House Speaker Thom Tillis says the legislature needs to meet in order to fix a problem with funding for group homes that care for the mentally ill and other disabled people.
"While we continue to work toward long-term solutions, it is time to address the short-term funding issue that could potentially force our most vulnerable citizens out of their homes at the end of this year. The House of Representatives stands ready to fix this problem in a special session, and I encourage the Governor to call us back to Raleigh to do the right thing for our citizens," Tillis said in an e-mail Friday morning.
The problem has to do with a quirk written into this year's budget. It provided $40 million to help nursing homes and adult care facilities respond to a transition in how funding for disabled people works. But group homes, less formal settings, were not given access to the same funding.
The oversight leaves 2,000 people in group homes statewide with no help and potentially out on the street on Jan. 1.
Lawmakers such as Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, have said that Perdue should have been able to fix the problem on her own. But Perdue has said she is bound by restrictions placed into the budget law by Republicans that keep her from shifting around the needed funding.
"Speaker Tillis feels, as does Rep. Dollar, that rather than spend any more time assigning blame or parsing words, it’s time to fix this problem and provide certainty to the individuals and families that may be affected," said Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw.
Brandon Greife, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, said the Senate leader just received Tillis' release and did not yet have a comment. A spokeswoman for Gov. Bev Perdue said she planned to respond to Tillis' request this morning but could not say if the governor would call a special session.
The legislature could call itself back to work, but the process is cumbersome. The governor can recall legislators by use of a single proclamation. However, Perdue and this General Assembly have had a fraught history with special sessions. Conflicts have arisen with sessions called for one purpose being used to override unrelated vetoes.
"If you should decide to convene a Special Session," Tillis wrote in his official request, "you have my word that no additional matters will be taken up by the House of Representatives. We will act quickly and decisively to protect the residents of mental health and IDD group homes, and the session will end when that action is concluded."
A Perdue spokeswoman said the governor was still reviewing her options on Friday, but in a statement the Democrat agree with the Republican House speaker about the need for a fix.
“I appreciate and share the Speaker’s concern for proper funding for residents of group homes," Perdue wrote in an e-mail. "As a result of the General Assembly’s budget, I have been reviewing all possible options to address this important issue including a Special Session. I look forward to working with both the House and the Senate to fix the problem as soon as possible so that hundreds of North Carolinians are not out in the street at the end of the year.”