Bill Summary for H 263 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

Jun 19 2024

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
House Bill 263 (Public) Filed Thursday, March 2, 2023
Intro. by Arp, Saine, Lambeth.

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Bill summary

House amendments make the following changes to the 2nd edition.

Part II. Current Operations and Expansion/General Fund

Section 2.1 General Fund Appropriations

Amendment #11 makes a technical change to the net appropriation in the General Fund Reserves.

Section 2.2 General Fund Availability

Amendment #11 requires the State Controller to transfer from funds available in the Medicaid Contingency Reserve to the Department  of  Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Health Benefits (DHB), $200,000,000 in nonrecurring funds for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, and the funds transferred are appropriated for the fiscal year in which they are transferred.

Part V. General Provisions

Section 5.6 Freeze Disaster of 2023 Funding and Agricultural Crop Loss Program Authorization

Amendment #11 repeals Section 5.6(a)(1)(d) of SL 2023-134. Directs the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Department) to use available funds in Budget Code 23702 for the agricultural disaster that occurred March 13, 2023 to April 25, 2023, and subject to Secretarial  Disaster Designation S5468 caused by freezing temperatures and frost in Henderson, Polk, Rutherford, Buncombe, Haywood, and Transylvania counties. Requires the use of those funds to comply with the Agricultural Disaster Crop Loss Program, as enacted by the section below. Directs that any funds allocated to the Program in Budget Code 23702 not expended or encumbered by November 1, 2027, will revert to the Disaster Relief and Mitigation Fund.

Enacts new Article 85B, the Agricultural Disaster Crop Loss Program (Program), in GS Chapter 106, established and administered by the Department, effective July 1, 2024, and applying to applications received on or after that date. Specifies that the Program will be used to provide financial assistance to persons affected by natural disasters designated as a secretarial disaster by the USDA in accordance with federal law or as the State deems necessary to provide financial assistance for agricultural disasters in the State. Allows the Department to use up to 3% of funds allocated to the Program for each agricultural disaster for administrative purposes. Contains ten defined terms. Establishes three criteria for financial assistance under the Program for loss of agricultural commodities: (1) the person experienced verifiable loss of agricultural commodities (as defined) as a result of an agricultural disaster; (2) the farm is located in a qualifying county; and (3) an agricultural commodity was planted but not harvested before the date of the disaster or an aquaculture commodity was being propagated or reared on or before the disaster. Provides for verification of loss by form along with a signed affidavit. Provides for financial assistance for losses of livestock and poultry so long as the applicant qualifies for and receives payment through the USDA Livestock Indemnity Program and is a participant in a livestock or poultry indemnity program administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. Requires documentation of livestock or poultry loss along with a signed affidavit.  

Sets forth five listed criteria for administration of the financial assistance program, including payment calculations for both agricultural crops (based on county or State averages in price) and livestock and poultry losses (12.5% of the total loss reported to the USDA Livestock Indemnity Program).  Permits the Department to audit the financial and other records of each recipient of funds in order to ensure that the funds are used in accordance with the requirements of the Program.

Requires that the awarded funds be used for agricultural production expenses and recovery of losses due to the impacts of an agricultural disaster. Directs the Department to develop guidelines and procedures to ensure that funds are expended appropriately. Specifies that funds are subject to State and federal income tax.  Requires a recipient to refund the entire amount of any financial assistance if the Department determines they provided inaccurate information. Authorizes the Department of Revenue (DOR) to collect the money by using the collection procedures under GS 105-242 if the recipient fails to provide the refund.  

Starting six months after the Program receives funds and continuing every six months thereafter until all funds are expended, requires the Department to submit a report to the specified NCGA committee and the Fiscal Research Division containing five listed categories of information, including the number of applicants, number and amount of grants, geographic distribution of the awards, and any refunds made to the Program.

Directs that prior applications under Section 5.9B of SL 38 2021-180, as amended, for Tropical Storm Fred, and Section 4.4 of SL 2022-6, as amended, for the freeze disaster of 2021, will continue to be processed by the Department in accordance with those sections. Authorizes the Department to adopt rules to implement the Program. 

Part VII. Public Instruction

Section 7.20 Sunset Textbook Commission

Amendment #11 amends new GS 115C-98.5 (challenges to supplementary and instructional material by adding pervasively vulgar as one of the bases for a challenge to an instructional or supplemental material in elementary, middle, or high school (currently, other three prongs are obscene, inappropriate to the age, maturity, or grade level of the students or not aligned with the standard course of study).  Makes conforming changes. Allows the decision of the local board of education on the merit of the challenged material to be subject to judicial review in the superior court of the county where the local board is located. 

