Efforts underway to sharply reduce NC’s legal threshold for intoxicated driving.

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“This is not to tell individuals they don’t have a right to drink alcohol.”

Rep. Mike Clampitt (R-Swain Co.) told reporters Thursday that House Bill 148 (Driving/Reduce Legal BAC Level) would lower the legal limit for driving from a blood alcohol content of .08 to .05  and was intended to prevent people from thinking they were safe to drive after a couple of drinks.

“It [alcohol] is a depressant resulting in the diminished mental state. It is visually supported by television ads and magazines and billboards.”

Clampitt said when Utah took the lead in lowering its impaired driving legal limit to .05, traffic deaths decreased nearly 20%.

“In North Carolina, the problem of impaired driving increased 18% from 2019 to 2020 and is getting worse. We are at an epidemic,” warned Clampitt.

He noted that ABC sales last year jumped over ten percent with more than $200 million in state alcohol sales.

Clampitt also pointed to a recent rear-end collision involving an impaired driver and House Speaker Tim Moore to help make his point.

Rep. Mike Clampitt

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey said he supports efforts to curb driving under the influence, as rising cases put pressure on the state’s automobile insurance rates.

Also backing the lower threshold for impaired driving was Ollie Jeffers with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“There is no reason not to vote for it. Unless you think that it’s going to affect your family members or somebody that you know,” said Jeffers. “Then I say that you’ve been selfish because you’ve got to think about others.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has also taken an interest in House Bill 148.

“In North Carolina alone, alcohol impaired driving crashes killed over 3,800 people between 2011 and 2020,” said Leah Walton, an NTSB safety advocate.

“The .05 law works as a general deterrent. It helps modify the behavior of all drivers by encouraging them to separate drinking from driving.”

The NTSB has been recommending a .05 BAC law since 2013.

Only Utah has adopted the change in the past decade.

“This is about saving lives.”

Rep. Clampitt brushed back questions about the push for increasing penalties for impaired driving during a session in which conservative leadership has loosened the states gun laws and refused to take up gun control measures. The Child Fatality Task Force reported last month that child deaths by firearms in North Carolina increased dramatically in 2020 and 2021.

“I don’t want to politicize this event that we’re talking about between the Democrats and their gun control legislation or requests,” said Clampitt, a member of the Freedom Caucus. “This is about saving lives.”

A package of bills

Clampitt has introduced four other bills to work in concert with lowering the blood alcohol threshold, including:

  • H85 – Revise Use of Alcohol Concentration Result
  • H147 – Impaired driving law restrictions, revisions and fee structure
  • H211 – DWI sentencing and mitigating factors,  and
  • H212 –  Driver’s license restoration to go by treatment court.

It’s unclear if any of the measures has the support to pass both chambers in this fast-moving session.

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House Republicans revive ‘academic transparency’ legislation in budget proposal

A display of banned books at the San Jose Public Library (Photo courtesy of San Jose Public Library via Flickr).

The North Carolina House budget proposal calls for a 10% pay increase for teachers over the next two years, but would have to work harder for the extra money under a substantive provision that would require “Academic Transparency.”

The House budget bill would require teachers to prominently post, course materials, lessons plans and supplemental materials on school websites.

“The governing body of a public school unit [school board] shall ensure that the following information for each school it governs is prominently displayed on the school website, organized, at a minimum, by subject area and grade level,” the budget provision says.

The academic transparency provision in House Bill 259 is mostly the language from House Bill 755 that was filed and backed by Republicans in 2021.

Course materials include all instructional materials, supplemental materials, videos, digital materials, websites and other online applications.

A teacher’s lesson plan from the previous year would have to be made available on a school’s website by June 30 of each year.

In 2021, Rep. Hugh Blackwell, a Republican from Burke County, who sponsored HB 755, said it would improve academic outcomes for students by involving parents in their children’s education.

“I think it may be pretty well established over many years that where parents are actually active and engaged in their children’s education, that their children have better outcomes,” Blackwell said.

Rep. Jeffrey McNeely, an Iredell County Republican, said HB 755 would allow parents to review teachers lesson plans before the start of the school year.

“To me, this will help the parents going to the next grade be able to look and see what that teacher taught the year before, and hopefully we’re just going teach the kids and we’re not going to try to indoctrinate them and teach them in a certain way to make them believe something other than the facts, the knowledge and the ability to write and the ability to read,” McNeely said.

The budget bill also requires school boards to establish a “community media advisory committee” to investigate and evaluate challenges from parents, teachers and members of the public who deem certain instructional material and supplemental materials unfit. The State Board of Education would be required to establish a “State Community Advisory Committee to review challenges to instructional and supplemental materials on appeal.

“The State Committee’s determination shall be limited to considerations of whether the material is unfit on the specific grounds of the material being (i) obscene, (ii) inappropriate to the age, maturity, or grade level of the students, or (iii) not aligned with the  standard course of study,” the provision says.

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[This story has been updated.]

WASHINGTON — Health insurance companies may no longer need to cover a wide swath of preventive health care services that were required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, under a federal judge’s ruling issued Thursday in Texas.