Last week in Raleigh was much cooler than the long, hot summer months experienced this year. The mood in the North Carolina General Assembly had also cooled somewhat. There were several unanimous votes in the House and the Senate on very good policy bills and a desire to get some time back in our districts. The final votes were taken on the court-ordered legislative districts, and bills were passed on school safety, social services reform, and processing of rape kits.
In late August the three-judge panel appointed by the N.C. Chief Justice had sent their 357 page decision back to us, instructing us to redraw the districts for the House and Senate members in just over two weeks. We concluded that work and had final votes in both chambers last week and sent them back to the court. Since we used districts drawn by their experts as the baseline, we believe that the maps should pass the approval of the court. We hope to know soon, as many of the districts will be different for the 2020 election, including Brunswick County. The district information is all public, and can be accessed on the General Assembly website.
School safety remained at the forefront of our policy work. House Bill 75 – School Safety Funds, Programs, and Reports includes provisions that mirror the state budget, House Bill 966, which is still under the veto cloud until the Senate is able to override the veto. It provides $38.8 million in 2019-2020 and $29.8 million in 2020-2021 to implement many programs: require reports on school psychologist and school counselor positions, require creation of a School Mental Health Crisis Response program, fund 8 additional SBI agents to support the Behavioral Threat Assessment program, and funding for other priorities in local and state programs to improve school safety. I was a cosponsor of this bill, which passed the House and Senate unanimously and was signed by the Governor on Wednesday.
House Bill 935 – Social Services Reform provides much needed improvements to social services, both state and local. It requires criminal background checks for day care workers, additional staff for the Division of Social Services of NC Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS), additional training for local boards of social services members, and a total of eight positive changes. HB 935 passed the House 114-0 and is in the Senate for action.
House Bill 29 – Standing Up for Rape Victims Act of 2019 requires the expeditious testing of all sexual assault examination kits, regardless of whether the case is pursued in court. Such DNA evidence can lead to conviction, exoneration, or linkage to other crimes. This is in the interest of protection of the public and of future potential victims. The bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate and was signed by the Governor.
One other bill which I cosponsored, House Bill 211- Various DMV Changes, also passed unanimously and was sent to the Governor for his signature. It has several changes, but the main one of interest is a requirement for reflective license plates and a requirement to change license plates every seven years. Some of the old plates are difficult to read by law enforcement. There is also a study of digitized license plates required in the bill.
It appears that we will have some time back in the district (home) this week. Of course we are always subject to call back to Raleigh by the House Speaker or by the Governor.