Section 7.24 DOA to Administratively Support Residential Schools

Amendment #11 amends GS 115C-150.11 (establishing schools for the deaf and blind) to require the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to include the schools themselves in addition to schools’ employees in coverage for professional liability, worker’s compensation, property and liability insurance policies (was, just professional liability policies) purchased by DPI or its employees. Specifies that in addition to appropriations directed solely to the schools for the deaf and blind, the schools are eligible to: (1) receive the benefit of any regional or statewide systems of support provided by DPI to all public school units and (2) apply for any grants available to all public school units. Directs that the schools for the deaf and blind are not eligible to receive funding allotments for local school administrative units unless otherwise directed by the General Assembly. Makes technical and clarifying changes. Applies DPI’s insurance obligations to the schools as described above during the 2024-2025 school year. Requires the North Carolina Collaboratory (Collaboratory), in consultation with each of the schools, DPI, and the Department of Administration (DOA), to study each school's administrative structure, operations, and policies, including the cost and positions needed for the support of the schools and how to optimize operation of that school to maximize the educational outcomes for the school's students and ensure the school's success and independence. Directs the Collaboratory to report its findings, recommendations for each school, and any recommended legislation to the Fiscal Research Division and the specified NCGA committee by no later than March 1, 2025.

Amends the effective date of Section 7.24 so that subsections (a) through (f) and (n) through (r) of the section are effective July 1, 2024. Subsections (g) through (m) of this section are effective July 1, 2025. The remainder of the section is effective when it becomes law.

Section 7.25 Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience

Amendment #11 changes the entity responsible for fingerprinting and conducting criminal history checks from DPI to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) in new GS 115C-229.50 (criminal history checks). 

Section 7.34 Add Funds for STEM West/Reduce Funds for SME Prime

Amendment #2, adds new Section 7.34 to the budget to increase the nonrecurring funds appropriated in the act to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for the 2024-2025 fiscal year by $500,000 to provide as a directed grant to STEM West, Inc. to increase and enhance STEM opportunities and interest for local communities and for students in elementary, secondary, and higher education in the State and to foster STEM partnerships between students and public and private industries. Decreases the nonrecurring funds appropriated by the acted to DPI for the 2024-2020 fiscal year for SME Prime by $500,000. Adjusts appropriate totals accordingly.

Section 7.34 Eliminate Testing Requirements to be Admitted to An Educator Preparation Program

Amendment #9 repeals GS 115C-269.15(a), as title indicates.

Section 7.34 To Establish the Cultivation of Excellence Pilot Program

Amendment #11 adds new Part 3B, the Cultivation of Excellence Pilot Program (Pilot Program) to Article 16 of GS Chapter 115C.  Establishes the purpose of the Pilot Program is to provide the opportunity for the Cleveland County Board of Education to design and create an innovative and strategic vision to improve student achievement and performance, along with teacher recruitment and retention. Allows Cleveland County Schools to participate in the Pilot Program beginning with the 2024-2025 school year and ending following the 2029-2030 school year. Allows the Pilot Program to do the following five things: (1) exercise flexibility in establishing staffing levels for kindergarten through third grade classes; (2) adopt a school calendar that sets an opening date no earlier than three days prior to the opening date of the fall semester for Cleveland Community College; (3) employ individuals as teachers who do not hold a teacher license, subject to listed limitations; (4) employ any individual who meets the requirements for employment as a teaching assistant in a kindergarten classroom as a teacher assistant in the local school administrative unit's NC Prekindergarten program; and (5) transfer and approve transfers of funds for the teacher assistants allotment category and textbooks and digital resources allotment category. Specifies that if the Board determines that Cleveland County Schools has failed to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management or violated State or federal law at any time, the Board will terminate participation in the pilot, and shall submit, within 30 days of the termination, a report of the basis and evidence for the termination to the specified NCGA Committee.  Requires the Cleveland County Board of Education to report by no later than December 15, 2025, and annually thereafter until December 15, 2030, to the specified NCGA Committee and the Superintendent of Public Instruction on five listed pieces of information, including the number of unlicensed teachers employed and the average class sizes for kindergarten through third grade.

Allows Cleveland County Schools to submit a report to the above entities by December 15, 2024, on initial implementation of the Pilot Program and any additional recommendations.

Repeals new Part 3B effective December 31, 2030.  

