NCSBA Legislative Update – September 24, 2021

NCSBA Legislative Update – September 24, 2021

 

Budget Negotiations

The budget process was delayed yet again this week. On Tuesday, Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told reporters that a budget compromise will most likely not be sent to the Governor until next week. (Last week House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, stated that he believed a budget compromise would be sent to the Governor this week.) Budget negotiators are expected to leave unagreed upon budget issues in the hands of Speaker Moore and Senator Berger by the end of this week. According to a news source, Senator Berger said that those issues will be worked on over the weekend. Both Senator Berger and Speaker Moore stated that their goal is to deliver a budget document to the Governor for his review next week. The budget document that will be presented to the Governor will not be made public.

HB 64: Government Transparency Act of 2021 and HB 776: Remote Notarization/Gov’t Transparency

HB 64: Government Transparency Act of 2021 is expected to be heard for discussion and public comment only in the House Judiciary 2 Committee on Wednesday, September 29 at 11:00 am (live stream). This is the controversial bill that requires local boards of education (as well as counties, municipalities, community colleges, State agencies, etc.) to not only maintain the date and general description of the reasons for each promotion, but also for each demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or dismissal. An employee can appeal to not have the date and description of their promotion, demotion, etc. disclosed if the information is protected by an applicable confidentiality law, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the American with Disabilities Act.

Additionally, this week the contents of HB 64 were added to HB 776: Remote Notarization/Gov’t Transparency through an amendment that passed the Senate 26-14, followed by the Senate’s 27-13 passage of the bill. Both votes were mostly along party lines. HB 776 is another attempt by the Senate to send this government transparency bill language to the House for approval, following the Senate’s complete rewriting of HB 64 in June. The House did not concur on HB 64 back in June, and yesterday, the House did not concur on HB 776. To see conferees for both bills, click HB 64 and HB 776.

According to a news source, Speaker Moore said that a bill sponsor of HB 776 does not want HB 64’s language included in his bill, but that the appropriate method would be for the House to consider HB 64 as its own bill. Additionally, the Speaker stated that while there is not pushback from his chamber about making the government more transparent, he’s heard concerns about the unintended consequences that may come with the availability of more personnel information.

We urge school board members and superintendents to contact House Judiciary 2 Committee Chairs and HB 64 conferees with concerns about the government transparency bill language.

SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings

SB 593: Special Education Due Process Hearings (primary sponsors: Senators Brent Jackson, R-Sampson; Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga; Michael Lee, R-New Hanover) is scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary 2 Committee on Wednesday, September 29 at 11:00 am (live stream). This bill alters the appeals process for special education due process hearings by eliminating State Hearing Review Officers (SHROs). SHROs currently review, upon the request of a party, the decisions made by administrative law judges. Under SB 593, the step involving SHROs would be eliminated, and any appeals would occur in state or federal court. School attorneys believe that this bill could potentially violate federal regulations, which could put federal funds in jeopardy. SB 593 passed the Senate in May on a 33-16 vote, and the bill’s contents were included in the Senate’s version of the budget. NCSBA is working to improve this bill. Click here for an official bill summary.

HB 91: Accountability and Fair Play in Athletics

HB 91: Accountability and Fair Play in Athletics failed to concur in the House, and a conference committee was appointed. Representative John Bell, R-Wayne, indicated that an agreement on HB 91 had been reached in a meeting this week between a bipartisan group of House and Senate members and representatives of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA), the SBE, and the Governor’s office. He stated that by the House not concurring with the bill, the newly agreed upon language will be added. Details on the agreement were not provided. According to a news source, the Republican authors of the revised bill, as well as Governor Cooper, confirmed that an agreement had been reached on HB 91, but this same support did not come from NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker who stated that the NCHSAA remains opposed to HB 91, and that there are still “many hurdles to clear”.

HB 264: Emergency Powers Accountability Act

Last week we reported that HB 264: Emergency Powers Accountability Act, which transfers emergency powers from the Governor to the Council of State, would be voted on by the House on Thursday. This bill was removed from the House calendar and has not been rescheduled for a floor vote.

 

During a press conference this week, Governor Cooper reported that youth have the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the State. According to DHHS data, those younger than 17 accounted for one third of new COVID-19 cases during the week of September 12, which is now a three-week trend. Additionally, Governor Cooper called out unruly behavior occurring in schools and at local school board meetings: “Threats, bullying, intimidation – none of this belongs in our public schools, particularly by adults.”

Currently, 109 school districts require masks. Three districts allow masks to be optional, and three have pending mask optional policies (Lincoln is effective on September 29, Pender is effective on October 4, and Harnett is effective on October 5).

NCSBA continues to track local school boards’ policies on school mask requirements as districts vote monthly on whether to modify their current policy (required by Section 10 of SB 654/SL 2021-130). Click here to access a chart of school board actions. If your school district changes its mask policy or you have corrections to the chart, please email information to Richard Bostic at rbostic@ncsba.org.

 

On Monday, DHHS updated its COVID-19 Control Measures in Schools guidance, which can be found here.

 

Eight North Carolina public schools were named 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools this week. These schools are among the 325 that were nationally recognized for their academic achievement and progress in closing achievement gaps. Click here to access DPI’s press release, which includes a list of the NC schools.

 

Wednesday, September 29

11:00 am – House Judiciary 2 Committee – Legislative Offices Building, rm 423 (live stream)

Additional Education-Related Meeting

The Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education will meet virtually on Tuesday, September 28 at 10:00 am. Click here to access meeting information that will be available on Monday, September 27.

 

 

 

Bruce Mildwurf
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
bmildwurf@ncsba.org

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
rbostic@ncsba.org

Rebekah Howard
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association
rhoward@ncsba.org

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Update – September 24, 2021