Legislative Recap: Planned Parenthood, Medicaid Privatization & Primary Elections

Sep 24, 2015

Flanked by a dozen lawmakers, McCrory said the new law would take at least four years to fully implement.
Credit Jorge Valencia / WUNC

Bill Would Ban The Sale Of Fetal Tissue From Abortions

Republicans in the Senate's rules committee cleared a bill on Wednesday  that would ban the sale of fetal tissue from abortions.

House Bill 297  is a reaction to a national controversy after an anti-abortion group’s undercover videos suggested Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue from abortions.  

“What we’ve seen through these videos, regardless of whether it’s happening in NC or not, is basically abortion clinics are using flexibility in the federal rules to haggle for prices over the body parts of unborn children,” said Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake). “The moral consideration in North Carolina is that we just don’t want that to happen here.”

But Planned Parenthood denies the allegations and argues the videos were heavily edited. Officials with the group in North Carolina say they don’t sell or donate fetal tissue, and that the bill is “nothing more than another political attack on safe and legal abortion” in the state.

“[It is] being pushed by the same politicians and extreme political groups, that oppose a woman's right to make deeply personal pregnancy decisions regardless of the circumstances,” said Melissa Reed, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic.

The bill would also ban state funding for family planning services, pregnancy prevention activities, or adolescent parenting programs with any provider that performs abortions.

Immigrant ‘Sanctuaries’ Would Be Banned

Counties and cities in North Carolina would no longer be able to direct local police officers to not gather information on people’s immigration status, under a new version of House Bill 318.

Under the plan, which was approved by the Senate’s powerful rules committee in a voice vote, counties and cities could not pass ordinances to serve as what’s known as a “sanctuary” for people living in the country illegally. Local governments would not be able to prohibit law enforcement agencies from collecting residents’ immigration information and reporting it to the federal government.

Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow), the lead author of the bill in the House of Representatives, presented the new plan to the committee, and has said his goal is to keep people from migrating illegally to the state.

The bill increases the number of employers required to use E-Verify, a federal database to determine a prospective employee’s immigration status, with the exemption of farm workers. The plan also bans the use of consular matriculation cards or locally-issued identification cards as a form of identification.

“People who need to use a consular matriculation are not in the country legally,” Cleveland told the committee.

Democratic Sen. Joel Ford (D-Mecklenburg) and Josh Stein (D-Wake) asked whether the proposal would increase the cost of running some businesses in North Carolina.

Primary Elections For President, U.S. Senate Would Be Held In March

Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) presented to the rules committee what appears to be a compromise between the House and Senate to move the 2016 primary elections for president and statewide races to March 15 from May, saying the new date would make North Carolina voters more influential in electing a president.

State lawmakers had long sought to increase the state’s prominence in the presidential vetting process, but had disagreed on whether statewide elections should also be held two months earlier. Some argued the March date could discourage potential candidates from running for office, given its proximity.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) told the group that holding statewide and presidential primaries separately would cost the state up to $5 million dollars more than it would holding them the same date.

The new plan, which the House and Senate could send to the governor this week, would apply only to the 2016 primaries.

McCrory Signs Law To Privatize Medicaid

Gov. Pat McCrory signed the General Assembly’s long expected plan to overhaul North Carolina’s Medicaid system in a ceremony at his executive mansion on Tuesday. Flanked by a dozen lawmakers, McCrory said the new law -- which shifts care for most of the state’s 1.8 million Medicaid patients to 10 non-profits run by hospitals and doctors or three for-profits run by insurance companies -- would take at least four years to fully implement. State health officials will apply to the federal government, which pays for two thirds of the state’s $12 billion program, to get permission to revamp the system. “This is just the beginning,” McCrory said.

Happiest Bill Of The Day

Lawmakers would adjourn the 2015 legislative session next Tuesday, under a bill the Senate rules committee approved. The General Assembly has already approved the year’s two biggest pieces of legislation–the $21.7 billion budget and Medicaid reform–but could still postpone their adjournment date if they had unfinished business. “I would like to leave Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest,” Apodaca said.