Part VIII. The University of North Carolina System

Section 8.11 Establish the School of Applied Science and Technology (School) at UNC Chapel Hill

Amendment #11 changes the entity tasked with establishing the School (was, the College of Applied Science and Technology) to the UNC Board of Governors from the Board of Trustees at UNC Chapel Hill. Changes the entity tasked with evaluating existing programs at UNC Chapel Hill and consider consolidating or eliminating programs that have a low return on investment to the Chancellor at UNC Chapel Hill in consultation with the Board of Governors (was, the Board of Trustees). 

Part IX-B. Central Management and Support

Section 9B.1 Use of Directed Grant Funds for the NC Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (Clinics)

Amendment #11 prohibits the funds appropriated to DHHS, Division of Central Management and Support, Office of Rural Health, for each year of the 2023-2025 fiscal biennium, to be allocated as a directed grant to the Clinics, for distribution to its member clinics to support the provision of health care to individuals who are uninsured and underserved from being withheld from member clinics in which less than 50% (was, 25%) of the total number of individuals served per year are Medicaid beneficiaries.

Part IX-D. Child Development and Early Education

Section 9D.3 Child Care Regulatory Reforms

Amendment #11 amends the requirement for DHHS’s Division of Early Childhood Education (Division) to separate the quality rating improvement system (QRIS) from the requirements and payments for participation in the State subsidized child care program to require that the Division use the market rate study submitted in 2025. Directs that the next market rate study must be completed and made available to the public by May 1, 2025. Removes language concerning revising rats.

Makes a technical change to reporting requirements and changes deadline for final report to within two months from the date the new rates are implemented (was, two months form the date the next market rate study is released and include an estimate of the cost of implementing the recommended rates).

Part IX-E. Health Benefits

Section 9E.13 Extending and Clarifying Primary Care Payment Reform Task Force

Amendment #20 makes the following changes. Amends the provision requiring the Task Force to establish a definition of primary care, by specifying that this does not require the definition to be used in administering the State Health Plan. Also amends the duty to collect and compile date related to healthcare spending on primary care services to specify that it must be done on a manner that complies with HIPPA and specifies that entities must comply with requests for data or information to the extent that the request is allowable under federal or State law.

Part IX-F. Health Service Regulation

Section 9F.1 Delay Effective Date of Law Requiring Sworn Law Enforcement Officers to be Present in Emergency Departments and Related Reports

Amendment #18 removes this section of the act.

Part IX-G. Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Use Services

Section 9G.2 Use of Opioid Settlement Funds

Amendment #11 amends provisions relating to $4.66 million in settlement funds transferred to DHHS’s Division of Public Health by deleting the requirement that the $1 million used for purchasing units of injectable opioid antagonists be long-acting.

Part XII. Environmental Quality

Section 12.2A City of Stanford Water and Sewer Project

Amendment #11 redirects funds appropriated in the act to DOC for a grant to Golden L.E.A.F. to DEQ instead to be used to provide a grant for the City of Stanford for water or wastewater infrastructure project or for repayment of a loan for a water or wastewater project from Golden L.E.A.F. Applies the directives and limitations of Section 12.2 of SL 2023-134 to the funds.

Section 12.2A Nash County Water and Wastewater Reallocations

Amendment #8 redirects $15 million of the funds allocated to Nash County under SL 2023-134 (2023 appropriations act) and instead allocates the funds to the listed local governments for water and wastewater projects as follows: (1) $5 million to the Town of Bailey; (2) $1 million to the Town of Middlesex; (3) $3 million to the Town of Nashville; (4) $4 million to the City of Rocky Mount; (5) $1 million to the Town of Spring Hope; and (6) $1 million to the Town of Whitakers.

Section 12.10 PFAS Remediation and Prevention Funding

Amendment #6 takes $2,130,357 from the funds appropriated in the act to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from the General Fund for the Shallow Draft Navigation Channel and Aquatic Weed Fund and redirects them for DEQ to establish a technical assistance program to support industry and municipalities as they implement treatment and management programs to prevent the release of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) into the environment and to remove PFAS chemicals from drinking water supplies. Reappropriates $750,000 of the nonrecurring funds for the 2024-2025 fiscal year appropriated to the Department of Commerce (DOC) for the OneNC program to be used by DOC for equipment and lab supplies to increase its capacity to analyze PFAS and other emerging compounds in-house.

Part XIV. Natural and Cultural Resources

Section 14.1 Authorize New Trails

Amendment #11 amends the authorization to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) pertaining to new trails to clarify that the First Broad River Trail should also be in Rutherford County and updates the name to the First Broad River Paddle Trail.

