Bills

Governor signs into law three bills sponsored by Forsyth legislators | Local Business

Gov. Roy Cooper has signed into law three bills sponsored by Forsyth County Republican legislators that focus on airport stormwater utility fees, a study on statewide telemedicine usage and dyslexia accommodations required of schools.

House Bill 275, with Rep. Debra Conrad as primary sponsor, exempts airports from paying city and county government stormwater utility fees specifically on their runway and taxiway properties.

The exemption comes with the condition that airports certify to the municipalities they are using the savings to attract businesses to their facility.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Greg Turner, assistant Winston-Salem manager, said the law would reduce the city’s stormwater revenues by $46,000 per year from Smith Reynolds Airport. He said those revenues are separate from general tax revenues.

“I anticipate we will need to ask City Council to approve a rate increase in part to address this revenue reduction, but also to provide enough funding for anticipated stormwater projects,” Turner said. “The only source of funding for this program is the stormwater fee.”

Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts said the county does not regulate stormwater.

Neither Mark Davidson, the top official at Smith Reynolds, nor Kevin Baker, top official at Piedmont Triad International Airport, could not be reached for how much in fees their respective airports will gain for business recruitment efforts.

“Investing in our airports for infrastructure will be a major business recruitment tool,” Conrad said when asked about how much of an impact the fees could be for Smith Reynolds. “With a global economy, we need to have more overseas direct flights originating out of North Carolina.”

PTI is receiving $7.12 million each for the fiscal 2017-18 and 2018-19 state budgets. The money could be spent on capital improvements or to pay debt services or other finance costs and expenses on revenue bonds and notes issued by airports.

House Bill 283, with Rep. Donny Lambeth as primary sponsor, requires the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to recommend a telemedicine standards policy by Oct. 1.

The law represents a one-step-back approach for legislators, who want to put telemedicine and other digital services on equal insurance coverage and reimbursement footing with other health-care services.

“I believe the study will help bring back a plan and address some of the concerns I heard from the legislators that will make it easier for an ultimate passage,” Lambeth said.

Demand for telemedicine has grown in recent years, with the service particularly aimed at individuals who live in rural areas and/or who have difficulty getting to an urban hospital.

“There is a high level of interest in telemedicine to help meet the needs in rural North Carolina, particularly as our population ages,” Lambeth said.

An amendment to HB283 by Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, requires DHHS to study the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact and its impact on the delivery of psychology services via the telemedicine model. The compact represents what some states have done to bridge the gap between what health insurers will and won’t pay for telemedicine.

DHHS would be required to file a report, a proposed telemedicine policy and a recommendation to the Joint Legislative DHHS oversight committee.

House Bill 149, with Conrad as primary sponsor, requires the State Board of Education and local education boards to develop tools for ensuring policies and procedures are developed for students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dyscalculia. The bill became law Thursday.

“It is important to be able to identify students with these learning disabilities early, so they can have the most fulfilling education possible,” Conrad said.

The bill was inspired by a Forsyth County couple, Neil and Penny Auchmuty, and their advocacy for their dyslexic son, Payne, who was identified as dyslexic around the age of 7 or 8, after teachers wrote home to say he was having trouble with reading.

“HB149 is important to my family because we see it as a step forward toward dyslexic students not having to go through the misunderstandings that Payne had to go through in the public school system,” Penny Auchmuty said.

The bill requires the state education board to include a specific definition for dyslexia within its policies for learning disabilities.

It requires — beginning in the 2017-18 school year — that teachers and other school personnel receive continuing training on identifying students with dyslexia and dyscalculia, and developing assistance strategies. The state education board is required to make available online information on dyslexia and dyscalculia.

Local school boards would be required — also beginning in the 2017-18 school year — to review their diagnostic tools and screening instruments for learning disabilities to see if they are age appropriate.

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