. It's a long-term treatment. It's a chronic disease like diabetes; people don't go to one dialysis visit and they're done. It's a lifetime thing. We're really behind the curve in keeping up with that."  (Yen Duong, NC HEALTH NEWS, 7/23/19)

Session Schedule

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the Senate will not hold votes next week, and doesn't expect to have any until Tuesday, Aug. 6. Conference committees will continue to meet during that time, however.  House Rules Chairman Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said he expects House votes to happen every day next week. "What you’ll see next week and the week after, will be fewer bills with more debate because they're a little bit more contentious,” Lewis said. He said he's still "hopeful" that the House can override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the budget, but it's unclear if or when an override vote could take place. "Hope is not a plan, nor can it be planned for. We'll just have to see how it goes," he said. Several House committee announcements for next week were posted today, including House Health Committee. They will meet on Tuesday to hear two bills (as of now), SB537, “Establish New Payment Methodology/ACHs,” and SB458, “Establish Posttraumatic Stress Injury Day.”