Part XVI. Administrative Office of the Courts

Section 16.8 Temporarily Extend the Mandatory Retirement Age of District Court Judges

Amendment #14 removes this section of the act.

Part XIX-G. Law Enforcement

Amendment #11 removes Section 19G.1, Authorizing the State Highway Patrol to Provide Assistance to Other Law Enforcement Agencies 

Section 19G.1A Funds to Upgrade Fueling and Vehicle Maintenance at the State Highway Patrol Station in Huntersville, North Carolina

Amendment #12 reallocates $643,150 of the funds appropriated from the General Fund to the State Highway Patrol (SHP) for the 2024-2025 fiscal year to support operating expenses to instead be allocated to the State Highway Patrol Station in Huntersville, North Carolina to be used for three listed purposed: (1) $640,000 for fuel infrastructure to include specified items; (2) $3,000 for an air compressor for filling tires; and (3) $150 for a vehicle vacuum. Requires SHP to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the creation, use, and maintenance of the items funded.

Part XXIV. Budget and Management—Special Appropriations

Section 24.2 Correct Grant Recipient for Treatment and Removal of Noxious Aquatic Weeds Treatment in Person County

Amendment #11 amends Section 24.7 of SL 2023-134 to require that the $250,000 from the Regional Economic Development Reserve be used for a grant to the Person-Caswell Lake Authority, instead of Person County, for the treatment and removal of native and noxious aquatic weeds. Makes conforming changes.

Part XXX. Insurance

Section 30.5 Firefighters’ Cancer Insurance Pilot Program Made Permanent

Amendment #11 adds the following.

Enacts new Article 86A to GS Chapter 58, titled the “Firefighters’ Cancer Insurance Program (Program).” Specifies that the Article’s purpose is to provide health benefits as authorized by the Article to eligible firefighters with a new diagnosis of cancer on or after January 1, 2022, and that the health benefits provided under the Article are supplemental to any other health benefits authorized by law for firefighters. Requires the Office of State Fire Marshal (Office) to administer the Program by contracting with a third-party administrator.

Defines terms cancer, eligible firefighter, fire department, and firefighter. Sets forth the following eligibility requirements for the Program: (1) service in an NC fire department or in a fire department on a military base in NC for a minimum of 5 years, or have been included on the certified roster submitted to the NC Firefighters’ Association for a period of no more than 10 years as retired/nonactive after the firefighter no longer meets the definition of firefighter and (2) a new diagnosis of cancer on or after January 1, 2022, except if they are receiving benefits related to cancer under the NC Worker’s Compensation Act.

Provides for the following benefits under the Program; (1) a lump sum benefit of $37,000 for each diagnosis of cancer, capped at $74,000, upon submission of proof of diagnosis to the insurance carrier, the Department, Office, or other applicable payor; (3) payment of specified amounts of disability benefits upon submission of proof to the insurance carrier, the Department, Office, or other applicable payor of total disability resulting from the diagnosis of cancer or that the cancer precludes the firefighter from serving as a firefighter.

Sets forth the following limitation on disability benefits: (1) disability benefits can continue for no more than 36 consecutive months; (2) any firefighter receiving disability benefits may be required to have his or her condition reevaluated to determine if that firefighter has regained the ability to perform the duties of a firefighter. If that reevaluation indicates that the firefighter has regained the ability to perform the duties of a firefighter, then the monthly disability benefits will cease on the last day of the month the reevaluation was conducted; (3) if there is no reevaluation performed, but the firefighter's treating physician determines that the firefighter is again able to perform the duties of a firefighter, then the disability benefits will cease on the last day of the month that the physician made the determination; (4) if a firefighter returns to work as a firefighter before exhaustion of the 36 months of disability benefit an eligible firefighter may receive, and if there is a subsequent recurrence of disability caused by cancer that again precludes the firefighter from performing the duties of a firefighter, then the firefighter will be entitled to any remaining monthly disability benefits, not to exceed 36 months in total; (5) the monthly disability benefit will be subordinate to any other benefit paid from any source to the firefighter solely for a disability related to the cancer diagnosis, so long as that source is not private insurance purchased solely by the firefighter. Disability benefits under this section will be limited to the difference between the benefit amount paid by the other source and the amounts specified under the Article.

Sets forth reporting requirements by the Office to the General Assembly and the Governor due on January 1 of each year. 

Effective July 1, 2025.

