Legislative Update 4/26/2021

Legislative Update 4/26/2021
House Bill 370: No Veteran Left Behind Act
Last week, the North Carolina House unanimously passed the No Veteran Left Behind Act. The act will expand the Veterans Justice Intervention program. North Carolina is home to more than 700,000 veterans, some of whom suffer from unexampled mental health and substance issues. These veterans deserve special, attentive care.
The Independence Fund Inc., a North Carolina-based nonprofit, will facilitate the Veterans Justice Intervention (“VJI”) program. The VJI program will work to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among veterans. VJI specialists will provide direct outreach, assessment, and case management for veterans in local courts and jails.
“Our veterans face unique challenges, especially those who have recently returned from combat. This bill will help improve training and services for veterans who are dealing with mental health and substance abuse emergencies,” said House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne)
This bill has been sent to the Senate for their consideration.
Sponsors: Bell; Moore; Cleveland; Miller (Primary)
Adcock; Ager; Alston; Arp; Autry; A. Baker; K. Baker; Boles; Bradford; Brockman; Brown; Carney; Carter; Clampitt; Cooper-Suggs; Dahle; Davis; Faircloth; Fisher; Gill; Goodwin; Graham; Hanig; Harrison; Hastings; Hawkins; Hurley; Insko; John; Johnson; Kidwell; Lofton; Lucas; McElraft; McNeill; Mills; Moffitt; Morey; Moss; Paré; Pickett; Pierce; Pless; Quick; Richardson; Riddell; Sasser; Shepard; R. Smith; Stevens; Strickland; Szoka; Torbett; Turner; von Haefen; Warren; Wheatley; White; Willingham; Willis; Winslow; Wray; Zachary; Zenger
House Bill 351: Clifford’s Law
Since the onset of COVID-19, residents across North Carolina and their families have suffered due to the lack of prescribed guidelines for visiting their loved ones who are in a long-term care facility during a disaster or emergency. These residents deserve to have a reasonable number and frequency of visitors to ensure their well-being.
This act would require the following:
Each resident shall have the right to designate one pre-approved visitor and one pre-approved alternate visitor. The visitor shall be allowed to visit at least twice per month, during which the facility’s ordinary visitation policy is suspended.
Before admission, each facility shall explain, through written notification, the emergency visitation protocols established.
The impetus for this law is a man named Clifford Jernigan. Clifford is a 63-year-old male with the mentality of a 3-year-old and has been confined to a long-term care facility for over 50 years. During the past year, Clifford’s family’s ability to visit him was significantly curtailed. The result: he lost over 25 pounds and according to a staff member of the facility, “seemed to be mourning himself to death.” Unfortunately, he is only one of the thousands of residents throughout the State of North Carolina who have been prevented from having visitors and have suffered the emotional, and in some cases such as this one, the physical consequences.
This bill has passed the House and has been sent to the Senate for their consideration.
Sponsors: Dixon; Lambeth; White; Moss (Primary)
A. Baker; Blackwell; Boles; Bradford; Brisson; Carter; Clampitt; Cleveland; Faircloth; Gillespie; Goodwin; Greene; K. Hall; Hanig; Hastings; Humphrey; Hurley; Johnson; Kidwell; McNeely; McNeill; Miller; Mills; Moffitt; Pittman; Pless; Potts; Riddell; Rogers; Sasser; Shepard; C. Smith; Stevens; Strickland; Szoka; Tyson; Wheatley; Willis; Zachary; Zenger
Senate Bill 387: Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021
After a year of learning loss, the General Assembly took action by passing S.B. 387 to ensure our students are given every opportunity to succeed. Governor Cooper signed the “Excellent Public Schools Act” on Friday, April 9.
The act includes a reading plan and literacy intervention tools to ensure quality in literacy instruction. Literacy intervention tools include small group instruction, reduced teacher-student ratios, frequent progress monitoring, and various other extended learning opportunities. The act provides a uniform reporting format to ensure each literacy improvement measure is assessed efficiently.
“I want to thank Gov. Cooper for signing the ‘Excellent Public Schools Act’ into law. We have a shared priority of ensuring our students are proficient in reading by the end of the third grade, and I believe this will move us closer to that goal. All of our students, but especially those who are struggling to read, will benefit from the improved literacy instruction and interventions”, said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
Sponsors: Berger; Ballard; Lee (Primary)
Barnes; Burgin; Corbin; Edwards; Galey; Jarvis; Johnson; Lazzara; Newton; Rabon; Sanderson
(H.B. 535 / S.B. 472) Lending a Hand to Firefighters with Cancer
Legislation addressing the increased cancer risks faced by firefighters due to occupation has been filed in previous sessions, but the fact that we have bills filed on the subject in both the House and Senate bodes well for passage this time around. There are differences in the approach of each bill, but lawmakers in both chambers have said they will work to reach a consensus on a final bill.
H.B. 535 would provide a supplemental insurance policy for firefighters diagnosed with cancer. All firefighters that have served for a minimum of five continuous years shall be eligible for benefits under the Cancer Benefit Plan. These benefits include:
Medical Cost Reimbursement
Lump-Sum Benefit
Disability Benefit
“This bill will provide a much-needed layer of security for our brave firefighters and give them some extra peace of mind should they find themselves in a serious health crisis,” Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) said.
