Legislative Update from NC’s Child Fatality Task Force

The NC legislative session is over until July 13. Following a meeting and floor-debate filled week, legislators wrapped up their work and returned to their districts on Saturday. They will come back to Raleigh on July 13 to look at redistricting, consider over-rides if the Governor vetoes any bills, adopt conference reports (where representatives from both chambers hash out differences of bills passed by both the House and the Senate, but in slightly different versions) and perhaps take up other matters as well.
Details: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S784v4.pdf

Below is a review of some Child Fatality Task Force (CFTF Bills) Of Interest That Passed

Ban sale of K-2 and related substances, including bath salts (S7)
Ban Went Into Effect June 1
Passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor in late March, S7 bans substances that were available legally including a synthetic cannabinoid that produces a marijuana-like high (aka K-2 or Spice) and MDPV, a synthetic that produces both a cocaine-like high and hallucinations (aka bath salts). The ban went into effect June 1 and work has begun to get these dangerous substances off the shelves. CFTF and the Youth Advocacy Involvement office both worked to help inform store owners and others about the upcoming ban. S7: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=s7&submitButton=Go
CFTF press release: http://www.ncleg.net/DocumentSites/Committees/NCCFTF/Reports%20and%20Data/Synthetic%20Drug%20Ban%20Goes%20Into%20Effect%20June%201%202011.pdf

Raise fine for speeding in a school zone (S49)
Increase to $250 Goes Into Effect August 25, 2011
Speeding just an extra 10 mph in a school zone greatly increases the chance of death for a student hit by a car. The chance of pedestrian death increases 9-fold (from 5% to 45%) with an increase in speed from 20 mph to 30 mph. Sen. Allran’s bill to make the fine for speeding in a school zone equal to that of speeding in a construction zone passed the House and Senate on April 28 and was signed by the Governor on May 3. Link: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=s49&submitButton=Go
CFTF Fact Sheet: http://www.ncleg.net/DocumentSites/Committees/NCCFTF/in%20the%20spotlight/S49%20Raising%20Fine%20for%20Speeding%20in%20a%20School%20Zone.pdf

Enhance penalty for driving impaired with a child in the car (S241)
Goes into Effect December 1, 2011
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading non-health related cause of death for children and impaired driving is a factor in 15% – 20% of those deaths. National data show that most children who die in crashes where alcohol is involved are the passenger of the impaired driver. Additionally, impaired drivers are less likely to buckle-up their children safely. Sens. Purcell, Allran and Atwater sponsored this legislation to enhance the penalty for driving impaired with a child under age in the car. It was ratified on June 18th and applies to offenses on or after December 1, 2011. http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=s241

Support efforts of State Board of Education to decrease sports injuries.
The Gfeller-Waller Athletic Concussion Awareness Act
Becomes Effective with the 2011-2012 School Year (August 25 for most traditional calendar schools)
The Gfeller-Waller Athletic Concussion Awareness Act requires that coaches, other school personnel and parents of middle and high school athletes receive information about concussions and prohibits same-day return-to-play. Only once cleared for play by specified health providers may athletes later return to practice or play. Becomes effective in the upcoming (2011-2012) school year. Sponsors include Reps. Folwell, Cook, McGrady and Glazier. It passed the House and Senate on June 9 and was signed by the Governor on June 16. H792: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011%20%20&BillID=h792

Monitor proposed changes to the graduated driver licenses system
Changes to GDL System (S636)
Changes become effective October 1, 2011
Since North Carolina adopted graduated driver licensing, crashes are down 38% for 16-year-olds and 20% for 17-year-olds, among the best results of any state. Time spent driving and gaining experience are critical for teens learning to drive more safely. Changes in Modify Graduated Licensing Requirements (S636) include requiring that learning drivers keep a log of time and conditions driven. Additionally, a provisional license will be revoked if the licensee is charged with a variety of serious driving violations, such as excessive speeding. The Division of Motor Vehicles is tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of the provisions by February 1, 2014. Sen. Rouzer sponsored the bill and Rep. Daughtry took it up in the House.
S636 link: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011%20%20&BillID=s636