Amends GS 105-228.5(d)(3) to change the distribution of certain amounts of net proceeds from the additional .74% tax on gross premiums from property coverage contracts as follows. Requires up to 10% (was up to 20%) of the net proceeds to be credited to the Workers’ Compensation Fund, but prohibits the Fund reserve from exceeding $45 million. In addition to other allocations, now allocates 10% of the net proceeds to the Office of State Fire Marshal for the Firefighter Cancer Insurance Program, with a cap of $10 million on the amount credited to the Office. Requires the net proceeds that exceed these limits for the Workers’ Compensation Fund and the Office to be credited to the General Fund. Effective July 1, 2025.

Amends GS 58-87-10 (Workers’ Compensation Fund) by making conforming changes. Effective July 1, 2025.

Makes conforming changes to GS 58-78A-1 by adding the Firefighters’ Cancer Insurance Program to the Office of State Fire Marshal’s responsibilities. Effective July 1, 2025.

Amends GS 153A-233 (counties), GS 153A-234(b) (fire marshal), and GS 160A-292(b) (fire chiefs) to specify that these entities only have to obtain a background check of any person over age 18 (previously, no minimum age requirement) who either applies for a paid or volunteer position with their respective departments (fire marshal and fire chiefs) or, in the case of GS 153A-233, is in a paid or volunteer position with a county, city, or other unit of local government, or incorporated fire department (currently, volunteer fire department) with whom the county contracts for fire-fighting or prevention services. Permits the criminal history check to be conducted through the county clerk of court or a third-party vendor if the applicant has been a resident of the State for over five years and reports no charges or convictions on the application. Also amends GS 153A-234 and GS 160A-234 to allow the fire marshal or fire chief, respectively, to designate a person to obtain the required criminal history record check. Applies to applications submitted on or after the act becomes law. Makes organizational changes. 

Part XXXVIII. Information Technology

Section 38.4 Completing Access to Broadband Program Changes

Amendment #11 amends GS 143B-1373.1 by reinstating the provision concerning the committing of funds from the Completing Access to Broadband Fund (CAB Fund) and now allows the Broadband Infrastructure Office to commit up to 70% (was, 35%) of the total estimated project costs from monies in the CAB Fund.

Section 38.10 BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment) Grant Program

Amendment #11 amend provisions related to the GREAT 3.0 Fund by removing the provision appropriating federal funds receive by the State under the IIJA for the BEAD Program to the GREAT 3.0 Fund for the described purposes.

Amends Section 38.10 of SL 2021-180 by removing the expiration date on the provisions concerning the Broadband Pole Replacement Program.

Requires the State Controller to establish a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Reserve (Reserve) to maintain federal funds received from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for the BEAD Program. Requires that funds be transferred to the Growing Rural Economic with Access to Technology for Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Fund only as need to meet the appropriations set out in subsequent legislation.

Section 38.11 Plasma Games Grant Program DIT

Amendment #11 adds the following new section.

Repeals Section 7.69 of SL 2023-134, which required the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to create a grant program for public school units to apply for funds to contract with Plasma Games, Inc., for the use of educational software to be used in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and career and technical education (CTE) courses. Instead requires the Department of Information Technology (DIT) to create the grant program. Incorporates the requirements of the previous program, but extends the deadlines by a year and changes the entities that are to receive the annual report. Adds that DPI must assist DIT with any information necessary to institute the program. Effective July 1, 2024.

Requires that the $3 million in nonrecurring funding appropriated to DPI for Plasma Games and $1.8 million in recurring funding instead be appropriated to DIT for the purposes above. Effective June 30, 2024.

Part XXXIX. Salaries and Benefits

Section 39.21 Enhance Benefits Under North Carolina Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund and Make Technical Changes to the Related Statutes

Amendment #11 corrects a statutory cross-reference in GS 58-86-55 and makes other technical changes.

Part XL. Capital

Section 40.2 Six-Year Intended Project Allocation Schedule

Amendment #11 amends the amount in fiscal year 2024-25 for UNC/R&R21 to 298,384 (was, 250,000) and no longer changes the amount for R&R21, leaving it at 200,000. Changes the amount for UNC/WSS21-1 from N/A to 37,050 in fiscal year 2025-26 instead of 2024-25.

Section 40.7 Clarify SCIF River Debris/Flood Resiliency Blueprint Authorization

Amendment #11 adds the following.

Amends Section 40.7 of SL 2021-180, as amended, by specifying that the funds to the Department of Environmental Quality for stream debris removal can be used for flood mitigation strategies throughout the State that are prioritized through the Flood Resiliency Blueprint. Adds that DEQ may enter into a memorandum of understanding with another state agency to implement the section’s requirements. Amends the targeted river basis to include the French Broad River basin.