North Carolina is moving to vaccinate Group 4 -- people with high-risk medical conditions -- a week ahead of schedule, starting on March 17. This category includes people with asthma, cancer, diabetes, and weakened immune systems, as well as current or former smokers. A doctor’s note will not be required for people to receive the vaccine.
On Wednesday Republicans in the NC House introduced a bill that would limit the governor’s power to unilaterally declare shutdowns for public health emergencies or other emergency situations. HB264 would require that such an order, as long as it impacted two-thirds of the counties in North Carolina, be approved by the Council of State within 7 days and re-approved every 30 days after that.
On Thursday Governor Cooper signed into law a compromise bill requiring school districts to offer in-person instruction to K-12 students. The bill, SB220, comes after weeks of disagreement between Cooper and state lawmakers about whether to force all schools to reopen, and it represents a significant change in Cooper’s position about distancing requirements for middle and high schools. Under the bill, elementary schools will open with full in-person classes without 6-feet distance requirements (Plan A) and middle and high schools will choose from Plan A, Plan B, which follows CDC recommendations for 6-feet distancing, or a combination.
Economic and Housing Policy
On Tuesday HB184 passed through the NC House Judiciary Committee. The bill would allow property sellers not to disclose planned road projects that would affect the property if those projects are not yet funded. Current law requires disclosure even of longer-term projects that are not yet funded. If asked directly by a prospective buyer about such projects, a seller would be required to disclose them, even under the proposed bill.
Health Care Policy
On Tuesday SB93, a bill that would allow parents to retain Medicaid access when their children have temporarily been taken into state custody, passed through a second NC Senate committee. Under current law, parents lose Medicaid access if their children are temporarily removed from their care. The bill has bipartisan support.
On Wednesday a bill passed the NC House Insurance Committee that would require doctors to automatically prescribe naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, when they prescribe a dosage of an opioid equivalent to 50 milligrams or greater of morphine per day. HB93 would also require automatic prescription of naloxone when doctors prescribe a Schedule II drug (which has a high potential for abuse) to someone with a history of overdose or in conjunction with benzodiazepine.
On Thursday the NC Senate passed a bill that would require sheriffs in the state to cooperate with ICE by determining the immigration status of anyone booked into their county jail under a violent crime charge and contacting ICE if that person is an unauthorized immigrant or their immigration status cannot be determined. SB101, which faces opposition both from Democrats in the NC General Assembly and the Democratic sheriffs of North Carolina’s eight largest counties, is similar to a previous bill that Governor Cooper vetoed in 2019. The new bill, however, would not remove sheriffs from office for not complying but would charge them with a misdemeanor for failing to do so.
Meanwhile, the NC House passed a bill targeting “sanctuary cities.” While the state already has an anti-sanctuary law, HB62 would allow any person in North Carolina to file a lawsuit against a city or county that they believe does not comply with that law.
On Monday a federal judge approved a settlement between the ACLU of North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety in a suit to improve testing and treatment of Hepatitis C in state prisons. The settlement requires prisons to test people when they are admitted and transferred as well as during their routine physicals and to improve treatment and patient education. The DPS released a statement that includes an agreement to treat at least 2,100 incarcerated patients over the next five years.