Raleigh, N.C. — A proposal to cut in half the number of children eligible for the state's free pre-kindergarten program won House approval Tuesday.
Democrats secured a one-year delay for the change, saying it would give child care centers a chance to prepare.
House Bill 935 would lower the number of eligible children to about 31,000 by changing the legal definition of an at-risk child.
Under current law, a 4-year-old is considered at-risk and eligible for the program if his or her family makes less than 75 percent of the state's median wage, or about $39,000 a year for a family of three. Children are also eligible if they have an active-duty military parent, limited English proficiency, developmental problems or chronic illness.
More than 60,000 children a year in North Carolina are eligible for the program under the current guidelines.
The proposal would reduce the family income threshold to the federal poverty level, about $19,500 for a family of three. Children with limited English proficiency or chronic illness also would no longer be automatically eligible.
"We working on putting early childhood education back in track in this state," said sponsor Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly. "We need to focus on children who are most at risk."
In-stand beer sales approved
The House also gave final approval to House Bill 610, which would allow in-stand beer sales at professional sporting events in stadiums and venues that seat at least 3,000 people.
Under current law, in-stand beer sales are allowed only at Carolina Panthers games in Charlotte. At all other venues, patrons have to leave their seats and stand in line at a vendor's counter to buy a drink.
Vendors would not be allowed to call out to people in the stands, and venues would have to train vendors to card customers and assess whether someone has had too much to drink. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission also would have to devise rules for when in-stand sales should stop during events.
Interstate purge of voter rolls passes
A third bill gaining final approval would require the State Board of Elections to share voter rolls with other states so they all could cross-check data and purge voters who have moved elsewhere from North Carolina rolls.
Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, warned against House Bill 734, saying eligible voters could be deleted by using out-of-state information. The elections board already does a good job of clearing out the names of inactive voters, he said.
"When you go across state lines to try to do this, you get many, many errors," Michaux said.