Bills of CFTF Interest Still In Play
Require phased-in replacement of traditional smoke alarms with tamper-resistant 10 year lithium battery smoke alarms in rental units. PASSED SENATE 50-0
In the past five years, 75 children and hundreds of adults in North Carolina have died in fires. National data show that the majority of fire deaths in homes occur in homes without a working smoking alarm, often because the battery is inoperable. Unlike with conventional battery alarms, the batteries in tamper-resistant lithium alarms cannot be easily removed nor can they be used in other household items. Senator Bingham filed legislation to require that landlords replace standard smoke alarms with smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries. Other sponsors include Senators Forrester, Hartsell, Rabon and Stevens. The bill (S354) also provides that rental units may still rely on combination smoke/CO units where appropriate and use standard battery back-ups with hard-wired systems. Additionally, replacement costs can come out the security deposit if the tenant destroys the alarm. It passed the Senate 50-0 on May 10th. Please see fact sheet on CFTF website (under legislative agenda) for additional details. S354 link: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=s354

Since this bill passed one chamber, it is eligible to be considered in the short session (likely starting May 2012).

Raise the age at which a doctor’s prescription is required for youth to use tanning beds – S471
Current law requires that youth under age 13 have a written prescription from a doctor to use a tanning bed. The Youth Skin Cancer Prevention Act, sponsored by Senators Purcell, Mansfield, Forrester and Walters, seeks to raise the age to 18. This is important because girls are increasingly likely to use tanning beds as they get older. For example, compared to 14 year olds, 16 year olds are twice as likely to use tanning beds and 17 year olds are 3 times more likely. UV radiation in tanning can be 15 times as strong as the sun and even a single visit to a tanning salon can cause melanoma. Indeed, tanning increases a teen’s chance of getting melanoma by 75 percent. This bill passed the Senate Health Care Committee and was referred to Commerce. The issue was then incorporated into the Study Bill.
S471: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=s471

Study Bill: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=h773(see page 9)
The Study Bill directs the State Health Director to report to Health and Human Services Oversight Committee on issues including the impact of tanning beds and skin cancer, the effectiveness of regulation and other strategies to prevent adolescents from using tanning beds, and the economic impact of current and potential regulation of tanning beds. The Study Bill was not passed, but since a conference committee was appointed, it is eligible for consideration when the General Assembly comes back in July. Issues from study commissions may be considered during short session.

Track legislation on midwives and/or home births
Legislation seeks to establish a NC Council of Certified Professional Midwives which can set requirements for licensure, employee staff, set fees for licensure, determine fitness of applicants, conduct investigations and receive 3rd party payments. There are many other provisions as well. It was deemed appropriate for consideration by the Joint Legislative Committee on New Licensing Boards. It is assigned to Health and Human Services and then Finance in the House and Health in the Senate. H522 link: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011&BillID=H522

S662 link: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2011%20%20&BillID=s662

This issue was deemed proper for consideration by the Legislative Committee on New Licensing Boards. Since there is a fiscal/budget impact, it is eligible for consideration in during the 2012 short session.



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Prioritizing Early Childhood Education: We Can’t Afford to Wait

In today’s Huffington Post, Susan Ochshorn, founder of ECE PolicyWorks, writes about the need to prioritize children. She talks about the 20 percent cut to North Carolina’s More at Four and Smart Start initiatives.

In ithe article, Ocschorn says, “Learning, Harkin reminds us, begins at birth. In the U.S. today, however, only a tiny fraction of the many billions spent on public education is invested at the early end of the spectrum. We are missing a prime opportunity, one that we cannot afford to waste.”

Read the full story at huffingtonpost.com.


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Thank Gov. Perdue for Vetoing the Budget

Gov. Perdue speaking to early education professionals at the National Smart Start Conference in May.

Governor Perdue took a courageous stand this week when she vetoed a budget that will devastate many North Carolina families. Even though her veto was ultimately overridden, we are grateful to the governor for fighting for education, including education for our youngest children.

MomsRising asks that you join them in saying “thank you” to the Governor by sending an email. You can customize the form letter with your own feelings about the need for quality early education.

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Wilmington Police Chief Supports Early Childhood Education To Help Fight Crime, Save Taxpayer Dollars

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Wilmington Chief of Police Ralph Evangelous paid a visit to a local child development center yesterday to read to preschool-age children and express his support for North Carolina’s More at Four and Smart Start programs. He said these programs can help kids succeed in school and prevent them from becoming criminals. Chief Evangelous said that he wants to see the state keep funding high-quality early education as a critical strategy to help reduce crime, lower prison costs and save taxpayers money.

