Updates on bills in the General Assembly

THE STATE BUDGET – SENATE OMITTING IMPORTANT ITEMS FOR CHILDREN?
The Senate is meeting in private to construct its version of the two-year budget. Rumors are that the Senate leadership still plans to sunset the temporary taxes, which means they have about $300 million less to use to meet state needs. Senate Leaders are working to present a completed budget on Tuesday, May 29, and there are several troubling omissions.
Expanding Affordable Health Insurance to More Children UNFUNDED – Latest word is the Senate IS NOT funding Kids’ Care, also called Carolina Cares for Children, the health insurance proposal included in the House and Governor Easley’s recommended budgets. This is supported by the NC Pediatric Society, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the Hospital Association, the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children and many others.  Senators need to hear from you immediately about the importance of making affordable health insurance available to more children.
Take Action!
Contact your Senator to fully fund NC Kids’ Care – Children’s health should not be a pawn in budget debates
State Earned Income Tax Credit UNFUNDED – The Senate budget purportedly does not provide for a Stated Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  A 5% State EITC is included in the House budget and targets tax relief to low-income families with children. It is the most efficient way to help workers and make the tax system fairer. While Senators continue to debate how best to provide tax cuts and give incentive grants to corporations, it appears this tax credit for the working families is being ignored.
Take Action! Contact your state Senator – “Pass a State EITC in 2007” This is a 2007-09 AAUWNC Public Policy Prioritiy

Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils UNFUNDED – The Governor included an additional $500,000 for JCPCs in his budget. The House included no additional funds and reportedly the Senate is leaving out these critical funds as well.  Since 2001 the number of juveniles in Youth Development Centers (juvenile detention centers) has been cut nearly in half, but the savings that resulted is not going to the community services that are now expected to serve these children.  Investments in community-directed services through Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils (JCPCs) are less today than in 2000, even before adjusting for population growth and inflation.

Mental Health Spending
Experts hired by the state estimate an additional $500 million is required to shore up the mental health system to meet constitutional requirements and state needs. The House proposed budget doesn’t cover 5% of that need.  It is unclear if the Senate will invest more, but seems unlikely if current revenues are cut.
Child Care Subsidies – Both the Governor and the House include $8.4 million to reduce the child care waiting list. This is a positive step in the right direction, but still leaves thousands more children on the waiting lists and child care providers being paid per child the same rate they were paid in 1997
Smart Start and More at Four– To restore cuts from past years, Smart Start needs $45 million.  At this time the House budget only includes just over $1m additional funding for Smart Start, while at the same time cutting money for the More at Four program.  These programs are linked and inadequate funding for both of them is fueling the crisis in child care and early childhood programs.
JUVENILE JUSTICE
HB 492 Raise the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction – Passed committee without prejudice; amendment expected
Thanks go to Representative Alice Bordsen (D-Alamance) for ensuring the issue is raised for discussion. On May 22 the House Juvenile Justice Committee passed the bill without prejudice – not as good as a favorable report – and then it was sent to Rules committee. In Rules, it is expected that the bill will be rewritten to implement a study with funding to create a road-map of systemic and statutory changes as well as identifying the funding needed to implement raising the age. The date to raise the age (December 2009 as currently drafted) will likely be taken out of the legislation and rather be determined by the study commission.  Making the bill a study commission with the requested addition of funds means that it is no longer subject to the cross-over deadline; however, opposition remains strong and further diligent effort will be required to ensure the creation of the study.