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District 8 Senate update

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By Sen. Bill Rabon

Guest Columnist

Editor’s note: The senator’s legislative updates will continue to be published for the duration of the General Assembly’s short session, which has been extended beyond its expected July 1 conclusion.

 

As the 2014 short session begins to wind down, we are continuing to work hard in order to accomplish our goals before wrapping things up.

The Senate has submitted seven offers in order to compromise on a budget as opposed to the House’s five failed attempts. “This compromise delivers on the Senate’s No. 1 budget priority of providing the largest teacher pay raise in state history, while not only accepting the House position on Medicaid eligibility for the medically needy and pay raises for state employees, but also meeting halfway on teacher assistants and teacher pay,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Eden.

The Senate’s latest compromise proposal:

·      Adopts the House position on state employee pay, with the exception of school-based administrators, where the governor’s position is taken.

·      Splits the difference between the latest teacher pay raise offer from the governor/House ($219.5 million) and the Senate’s latest offer ($468.7 million) and proposes a $342 million teacher pay raise.

·      Moves to the middle of the House and Senate positions on teacher assistants by decreasing the Senate’s reduction by 50 percent.

·      Restores eligibility for “medically needy” Medicaid recipients to the existing state standard, moving $105 million toward the House position on reductions within the Department of Health and Human Services.

·      Maintains existing lottery advertising rules but accepts the House position on repurposing digital learning funds to classroom teachers.

·      Also maintains the Senate position of completely forward funding UNC need-based financial aid.

Our focus remains additional funding to education with a compromised 8 percent teacher pay increase, not attached to tenure and agreement to fund all teacher’s assistants through the second grade. As reflected since day one in the Senate budget, the No. 1 priority continues to be our children and students, for we believe it is education that is key to getting people off the dependence of welfare.

Finally, the Senate proposal directs the new department’s board to establish regional networks to integrate care and ensure Medicaid recipients from across the state have access to treatment. It sets a goal for 100 percent participation of Medicaid enrollees by 2016.

Additionally in the proposed 2014 Senate budget, we introduced a plan in order to reform our broken Medicaid system. The plan meets the critical reform objectives outlined in the two-year budget passed by the House and Senate last year, which include achieving budget predictability and sustainability, ensuring administrative ease and efficiency for health-care providers and providing whole-person patient care that unites physical and behavioral health.

Under this plan, a new Department of Medical Benefits to administer Medicaid and lead North Carolina toward a patient-focused, cost-minded vision for the program. The department will be governed by an independent seven-member board of directors, comprised of experienced business, health care and health insurance leaders appointed by the governor and General Assembly.

In addition, the proposal takes key steps to achieve budget predictability by shifting the risk of budget overruns away from the state. It allows for both managed care plans that will immediately assume full risk for cost overruns as well as provider-led health plans — promoting competition and ensuring Medicaid recipients receive the best care at the lowest cost to taxpayers. To allow adequate time for transition, provider-led networks will have until July 2018 to assume full risk.

The largest obstacle in accomplishing our main goal of teacher pay increases remains the excessive funding to Medicaid, and thus we have opted to redirect efforts and funding to other important agendas in North Carolina.

There were no new bills filed this week, but if you are interested in viewing information on bills currently being discussed in the General Assembly, go to www.ncleg.net. You can search for legislation from sessions dating back to 1985 by bill number or keyword via the search function in the top right corner of the page. Search results contain the bill’s text, legislative history, and summary. From the front page, clicking on “Legislation/Bills” will lead you to other search functions that will allow you to find bills and legislation by sponsor, year, topic, or other criteria. These handy tools will allow you to stay more in touch with what is happening here at the General Assembly.

Thank you all for your support, and please do not hesitate to contact me at my office in Raleigh at (919) 733-5963 or email Bill.Rabon@ncleg.net. My legislative assistant, Paula Fields, or my intern, Catherine Kilian, will assist you.

 

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Southport, represents Brunswick, Bladen, New Hanover and Pender counties in the North Carolina Senate and faces Democrat Ernie Ward in November’s general election. He can be reached in Raleigh at (919) 733-5963 or Bill.Rabon@ncleg.net.