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Epi-pen bill dead for this year

A bill that would require schools keep Epi-pens on hand for emergency treatment of children's severe allergic reactions won't become law this year.

Parents from around the state are pushing the bill - signing petitions and sending email - which passed unanimously in the House in April and now sits in the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Dan Soucek, a Boone Republian and co-chairman of the committee, said the committee was concerned about putting additional regulations on school administrators and are worried about the cost.

Though Soucek said the Senate won't hear the bill this year, it's still alive for the short-session.

N.C. House Dems blast voucher plan

House Democrats panned the plan to offer parents vouchers send their children to private schools, saying it was an irresponsible use of tax money and a step in dismantling public schools.

Voucher supporters are advancing a bill that would offer $4,200 a year in taxpayer money to parents of low-income children who move them from public to private schools. Supporters say poor parents deserve the same options wealthier parents have in choosing schools for their children.

But Democrats on Wednesday said that poor parents, even with vouchers, will not be able to afford the state's top private schools. Some charge annual tuition of $10,000 and more.

Teacher tenure bill moves swiftly through House committee

A bipartisan House bill that would change the state's teacher tenure law moved swiftly through the House Education committee Tuesday.

The bill would allow veteran teachers to keep tenure, though they would lose it with two consecutive years of poor performance. Teachers with four years experience who are rated "highly effective" would be granted tenure.

The House bill is on a collision course with a Senate bill that abolishes teacher tenure.

Another swing at independent redistricting under way

Another run at taking the politics out of redistricting has emerged this session in the form of a bipartisan bill packed with so many co-sponsors that they constitute a majority in the House.

HB606 would create an independent nonpartisan professional staff that would draw maps that the General Assembly would then approve or reject, with only limited technical amendments permitted.

The main backers of HB606 will try to drum up support at a news conference Wednesday with House Speaker Pro Tem Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Apex; Democratic caucus co-chair Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Raleigh; Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, and Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Fayetteville.

The bill is the same one that passed the House in 2011 on an 88-27 vote. Supporters note that House Speaker Thom Tillis supported redistricting reform when he was in the minority party.

Supporters say that 25 Republicans who didn’t sign on as sponsors of this bill have either voted for the 2011 bill or have said they support redistricting reform.

NC House touts bipartisan bill to improve school safety

A bipartisan coalition of North Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday to add more law enforcement officers and social workers to elementary and middle schools and install panic alarms in every classroom in the state.

The measure includes $17 million to add the officers, staff and alarms and mandates additional crisis drills and training to prepare for violent attacks at schools.

House Speaker Thom Tillis launched the effort more than a month ago and the legislation is designed to dovetail with Gov. Pat McCrory’s newly announced Center for Safer Schools. State Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, said the legislation represents “a strong bipartisan consensus on an issue that should not have any partisan overtones.”

Bill would require quick reporting time for mental health issues in concealed firearm applications

A trio of Democratic lawmakers have filed a bill aimed at better tracking people with mental health problems who apply for concealed handgun permits.

House Bil 344 would set a deadline of 48 hours – not including weekends or holidays – for superior court clerks to report to the national background check system records of in- and out-patient involuntary commitments for mental health treatment, and involuntary commitment for susbstance abuse for those determined to be a danger to themselves or others. Also reported would be records of people found not guilty by reason of insanity or for those who are found mentally incapable to stand trial in a criminal case.

The bill would also require clerks report if someone has successfully petitioned to remove a previous legal barrier to purchasing, possessing or transferring a firearm. Primary sponsors are Rep. Verla Insko of Chapel Hill, Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham and Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville.

The federal background check system reportedly misses a large number of mental health records from the states.

1363809990 Bill would require quick reporting time for mental health issues in concealed firearm applications The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Legislators ask congressional delegation to avoid widespread federal budget cuts

Democratic legislators warned that automatic federal budget cuts coming March 1 will damage the state economy, the state budget, children and their families.

The N.C. Budget & Tax Center, part of the N.C. Justice Center, is asking legislators to sign a letter to the state's Congressional delegation urging a "balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes additional new revenues and protects the state budget." The Justice Center is a policy and advocacy organization for poor and working-class people.

The budget cuts will hit military employees, defense contractors, Head Start students, and families who have subsidized child care. The automatic federal budget cuts were part of a 2011 deal between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans that allowed the country to raise the debt ceiling.

The letter says cuts to defense spending are expected to cost the state $1.5 billion in defense contracts and 11,000 jobs, and non-defense cuts are expected to cost nearly 1 million jobs nationwide and reduce the state's gross domestic product by as much as $2 billion. The budget numbers were taken from a U.S. Senate report from 2011.

Racial Justice Act changes again in committee

Members of the House Judiciary Committee endorsed changes to the Racial Justice Act that would narrow the use of statistics to prove racial bias in death sentences. The bill now goes to a vote of the full House.

House Republicans say they want a version of the bill that is veto-proof.

The committee vote Monday was along party lines, with Democrats opposed.

Majority Leader Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, said the changes make the law about each individual rather than about statistics.

Democrats said the revision essentially repeals the 2009 law because defendants could not use statistics alone to prove racial bias.

"This bill is government at its disingenuous worst," said Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat. The bill acknowledges racial bias exists, but "makes it impossible for a defendant to prove it," he said.

In April, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks, in the first claim filed under the act, re-sentenced a death-row inmate to life in prison without the possibility of parole, finding there was statistical evidence of bias. Earlier this month, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation said three clients it represents in Cumberland County cases were also entitled to reduced sentences because of Weeks’ ruling.

House Dems bash GOP budget

The mostly GOP-authored budget does not do enough for public education, House Democrats said at a news conference Wednesday

Democrats made their budget critique a few hours before the full House was scheduled to vote on the $20.3 billion plan. Republicans scraped together about $330 million to put toward K-12 education next year, enough to maintain the financial status quo.

But House Democrats said the budget continues to shortchange K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities. Democrats stopped short, however, of recommending a tax increase to raise more money. "It's up to them to find the money to meet the needs of this state," said House Minority Leader Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat.

GOP veto garage antagonizes teachers, cops, League of Women Voters

Republicans in the General Assembly created a "veto garage" last year, where they "parked" vetoed bills until they thought they had the votes to override. But is it legal? See our story today.

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