North Carolina’s 2022 legislative “Short Session” packed lots of legislative action into a very short timeframe. Headline items like Medicaid Expansion, alcohol laws, and medical marijuana all hit the agenda, despite the limited calendar. We are very proud to report that the legislature enacted several important policy changes that will make children’s lives better in our state. However, there are still many more opportunities to invest in the needs of kids and families – notably mental health and school support staff. We will continue to push for meaningful investments in these priorities.
Governor Roy Cooper signed the budget into law Monday, July 11.
Here’s a quick look at some notable priorities for children and how they fared this legislative session:
Health – Good news for kids
Our Ask: Merge the NC Health Choice program with NC Medicaid. Merging the NC Health Choice program (also known as CHIP) with NC Medicaid will reduce administrative duplication and ensure continuous, quality coverage for more than 100,000 NC children – particularly those with special health care needs. Read more in our fact sheet. NC Child and our partners who serve children with special health care needs have been fighting for this change for many years.
Status: Included in the 2022 budget
Our Ask: Close the coverage gap by accepting federal funds to expand the NC Medicaid program. This policy would bring affordable, quality health care access to approximately half a million North Carolinians – at least 1/4 of whom are parents with children at home. Read more: How expanding Medicaid helps kids.
Status: Still incomplete. However, for the first time ever, both the House and the Senate passed Medicaid expansion bills this session. The two have not yet found a way to reconcile differences. Take action: Contact your legislator now!
Our Ask: Address student mental health, suicide prevention, and physical health needs by appropriating at least $10M to decrease the dire shortage of school nurses and other support staff in North Carolina. Read more about the role of school nurses in student mental health in this fact sheet.
Status: Not included in the budget
Some good news on Early Childhood Education
Our Ask: Create a more equitable child care subsidy rate by increasing the rate and by creating a statewide floor. In 2022 legislators did increase the rate to the 2018 market rate as we requested. However they did not create a statewide rate floor. Learn more about how to improve North Carolina child care subsidy rates.
Status: Partially included in the budget
This action is a temporary fix – but it is a good step forward! We will continue working for affordable child care through a long-term solution that provides equitable, sustainable child care subsidy rates across the state.
The budget also includes an additional rate increase for NC Pre-K. It did not include any additional investments in the WAGE$ program, which we and many of our early childhood partners have been advocating.
More unfinished business
NC Child and partners have been advocating for the legislature to re-instate the NC Earned Income Tax Credit to target tax cuts to the lowest income earners. The legislature did not address taxes this session. We have also advocated for many years to end corporal punishment in North Carolina public schools, with no action from the legislature this session.
Three important Child Fatality Task Force items were left unfinished this session. We will continue to support funding for these life-saving priorities:
- HB 427, Firearm Safe Storage Awareness Initiative. This bill passed the House one vote shy of unanimously in 2021;
- S537, Expand NC Infant Safe Sleep Program/Funds. The NC Child Fatality Task Force requested $85,000 in recurring funds to expand the current Infant Safe Sleep Education Program;
- H473, Revise Laws/Safe Surrender/Infants, to strengthen the current Safe Surrender statute to improve the efficacy of this law, designed to protect a newborn infant at risk of abandonment or harm.
Budget Summary: The House and Senate agreed to a budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, and the Governor has signed it into law on Monday, July 11. Read our breakdown of additional provisions in the budget that we were tracking.
They’ll be back
As of this writing, the legislature is planning to return to address unfinished business on July 26th and perhaps at additional future dates throughout the fall of 2022. Whether they will take up any of the items described above is anybody’s guess. No matter what, NC Child will continue to advocate for priorities that improve the lives of children and families – and we’re incredibly grateful to be doing that together with you.