Sponsors: D. Hall; Bell; Saine; Hardister (Primary)
Adcock; Ager; Alston; Arp; Autry; A. Baker; K. Baker; Ball; Belk; Boles; Bradford; Brisson; Brockman; Brown; Carney; Clampitt; Clemmons; Cooper-Suggs; Cunningham; Dahle; Davis; Dixon; Everitt; Farkas; Fisher; Gailliard; Gill; Gillespie; Goodwin; Graham; Greene; K. Hall; Hanig; Harris; Harrison; Hawkins; Humphrey; Hunt; Hunter; Hurtado; Iler; Insko; Johnson; A. Jones; B. Jones; Kidwell; Logan; Lucas; McNeely; Meyer; Miller; Moffitt; Morey; Moss; Paré; Pickett; Pittman; Pless; Potts; Quick; Reives; Setzer; Shepard; C. Smith; K. Smith; R. Smith; Strickland; Szoka; Terry; Turner; von Haefen; Watford; Willingham; Willis; Winslow; Wray; Yarborough; Zenger
S.B. 472 would create a trust fund of $25,000 for firefighters diagnosed with occupational cancers. To be eligible, firefighters must have worked five consecutive years in the fire service and not have had a job for the previous five years linked to a high rate of cancer. The firefighter must also not have a history of using tobacco products. The $25,000 can be used to pay expenses related to their medical treatment for cancer.
The legislation would also provide death benefits to more families by broadening the scope of death “in the line of duty” to include respiratory, urinary and digestive system related cancers. North Carolina currently pays death benefits for occupational-related cancers, which include mesothelioma, testicular cancer, intestinal cancer and esophageal cancer.
Sponsors: Johnson; Perry (Primary)
Barnes; Batch; Bazemore; Blue; Burgin; Chaudhuri; Corbin; Crawford; Davis; deViere; Edwards; Foushee; Garrett; Hise; J. Jackson; Jarvis; Lazzara; Marcus; Mayfield; Mohammed; Murdock; Newton; Nickel; Salvador; Sawyer; Woodard
This effort appears to have bipartisan and cross-chamber support. A lot can be said for those who risk their lives daily when they put on their uniform, but what is too often forgotten is that the risk they took that day may not materialize until a later date. We applaud our legislators for recognizing the importance of this issue and acting upon it.
Senate Bill 687 Second Amendment Freedoms
This bill has two substantive parts:
Firearm Restoration Revisions
Repeal Pistol Purchase Permit
The first part of this bill would allow a person who has been convicted of a nonviolent felony but whose civil rights have been restored, either automatically or for 10 years, under Chapter 13 of the North Carolina General Statutes to petition the district court to have their firearms rights restored. Current law requires a 20 year period before the restoration of firearms rights.
The second part of this bill would simply repeal the pistol purchase permit requirement. Pistol purchase permits were created before modern background checks, such as “NICS” (National Instant Criminal Background Check System). Now, when a person attempts to buy a firearm, the seller, known as a Federal Firearms Licensee, contacts NICS electronically or by phone. The process is quick and efficient. Pistol permit requirements are outdated and serve as an unnecessary inconvenience for law-abiding citizens.
Sponsors: Britt; Perry; Johnson (Primary)
Barnes; Daniel; Hise; Jarvis; Lazzara; Newton
House Bill 334: Align PPP Treatment to Federal Treatment
This bill will reduce the tax burden on small businesses who utilized PPP loans to keep their employees on the payroll by allowing them to deduct expenses paid for by the loans. In essence, this bill would bring NC in line with federal law on the issue and would bring us into the mainstream as to how other states have handled this situation. Currently, there are only six states that do not allow such a deduction.
“By offering this opportunity for job providers to retain so many jobs and avoiding massive layoffs is what has allowed us to at least maintain some of the economic success under the Trump administration,” said Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln).
The bill passed almost unanimously through the House with bipartisan support and has been sent to the Senate for their consideration.
Sponsors: Pickett; Saine (Primary)
Ager; K. Baker; Carter; Cleveland; Davis; Faircloth; Goodwin; Hanig; Harrison; Humphrey; Hurley; Johnson; Kidwell; McElraft; McNeely; Meyer; Pittman; Potts; Riddell; Sasser; Strickland; Torbett; White; Zachary; Zenger
House Bill 579 School Self-Defense Act
This bill would authorize certain members of the faculty or staff of a school to carry a handgun on the school grounds to respond to acts of violence or an imminent threat of violence. The bill sets forth several requirements for volunteer school faculty to be eligible to carry on school grounds and clarifies that local school boards have the authority to prohibit the possession of a handgun on school grounds.
These requirements include:
Each volunteer must complete sixteen hours of active shooter training in the School Faculty Guardian program administered by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission.
Provide evidence satisfactory to the school’s chief administrator that the person has demonstrated proficiency with the type of handgun and handgun retention system used.
Provide evidence of a valid concealed handgun permit issued to the person per Article 54B of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes.
Sponsors: Pittman; Brody; Kidwell (Primary)
Federal Legislative Update
A little over a week ago, Congressional Democrats unveiled a proposal to expand the seats on the U.S. Supreme Court from nine to thirteen. Congress has not changed the number of seats on the Supreme Court since immediately after the Civil War. The Left is aware that to enact their radical, socialist agenda, they need to dismantle the current makeup of the Supreme Court that values the rule of law and the United States Constitution.
“I never thought I would say that I would agree with Justice Ginsberg, but on this issue, we agree packing the Supreme Court is a bad idea. This dangerous, divisive legislation continues to show that Democrats have no interest in working with Republicans in a bipartisan fashion but would rather force their socialist agenda on the American people,” said NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley.
“This brazen partisan attempt to politicize the Supreme Court is a threat to our Constitutional order and has been rejected by even the most liberal of Supreme Court Justices. An independent Supreme Court is essential to our Republic, and Americans of all political stripes should oppose this legislation.”