— Posts About Legislation

Judge Hobgood rules in favor of Patterson Harkavy’s clients, halting private school voucher scheme

At a hearing today in downtown Raleigh, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood enjoined the State from implementing its private school voucher scheme.  If not for Judge Hobgood’s landmark ruling the scheme would have taken millions of dollars from North Carolina’s public schools in order to pay private school students’ tuition.  Private schools receiving taxpayer funds would not have been required to meet any educational standards, would not have been subject to any public accountability, and would not have been prohibited from discriminating against students on the basis of disability, gender, or religion.

Patterson Harkavy attorneys Burton Craige and Narendra Ghosh, working with attorneys from the North Carolina Justice Center and the North Carolina Association of Educators, represent the case’s 25 plaintiffs.  They have alleged that the voucher scheme violates various provisions of the North Carolina Constitution.  The State School Board Association, together with more than half of North Carolina’s local school boards, is also challenging the constitutionality of the scheme.

Burton and Narendra have argued that the Voucher Legislation provides taxpayer funds for public education to private schools, in violation of Article IX, Section 6 of the North Carolina Constitution, which requires that those funds be “used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools.”   Plaintiffs also claim that providing taxpayer funds to private schools with no standards or accountability does not accomplish a public purpose, in violation of Article V, section 2.

On Monday, Judge Hobgood denied the State’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims.  Today, in issuing his injunction, Judge Hobgood found that that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits and that they would suffer irreparable harm if the State was permitted to continue implementing the program.

Burton’s arguments from Monday’s hearing can be found here; his arguments from today’s hearing can be found here.  The historic victory has been covered by news outlets across the state, including the Raleigh News & Observer, the Greensboro News & Record, the Charlotte Observer.

Categories: Judicial Decisions, News of the Firm, Results Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Federal Unemployment Benefits Should be Renewed

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) published an excellent paper in October, arguing for a one-year extension of the Federal Unemployment Insurance benefits for unemployed workers.  The paper is entitled “Hanging On By a Thread: Renew Federal Unemployment Insurance to Aid Families, Boost Stalled Economy

The paper states: “Unless Congress reauthorizes the current federal extension programs before the December 31st deadline, millions of workers and their families will be left without their primary means of support to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, and cover their other most basic necessities.”

NELP’s paper also argues that extending benefits will help families as well as give the economy a leg up:  “Consistent with the prior research, [Wayne Vroman of the Urban Institute] found that the nation’s economy grew by $2 for every dollar spent on unemployment insurance during the latest recession, as unemployed workers spent their benefits in their communities at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retailers and service providers.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to keep Congress in session in D.C. until federal unemployment benefits are renewed for the coming year, even if they have to work through the holidays to do so.

Categories: General News Tags: , , , , , , ,

President Obama Signs Jobs Bill Helping Veterans

President Obama this week signed into law the first portion of his jobs package. The bill, H.R. 674, which had vast bipartisan support, also known as VOW to Hire Heroes Act, creates tax incentives for companies to hire veterans, especially those who have been unemployed for more than six months and those with service connected disabilities.  Though there has been very little action from Congress on the jobs front, this is an encouraging first step.  Hopefully the House and Senate can get their act together and start really helping unemployed workers secure employment, and in doing so jump-start the economy.  More on the bill here.

Categories: General News Tags: , , , , , ,

Hank Presents Paper on 2011 Changes to Workers’ Comp Law

At a recent CLE addressing changes to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law put on by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, Hank Patterson presented his paper entitled “Changes to G.S. §97-29: Limitations on Total Disability Benefits – Cap and Credit”.  In the paper Hank summarizes and discusses the amendments to N.C. G.S. §97-29 in House Bill 709, which was signed into law June 24, 2011.

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , ,

Burton Speaks About the New Medical Malpractice Legislation

Burton Craige addressed another bill passed in the North Carolina General Assembly this session with his paper entitled “SB 33: The Brave New World of Malpractice Litigation” where he summarizes Senate Bill 33, shows its evolution and addresses some of the possible constitutional challenges that it may face.  He spoke about his paper at a CLE hosted by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice in Raleigh on August 31, 2011.

Introduction:

On July 25, 2011, the North Carolina House of Representatives, by a vote of 74-42, overrode Governor Perdue’s veto of the medical malpractice bill (SB 33). The enactment of SB 33 culminated an intense six-month legislative battle.

When the Act becomes effective on October 1, 2011, a new era of malpractice litigation in North Carolina will begin. Injured patients, who already face formidable barriers, will find it harder to find a lawyer, pursue their claims, and recover adequate compensatory damages. Lawyers and judges will be forced to decipher complex new statutory language.  Courts will confront constitutional challenges to the bill’s most controversial provision, the $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages.

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

NC Legislature Amends Guaranty Bill to Protect Workers’ Compensation Settlements

Last year, the State expanded the coverage of the North Carolina Guaranty Association to include structured settlement annuitities for North Carolina residents.   This is especially important for people who receive annuities as part of a workers’ compensation or personal injury settlement.  Coverage here.  One part of the new law’s language was less than clear, which required an amendment.  The amendment makes clear that annuity protection runs to the benefit of the actual beneficiary, the “payee” of the policy.  The text can be found here.  The amendment was enacted during the legislature’s short session this summer and signed by the governor.  Hank Patterson and Narendra Ghosh assisted with the legislative effort.

Categories: Legislative Action Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hank Speaks on Workers’ Compensation at Iowa Conference

Hank Patterson spoke at the Iowa Association of Justice’s 19 Annual Workers’ Compensation Seminar last month in Des Moines.  His presentation discussed National Legilsation and Policy Priorities for Workers Compensation, and specifically addressed Medicare reform (see HR 2641 — Medicare Secondary Payer and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreements Act of 2009), the National Commission on State Workers’ Compensation Laws Act (HR 635), and issues surrounding the AMA Guides on Disability.

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Bills Protecting Workers and Consumers Signed by Governor

The Statute of Repose Bill was signed by Governor Perdue on August 5, and becomes effective on October 1, 2009.  The text of the bill can be found here.

The Guaranty Fund Bill was signed by Governor Perdue on August 7, and becomes effective immediately.  The text of the bill can be found here.

Categories: Legislative Action Tags: , , , , ,

Unemployment Benefits Expansion Signed by Governor

House Bill 1090, which allows workers receiving severance pay to also receive benefits, was signed by the governor on July 27, 2009.  This act becomes effective October 1, 2009, and expires July 1, 2011.  Further regulatory guidance from the ESC may be forthcoming.  The text of the bill can be found here.

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Guaranty Fund Bill Passed by NC Legislature

The North Carolina Life & Health Insurance Guaranty Association is a state agency that, as one of its dutites, provides a guarantee for an annuity bought by North Carolina residents.  If the company that sells the annuity fails, then the Guaranty Association will take over paying the annuity up to a certain amount ($300,000 per person).  This is similar to the role of the FDIC in protecting bank deposits.

Injured people who reach settlements in workers’ compensation and personal injury cases often are provided with annuities (called structured settlement annuitities) to cover future expenses related to their case, such as future medical expenses.  Through a wrinkle in the law, many of these structured settlement annuities were not covered by the N.C. Guaranty Association.

Senate Bill 780 fixes this problem by expanded the coverage of the N.C. Guaranty Association to include structured settlement annuitities for North Carolina residents.  The Bill has just been passed by the Legislature and is on the way to the governor for her to sign.  Hank Patterson and Narendra Ghosh assisted with the legislative effort.

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