Citing a new research brief called “Pay Now or Pay Much More Later,” Chief Evangelous said that investing in high-quality early care and education can help improve public safety and produce savings from reduced corrections and criminal justice costs. Despite drops in crime rates in some jurisdictions, North Carolina still spent $1.36 billion in 2009-2010 on corrections with almost 40,000 adults locked up in either state or federal prisons on the first day of 2010.

On Sunday, Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed a spending bill approved by the General Assembly that would make substantial changes and cuts to North Carolina’s investment in early childhood education. The Appropriations Act of 2011 effectively eliminates the More at Four early education program. Chief Evangelous and other North Carolina law enforcement leaders are urging Gov. Perdue, state legislators and other leaders to come together to find a way to maintain the current funding for high-quality early care and education. As of press time, the General Assembly had not voted to override or sustain the governor’s veto.

“Being tough on crime also means being smart on crime. Supporting early childhood care and education through Smart Start and More at Four should be part of that ‘smart on crime’ strategy,” Chief Evangelous said. “We shouldn’t skimp on the education of our youngest children. It makes a heck of a lot more sense to pay now for quality early learning than to pay much more later for a prison sentence.”

A long-term study of Michigan’s High/Scope Perry early childhood development program found that at-risk children who did not participate in the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders by age 27 than children who did attend. Because of their increased involvement in crime, the children who did not attend were 86 percent more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison by the age of 40.

The report also shows that cutting funding for early childhood programs would be shortsighted and risky since quality early care and education programs actually save money in the long run. The Perry program cut crime, welfare and other costs so much that it saved taxpayers an average of $180,000 for every child served, with the vast majority of the public savings coming from reduced crime costs alone.

North Carolina’s More at Four Program stands out as an exemplar of high-quality early education and care to the nation. North Carolina is one of only four states with state-funded early education programs that meet all ten quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The program serves roughly 31,000 at-risk kids in North Carolina.

Negative Effects of Appropriations Act of 2011 on Early Education:

• The bill will not require early education and care programs to adhere to high quality standards that have been shown by research to get kids on the right path and avoid crime as they grow older.

• The 20 percent cut in funding and a co-payment requirement from parents will put a financial burden on low-income families that may prevent them from sending their children to any early education program.

• The bill will put a strain on schools’ abilities to provide early education classes. More than half of More at Four children, approximately 17,000 four-year-olds, attend a school-based program. If these programs close, thousands of students will be denied access to the program.

The chief is a member of FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS, the national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, other law enforcement leaders and violence survivors, including 87 members in North Carolina and over 5,000 members nationwide.

Visit our website, http://www.fightcrime.org/, to follow our campaign and learn more.


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Governor Vetoes Budget; Statement from NCPC Board Chair

Today, Governor Bev Perdue vetoed the budget passed by the North Carolina General Assembly. In doing so, she said:

From the high chair to the rocking chair, every North Carolinian has been given the opportunity for a quality education — from early childhood, K-12, community colleges and through our colleges and universities. This is the commitment we have made to our people because, quite simply, it’s what we believe in.

We have lived our values – until now.

Now, for the first time, we have a legislature that is turning its back on our schools, our children, our longstanding investments in education and our future economic prospects.

Under this budget:

We will overlook many of our most at-risk pre-school children by slashing Smart Start and More at Four, leaving these kids behind before they’ve even started Kindergarten . . .

Statement by Dr. Olson Huff, Chair of the Board of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., released the following statement:

“In vetoing the budget, Governor Perdue told North Carolinians that our children must be the first priority. She said no to a budget that slashes numerous programs that children need, including the state’s early childhood system that serves as a model throughout the country. The 20 percent cuts to Smart Start and More at Four place a disproportionate share of the sacrifice on our youngest children—those at an age where the brain is literally being built and the foundation for all learning is established. The experiences that children have in their earliest years literally shape the architecture of their brains and strongly affect whether they grow up to be productive, contributing members of society.

Both Smart Start and More at Four produce important results for North Carolina, including ensuring that more children are reading by third grade and creating and sustaining jobs. Earlier this year, Duke University released a study showing that all North Carolina third-graders have higher standardized reading and math scores and lower special education placement rates in counties that received more funding for Smart Start and More at Four when those children were younger. In the immediate, these programs sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars, allow employees to be productive, attract business to our state, and lay the groundwork for North Carolina’s economic future. Long-term, children who receive high-quality early childhood education are more likely to graduate from high school, own a home, have savings, and commit fewer crimes than their peers. Investing in developing healthy, smart and productive children is a fiscally responsible way to reduce deficits and create growth.

