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Neighbors on Call's Weekly Policy Update for 2/22/21



  • Republican legislative leaders have eliminated the NC legislature’s nonpartisan Program Evaluation Division, a research and advisory unit tasked with evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of public programs. The Division, created in 2007 with unanimous support from the General Assembly, has saved the state some $38.6 million annually. It will be replaced by partisan staff tasked with a similar mandate. While Republican leaders assert the move will improve efficiency, both Democrats and some former Republican representatives have expressed disagreement with the decision.

Fair Representation

Education Policy

  • SB 37, which requires NC K-12 public school districts to provide the option of in-person learning to all students, received final approval with bipartisan support in both legislative chambers and has been sent to the governor. Under the bill, special-needs students must have the option of full-time in-class instruction, but it retains a provision allowing all families to opt for online-only classes and gives local school districts the leeway to create alternative work assignments for teachers at high risk for COVID-19. Gov. Cooper has expressed reservations about mandating reopening, preferring to give school districts more discretion.. However, the bill passed with enough votes to override a veto.

  • Lawmakers have begun refining the details of a bill (HB 82) that would provide non-compulsory, in-person summer school to students in state public schools. The program would target students who are academically “at risk,” and according to the state Dept. of Public Instruction, the proportion of these students across the state has grown from 40 to 60 percent during the pandemic. It is expected that the cost of the program would be covered by federal pandemic relief money the state doled out to school districts last week.

Economic Policy

Health Care Policy

  • The NC Office of the State Auditor identified overpayments of $13.4 million in Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers ineligible because they had lost their licenses, lacked credentials or had other problems. Moreover, the audit identified significantly more than that amount in potential overpayments. State Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, indicated that DHHS could have found and fixed many of the problems before the audit became public.

Criminal Justice

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