NCGA Week in Review

March 9, 2018

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Interim committees continued this week covering a wide range of topics.School data security and Innovative School Districts were discussed. Areport on the state of North Carolina’s rape kit backlog came out,indicatingNorth Carolina may be among the highest in the country. The opioid crisisis being tackled on a number of new fronts at the local and state levels.Unemployment Insurance changes are coming to the state, as well as improvedbroadband infrastructure and a new wave of finance tech, or Fintech.

State and Local Government Get Creative on Opioid Crisis

As the opioid crisis continues to grow out of control in North Carolina,state legislators as well as local government leaders are looking forsolutions. A new legislative committee has been formed to address thesentencing and incarceration issues surrounding the crisis, while a WakeCounty town takes on a new approach to battle the epidemic.

New Opioid Conviction Task Force Dives into Sentencing Reform

A new task force, chaired by Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt), a surgeon fromGreenville, and Sen. Jim Davis (R-Macon), an orthodontist from Franklin,met for the first time this week to explore yet another facet of the opioidcrisis: the rapidly rising number of North Carolina’s inmates sufferingfrom addiction and mental illness. According topresentationsfrom the task force, the two problems often accompany each other, creatinga large population of inmates that North Carolina’s prisons and judicialsystem are unequipped to handle.

What was covered?

The North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission provided anin-depthoverviewof current sentencing laws and data. The overarching issue is that data onopioid-related crimes is fragmented and hard to find, making it difficultto understand the challenges facing the state through the restructuringprocess.

Next, Joe Prater of the North Carolina Department of Public Safetypresented asnapshotof current incarceration statistics. He discussed the limited treatmentoptions for inmates with addiction or mental illnesses and the need forcontinuing treatment after reintroduction to society.

The final item was a panel explanation of the Sequential Intercept Modeland various options for preventing the initial involvement of people withbehavioral health problems and addiction illnesses in the criminal justicesystem. Presentersdiscussedhowrecovery courtsas well as diversion and intervention tactics before someone lands in jailmay be the key to treatment, decreasing recidivism, and reducing the coston society.

What Else?

The Town of Cary is taking a new approach to tracking down opioid use:testing wastewater. Cary has been selected as one of four municipalities inthe US that will receive a $100,000 grant to test for various drugs inCary’s wastewater and determine which neighborhoods have the highestconcentration of opioid use. This reverse approach is theorized to providecritical demographic data to get a better understanding of who is usingopioids in Cary. After analysis, the City hopes to be able to set up moretailored programs to combat drug use in the town and continue to monitorthe wastewater to determine the effectiveness of these programs.

Rape Kit Report

AG Josh Stein’s office released areporton March 1st on the state of North Carolina’s untested sexual assaultevidence kits. The study was conducted from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2017.Of the state’s 563 agencies, 92 percent responded. By law, all lawenforcement agencies were required to provide the NC DOJ with a report oftheir untested sexual assault kits earlier this year.

What Were the Results?

The report showed the Durham Police Department holds the most untestedsexual assault evidence kits of any law enforcement agency in the state.Raleigh and Winston-Salem were not far behind Durham, both with over athousand kits sitting untested. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police receivedtwo grants to help pay for testing of their kits.

What Next?

The audit revealing more than 15,000 untested rape kits across the statemaking North Carolina one of the worst offenders in the country. The AG’soffice made a fewrecommendationsto cut down on that backlog, including developing protocol to test all newkits going forward, institute a kit tracking system statewide, and test allkits currently in custody.

Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee Discusses Proposed ChangesRequested by Division of Employment Security

Lawmakers met Wednesday to hear from Lockhart Taylor, Assistant Secretaryat the North Carolina Division of Unemployment Security, on a few changesrequested by the agency that will, if approved, go into a technical changesbill in the upcoming short session.

What’s Proposed?

One of these requested changes would extend the effective date of aprovision passed last session that will reduce response time for employersto respond to a notice of claim from 14 to 10 days. The North CarolinaDivision of Employment Security requested to move that effective date from7/1/18 to 1/1/19.

The second request was for a requirement that all employers with ten ormore employees to file wages and taxes to the Division electronicallyrather than on paper to cut down on the Division’s workload. The currentlimit is set at employers with 25 or more employees.

