Septic Tank Fix Advances And Association Health Plan Bill Passes
Legislative activity continued last week, albeit at a much-reduced pace, as the budget impasse between the General Assembly and the Governor entered its second month. This impasse, which has, so far, precluded any serious negotiation to resolve differences in state budget spending priorities for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, appears to be centered on the issue of Medicaid expansion which the Governor favors and the legislative leadership does not.
As previously reported, this extended session has given NCHBA’s legislative team an opportunity to correct a major issue with onsite wastewater permits which arose recently with respect to Wake County’s onsite wastewater program. A recent audit by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services concluded that Wake County’s locally-delegated program did not meet state minimums for setbacks for down-slope stormwater diversions. The county believed it lacked the authority to “grandfather” permits previously issued and in various stages of construction. The potential for confusion and litigation was great.
After studying the issue closely and working with various stakeholders, your legislative team worked to create a legislative solution. This fix grandfathers landowner applications and development plans submitted prior to August 1, 2019 with the following language, “a minimum horizontal distance between every sanitary sewage treatment and disposal system and downslope interceptor drains, foundation drains, and stormwater diversions shall be 15 feet.”
Last Tuesday, Representative Mark Brody (R-Union) further amended SB 353 (Amend Cartway Path/Septic Tank Laws), sponsored by Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), to clarify that the state rule shall only apply to stormwater diversions with cuts of 2 feet or more in vertical height. That amendment was unanimously adopted and the bill then passed the House on 2nd reading by a vote of 106-0. The bill will have one additional vote when the House reconvenes this week. After clearing the House, the bill will be sent back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, before being sent to the Governor. These clarifying amendments have the full support of the bill’s sponsor Senator McInnis.
Also last week, the General Assembly gave final approval to SB 86 (Small Business Health Care Act) principally sponsored by Senators Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) and Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson). The bill is designed to expand access to health care coverage by allowing trade associations (meeting certain requirements) to offer its member employees (including sole proprietors) insurance products that are regulated as group insurance. Earlier this session, NCHBA joined with a number of other prominent statewide trade associations in a coalition in support of this bill.
These large group plans, commonly referred to as Association Health Plans (AHP), would be regulated under this bill by the NC Department of Insurance and must provide coverage for pre-existing conditions and other preventative care. However, several of the mandates which are required under the federal Affordable Care Act (i.e., “Obamacare”) would not be required under this bill. Consequently, the bill was opposed by a number of left-leaning organizations and legislators who argue that the creation of these programs will siphon away insureds and cause health insurance premiums to rise for ACA policies.
These groups are making a strong effort to convince Governor Cooper to veto the bill. While the bill passed with veto-proof margins in both chambers, a number of observers believe that some Democrats who voted for the bill would not vote to override a veto. The Governor has 10 days to decide but indications are that he is leaning toward a veto on the premise that all health care issues should be included in one discussion (e.g., his Medicaid expansion).
In an attempt to persuade the Governor to sign the bill (or let it become law without his signature), NCHBA joined several other coalition members in full-page ads which ran last week in both the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer.
Both bodies will be back in Raleigh this week and will hold voting sessions. Your legislative team will be there too!