Friday, March 02, 2007

Update From The Committees

A bill (House Bill 265) that would create a "high-risk" health insurance pool for chronically ill people who aren't insured or can't afford coverage, was approved on Tuesday by the House Health Committee, the first of several panels that must sign off on it before it goes to all House members for a vote. The next stop is the Insurance Committee. Sponsored by Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, the bill would create a pool to allow people with high-risk health conditions to get health insurance at more affordable rates. The pool would be funded through enrollee premiums and insurer assessments. A similar bill was approved by the House last year, but the Senate did not consider it before adjournment.

The House Health Committee approved legislation (House Bill 24) on Thursday that would ban smoking in state government buildings. This ban would cover all buildings owned, leased, or used by state government agencies. Last year, lawmakers outlawed smoking inside General Assembly buildings.

The Judiciary I Committee, on which I sit, approved several bills this week which seek to reduce domestic violence and increase criminal penalties. House Bill 47, Violate Order/Possess Deadly Weapon Felony, would make it a felony for some suspected abusers to contact potential victims while possessing a gun, knife, or other deadly weapon. Violating a domestic violence protection order is already a high-grade misdemeanor, punishable by up to about five months in jail. House Bill 46, Domestic Violence Victims/Security, would determine whether security guidelines are needed for domestic violence shelters operated by state-funded agencies and to provide, where feasible, private areas for domestic violence victims who are needed for any court proceeding where the defendant will be present. These measures are two of the 16 recommendations made by the new Joint Legislative Committee on Domestic Violence and come on the heels of sweeping changes to North Carolina's domestic violence laws in 2004.

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