The third provision requested was to reduce the number of job searchcontacts claimants must make from five to the federally required three,again, to cut down on the Division’s workload. Several years ago thatnumber was raised from two contacts to five, but according to committeepresentations it has proven difficult and time-consuming for the Divisionto audit.

The final provision requested would put a time limit on how long a claimanthas to withdraw their claim in order to file a second claim to preventpeople from filing new claims in order to get a higher check.

Trust Fund Status

Staff informed the committee that in order to prevent a deficit in thetrust fund like the $2 billion deficit the state suffered after the 2008recession, the trust fund balance would need to be around $4 billion. It isestimated the fund will reach that number around 2020.

IT Oversight Committee Discusses Broadband, ERP

The Information Technology Oversight Committee heard from a number ofpresenters Thursday on topics ranging from Fintech to Department of SocialServices Software to rural broadband access.

Enterprise Resource Planning Update

The committee received a lengthypresentationfrom Mike Guay, Research Director at the consulting firm Gartner, on theState of North Carolina’s enterprise resource planning, or ERP, which isthe integrated management of core business operations of all state agenciesthrough the use of software and technology. Guay covered the current stateof North Carolina’s outdated ERP system, past successes and failures, andwhere the state is headed as it navigates a major change in the system.

Carolina Fintech Hub

Next, committee members heard from Charlotte City Councilman and ExecutiveDirector of the Carolina Fintech Hub (CFH), Tariq Bokhari. Hispresentationexplained Fintech as an organization that is trying to be a cutting edgedisrupter in the financial tech market. He gave a strategic update on CFH’sprogram and told the committee that with the right tools and support, NorthCarolina can become the worldwide leader for Fintech.

Rural Internet Access

Jeff Sural, Broadband Infrastructure Office Director at North CarolinaDepartment of Information Technology (DIT), gave the committee anupdateon the state of rural broadband in North Carolina. According to Mr. Sural,there are many rural and low-income areas of the state that are stillstruggling to get connected which exacerbates existing problems facingthose communities. Mr. Sural explained what DIT and private sector partnersare doing to help fix that deficit.

Social Services Software Update

Last, the committee heard from NCDHHS on theNC FASTProgram, an enterprise software solution that delivers state benefits andservices at the county level for all 100 of North Carolina’s localdepartments of social services.

Education Oversight Discusses School Data, Innovative Schools

Education leaders in the legislature met Tuesday to discuss school datasystems and connectivity. They also spoke at length about Innovative SchoolDistricts and Cooperative Innovative High School funding changes.

IT in the Schoolroom

Phil Emer, Director of Technology Planning and Policy at North CarolinaState University’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovationspoketo the committee about its School Connectivity Initiative. Karl Pond,Enterprise Data Manager at the North Carolina Department of PublicInstruction (DPI) and KC Elander, Senior Data Analyst at DPIpresentedon the NC P-20W System and the issues facing data collection and analysisin schools. John Correllus, Chief Data Officer and Director of the NorthCarolina Government Data Analytics Centerspokeon NC Longitudinal Data Systems through the North Carolina Government DataAnalytics Center and the related student data security concerns.

Innovative Schools

There was a lengthy conversation around North Carolina Innovative SchoolDistricts (ISD) after apresentationfrom Dr. Eric Hall, ISD Superintendent. The committee discussed ISDframework, goals, and outcomes.

Finally, the committeeheardfrom Sneha Shah Coltrane, Director of the Division of Advanced Learning andGifted Education at DPI and Lisa Eads, Program Coordinator for the NorthCarolina Community College System, about Cooperative Innovative High Schoolfunding changes.

A Look Ahead to Next Week

Monday, March 12

10:30 AM Social Services Regional Supervision and Collaboration WorkingGroup

Tuesday, March 13

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local SchoolAdministrative Units

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and NC HealthChoice

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Naturaland Economic Resources

Thursday, March 15

9:00 AM Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee

9:30 AM Committee on Access to Healthcare in Rural North Carolina

10:00 AM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and PublicSafety, Subcommittee on ABC Permitting & Enforcement

10:00 AM Committee on Private Process Servers

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform

1:00 PM Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety