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Political Notebook: Rep. Carl Ford appointed to legislative study committee

North Carolina Rep. Carl Ford has been appointed to a study committee for the Legislative Research Commission.

The committee, called the Committee on Dispute Resolution Options for Local Government and Owners and Developer of Property, will research set issues around public utilities such as sewer and water. With their findings, the group will make recommendations to the General Assembly.

The group will evaluate water and sewer fee and charge setting and subsequent collection rates by local governments. They will also research proper accounting controls regarding local government expenditures and transfers of public enterprise services.

Committee members will propose legislation that ensures proper funding of water and sewer infrastructure maintenance, improvements and monitoring. Pointedly, participants will discuss whether financially healthy systems could be facilitated with lower fees and charges to customers.

This research will be a result of committee consultation with the Local Government Commission, the School of Government, the Department of Environmental Quality, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, the North Carolina County Commissioners Association and others.

Findings will be presented in an interim report to the 2018 Session of the General Assembly prior to its reconvening that year. Final reports and recommendations will be made at the 2019 Regular Session of the General Assembly.

Bipartisan effort helping first responders save patients’ lives

Rep. G.K Butterfield, a Wilson democrat, and Rep. Richard Hudson, a Concord republican, are heralding the passage of House Bill 304, the Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act.

H.R. 304 will enhance emergency medical technicians’ ability to dispense lifesaving drugs, cutting through a tangle of federal red tape that brings unnecessary complication into the life-and-death decisions paramedics and EMTs must make in a matter of moments.

Once the bill becomes law, the Drug Enforcement Administration will be able to authorize emergency medical service agencies to dispense controlled substances. Currently, agencies’ medical directors and individual practitioners must meet registration requirements.

“Without this solution, quality emergency care and patients would have been endangered simply because law and regulation have not kept up with the evolution of modern medicine,” said Brent Myers, president of the National Association of EMS Physicians. “This is an important clarification of law that allows our first responder to continue administering lifesaving medications to patients when they need them most.”

House Bill 304 states that emergency medical technicians employed by a registered EMS agency can administer medication under a standing order issued by a medical director. The order would not have to be specific to an individual patient.

Hudson and Butterfield reintroduced the bill in January after the 115th Congress convened: a previous version passed the House in 2016 but did not receive a Senate floor vote.

Hudson, who represents North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District, is the legislation’s primary sponsor. The bill currently has 25 cosponsors, 13 democrats and 12 republicans. Counting Hudson, there is equal representation from both parties.

“Through this bill, we hope to ensure patients receive treatment when they need it most, particularly in rural communities like those in eastern North Carolina where the patient may be far removed from an emergency room,” said Butterfield, who represents the 1st Congressional District. “I commend my colleagues for coming together to pass this potentially lifesaving measure so that patients can receive treatment as quickly as possible.”

State treasure shifts control of billions in pension funds

State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced Tuesday, Nov. 7 that billions from the state retirement system are on track to become internally control.

Folwell reported that before Nov. 1, North Carolina was one of the nation’s last states that used external rather than in-house managers to oversee passive index funds.

The treasurer’s staff now controls $100 million in passive investments after using a trial shadow system for several months.

Passive management links an investment portfolio to a market index, unlike the riskier active management in which managers constantly make buying and selling decisions in hopes of beating the market.

Folwell expects all $12.5 billion of U.S passive index funds to be managed in-house by November 2018. This is about 12 percent of the state investment portfolio.

In-house oversight gives the state more control over where the money is invested, increases transparency and saves the fees paid to external managers. According to the treasurer’s office, this should save about $2.4 million annually.

Folwell is dedicated to saving money – specifically the money of North Carolinians. In October, Folwell wrote to President Donald Trump, asking him to extend the moratorium on the health insurance premium tax.

Reinstating the tax would cost North Carolinians $366 million in additional premiums next year. For comparison, the moratorium extension would save state taxpayers approximately $45 million in premiums for Medicare-eligible retirees.

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