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Two of Rep. Sasser’s bills successfully pass through Health Committee

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A bill that would commemorate childhood cancer each September and one that allows North Carolinians to maintain organ donation consent permanently passed successfully through the Health Committee on Tuesday.

Rep. Wayne Sasser, a pharmacist and Republican who represents Rowan and Stanly counties, was the primary sponsors of both bills.

House Bill 89 designating September as “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month” passed unanimously in the committee. The bill cites that 1 in 5 children are in terminal condition when diagnosed with cancer in the U.S., while 3 in 5 suffer life-altering impacts from treatment. Additionally, 1 in 285 children are diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20. It’s estimated that 43 children per day are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S., with seven dying each day.

Sasser, while emotional, told committee members that one of his constituents informed him that they lost their 4-year-old to cancer around 300 days after the child’s diagnosis. Sasser noted that his face covering that day paid homage to an incurable condition called diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas, or DIPG, where a tumor develops on one’s brain stem.

Sen. Carl Ford, another Republican representing Rowan and Stanly counties, filed the same bill, Senate Bill 80. It was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate on Feb. 11, but has yet to be placed on the committee’s agenda at this time.

Additionally, another bill of Sasser’s, H.B. 95, passed favorably in the Health Committee on Tuesday. That bill allows North Carolinians who wish to become organ donors through a local DMV to remain a donor on a permanent basis. A recent change to the bill allows donors to move to other jurisdictions within the state and still keep their donor status unless they choose to revoke organ donation consent for any reason.

Sasser told lawmakers Tuesday that his bill intended to lessen the workload of DMV staff and allow for more convenience to the organ donor.

Both bills were sent to the Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House committee, which is often the last hurdle before making it to the House floor for a vote. At this time, neither bill has been placed on the legislative calendar.

Another bill that passed through the Health committee is H.B. 71, which aims to protect living donors from potential insurance discrimination, provide an income tax credit for unreimbursed medical expenses related to certain organ and marrow donations and provide up to 30 days of paid leave to state employees and other state-supported personnel for organ donations and up to seven days for bone marrow donations.

The bill would allow a tax credit to the donor of no more than $5,000 for the expenses incurred above what’s reimbursed by the recipient.

Sasser is not a primary sponsor of H.B. 71, but he signed on to sponsor the measure, which was filed by Rep. Phil Shepard, R-15. Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican representing Rowan County, has also signed onto the bill.

Robert Hayden, executive director of the National Kidney Foundation in the North Carolina area, informed lawmakers during the committee meeting that 765 kidney transplants occurred across the state in 2019 while 89 patients in need of a kidney that year died while on the waitlist. Currently, a total of 2,899 kidney patients are on a transplant waitlist.

H.B. 71 will be taken up in the House Finance Committee due to its fiscal note.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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