Sen. Harry Brown Constituent Update February 7, 2013
Jones and Onslow Counties- 6th District
300-B Legislative Office Building
300 N. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
February 7, 2013
The 2013-2014 session has been moving at a fast pace. In last week’s legislative update, I mentioned that a primary focus for me this term will be job retention and growth. As Chairman of the Appropriations Base Budget Committee, I also have a responsibility of making difficult decisions to protect core services while exploring ways to make government more efficient.
Senate Bill 4, No N.C. Exchange/No Medicaid Expansion, exempts North Carolina from establishing a state-based health insurance exchange or a state-federal partnership exchange. It directs the N.C. Department of Insurance to return unspent taxpayer funds awarded by the federal government earlier this month to create a state-federal partnership exchange. A state exchange would give the state no control while costing the people of North Carolina $100 million a year. Since the federal government chose to mandate health exchanges, it should pay for them. This bill also rules out expansion of the North Carolina Medicaid program. Costs for North Carolina’s existing Medicaid program have increased significantly in recent years. In 2012, the General Assembly had to fill a surprise Medicaid shortfall that totaled more than $500 million. Federal changes to Medicaid would cost North Carolinians close to a billion dollars through 2019. Further confirmation of challenges in this program was revealed in an audit released last week that shows shortfalls totaling approximately $1.4 billion over the last three years. This bill passed in the Senate and is now headed to the House.
Senate Bill 10, Government Reorganization and Efficiency Act, allows the new Governor to establish a new direction and to set priorities for the new administration by eliminating state boards and commissions that have not recently met, are duplicative, or are not deemed critical to government operations. A fiscal note by the nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division shows that about $2 million per year in savings to the State would be realized if this bill becomes law.
This week I introduced Senate Bill 14, Increase Access To Career/Technical Education. This bill directs the State Board of Education to develop new curriculums focused on career and technical education. Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, high school graduates will receive diplomas designating that they are “career ready,” “college ready,” or both. The bill also revises licensing requirements for vocational instructors, allowing trade specialists with real-world experience to bring their expertise directly to the classroom. Finally, the bill directs the State Board of Education and State Board of Community Colleges to develop strategies to prepare students for occupations that are in high demand, such as engineering. High schools and community colleges will share resources such as instructors, facilities and equipment to help meet this objective. This bill fulfills a passion of mine that I have worked on since I first came to Raleigh. It passed in the Senate and is now headed to the House.
Senate Bill 58, Increase Funding for Dredging, establishes a dedicated funding stream for the dredging of shallow inlets essential for commercial and recreational fishing. The schedule of fees will be based on the length of a vessel. It is estimated that these fees will generate about $6 million a year in dedicated funding for the dredging of shallow inlets. This not only helps recreational and commercial fishing but the tourism industry as well. This bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources Committee.
During the interim, I chaired the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage Study Committee. As a result of this effort, the following three bills were proposed:
- · Senate Bill 43, Study Savings for Administration of Claims, directs the Office of State Personnel to study the expenses related to the management of state and local government employees’ workers’ compensation claims and make recommendations on improving efficiency and reducing expenses.
- · Senate Bill 44, Workers Comp Coverage/Public Records, will permit the NC Industrial Commission to disclose additional data related to workers’ compensation insurance policies.
- · Senate Bill 51, GBICC/Workers’ Comp Program Integrity, will enhance the state’s enterprise-level business intelligence through the collection and analysis of data from state agencies related to workers’ compensation insurance coverage and claims for the purpose of fraud prevention and detection.
These three bills are scheduled to be heard in the Senate Commerce Committee.
I have also introduced Senate Bill 25, Hunting & Fishing/Active Duty Military which will allow active duty members of our military to be considered residents for certain hunting and fishing licenses. This bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Agriculture /Environment/Natural Resources Committee.
A quick update on the Highway 17 bridge project which had been delayed by a bankruptcy of the contractor. I know this delay is adversely affecting our local businesses. The Department of Transportation has awarded this project to another contractor and this work is now scheduled to be completed by July 2013.
I hope to continue finding opportunities to help our small businesses in Onslow and Jones Counties as well as across our state. As a small business owner, I live through the challenges that are faced by small businesses every day and I hope to continue fighting for small businesses through tax reform, regulatory reform, and insurance reform. Only with viable businesses can we continue to increase employment opportunities and reduce our unemployment rate.
We are ready to assist you with any questions, ideas or concerns you might have. You may contact the office via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (919) 715-3034. If you need to contact me in the district, my number is (910) 347-3777.
Have a great weekend!