We applaud the Governor for her decisive action for our children.”

Read the Governor’s statement.

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Orange County Board of Commissioners Asks Legislators to Maintain Current Funding Levels for Smart Start and More at Four

Yet another group of community leaders stands up for quality early education, citing benefits to  our future society.

WHEREAS, Orange County needs the most skilled employees now and in the future; and

WHEREAS, communities that develop and retain skilled employees excel and spend less tax money on expensive remedial programs; and

WHEREAS, public policies must support the development of the next generation of workers so that they can continue to innovate and lead; and

WHEREAS, high quality early care, education and services support the early development and learning of young children, and make possible the development of a strong future workforce for our community and businesses; and

WHEREAS, research shows that children who enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed grow to be job-ready workers who help businesses prosper and good residents who help communities thrive; and

WHEREAS, Smart Start and More at Four help create a beneficial workforce, productivity and quality of life conditions in our state, by preventing the achievement gap for at-risk and underprivileged children, producing better outcomes in education, health, personal productivity and economic vitality; and

WHEREAS, Smart Start and More at Four contribute to the local economy of Orange County by supporting small businesses, creating jobs and allowing parents to work; and

WHEREAS, Orange County supports strong education at all levels from preschool through higher education;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, the Orange County Board of Commissioners, strongly recommend the North Carolina General Assembly support the current levels of funding for Smart Start and More at Four in the FY 2011-2012 budget and future budget years.

This the 7th day of June, 2011.

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Lillington Chamber of Commerce Writes Letter in Support of Smart Start

June 2, 2011

Dear Senator Blake and Representatives Lewis and Stone:

The Lillington Chamber of Commerce would like to express its support for North Carolina’s Smart Start Program. We understand that this year’s state budget presents a tremendous challenge and that many programs are facing unprecedented cuts. It is our hope that North Carolina’s nationally recognized Smart Start and More at Four Program will not receive disproportionate cuts nor be severely curtailed in the ability to serve children, families, and their communities, particularly in rural areas such as Harnett County. Smart Start has provided a unique approach by allowing local partnerships to determine what is needed to address gaps in services and offer programs that go directly to the heart of early childhood needs.

The services provided by the Harnett County Smart Start Partnership include services to children from birth to age five and their families to help ensure that children enter school healthy and ready to succeed. Services include Child Care Subsidy Services that allow parents to work or attend school while helping their children to be better prepared for kindergarten. Health and Family Support Services include parenting education, support for reading programs and health screenings and referrals. Early Care and Education Services allow teachers working in child care centers who typically earn minimum wage, to receive a salary supplement if they complete college coursework in the early childhood education field.

Smart Start has been heavily evaluated since its inception in 1993 and has demonstrated responsible stewardship. Local Smart Start agencies are audited for financial and programmatic compliance every two years using the state auditing policy, the most stringent in the state. The most recent audits of 41 local Smart Start agencies resulted in absolutely no findings.

If the Smart Start Program is greatly reduced, our local economy could see the impact of a loss of up to thousands of dollars. Locally owned child care centers and homes would be especially hard hit as well as the parents who may not be able to work or continue to go to school. And the impact on our children would be especially devastating as many would lose the services they are currently receiving.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a 2010 report that stated, “Early childhood education has a tremendous impact on the national economic security and viability of the American dream.” In addition, preliminary research released this month by Duke University found that investments in Smart Start generate broad educational benefits in helping children to be more successful in elementary school.

The Lillington Chamber of Commerce is committed to working with local organizations and businesses to support the development of an educated workforce to improve the local economy and the quality of life for our citizens. We know from research that the early years are critical times for a child’s brain and emotional development and that programs such as Smart Start have proven to be solid investments in the future of our children, our economy and our community. A resolution regarding our support is attached.

We urge you to consider the important economic and educational role that Smart Start plays in local communities across North Carolina, and encourage you to strive to maintain this valuable program that has wisely invested in our most important resource – our future generation.

Charlene Edwards

Charlene Edwards, President
Lillington Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

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