by  Jaimelee Behrendt-Mihalski

What exactly happened for children in one of the shortest North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) long sessions since 1973?  As policy advocate at Council for Children’s Rights (CFCR), one of my goals is to help make sense of that. When I started this work at the end of May, I was thrown into the whirlwind that is the NCGA. At that time, it was clear that while the long legislative session was coming to an end,  very few session laws had been passed.

As I got to work, I discovered over 1,000 bills filed I needed to examine to determine their relevance to children and families in our community and across the state. As I started looking through the bills, I realized how difficult it was to determine what a bill might include from its title: Various Clarifying Changes—could that be relevant? Veteran/Health Care/Youth Suicide Prevention—that’s a lot to tackle in one bill, how do children fit in? Solitary Confinement in Prisons—this sounds like something written for the adult criminal justice system but will children be impacted and, if so, how?

Sifting through these bills was time-consuming. It was also sometimes a frustrating and confusing task. These feelings only intensified when the NCGA passed 175 bills in the final eight days of the session.

Even though regular session wrapped up on June 30, that doesn’t mean that policy-making is done for the year. The NCGA has scheduled several special sessions with no agenda—these sessions are being held partially to undertake redistricting but also to consider a handful of bills that are still in committee.

Throughout the process of identifying, researching, and summarizing legislation, I kept thinking about how difficult it is for the average citizen to keep up with the legislative process and effect change at that level. That’s where we can help: Council for Children’s Rights engages in policy work at the legislative, organizational, and professional levels, which includes monitoring legislative policy and its impact on children and families. It is a critical component of both the direct services we provide and the broader systems work we do.

In order to raise public awareness about relevant legislative actions at the state level, we’ve created a new legislative summary for the current session and will be scheduling periodic legislative and policy alerts. Copies of the summary and a sign-up form for policy alerts are available below.

Moving forward, we will update the summary document with relevant information about law implementation and bill movement. In addition, at the end of each biennium session, we intend to release a legislative summary that will summarize the actions of the NCGA and highlight important implications.

Monitoring state-level legislation is one way CFCR works to improve the lives of children in our community and we hope you’ll support us in holding our state accountable to our children.

A copy of the full 2017-2018 Legislative Summary can be downloaded here.

To receive periodic policy updates and action alerts, please sign up here.

Learn more about our Policy work here.

Jaimelee Behrendt-Mihalski works as a policy advocate with the Council’s Research and Policy Team.

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