Lawmakers made hay while the sun was shining
By SANDY SEMANS
sleet, rain and freezing temperatures reduced work time in the General
Assembly this week, but there was still some action on existing bills
and more were filed.
Little legislative action drew more
attention than the Senate's passage of Senate Bill 2, introduced by
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. The bill, if made into law,
allows magistrates to recuse themselves from performing marriage
ceremonies based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Prompted by the
legalization of gay marriage, Berger said in a release that he
introduced the legislation because magistrates were quitting because
they did not want to perform gay weddings.
would have to report the recusal to the District Court judge, and it
would be granted for six-month increments and include all marriages.
the legislation, clerks and the deputy Registers of Deeds would be
recused from issuing any marriage license if it conflicts with their
The bill states that it would be up to the
District Court judge to ensure that licenses would be issued by someone
at least 10 hours per week and that someone be available to perform
civil marriage ceremonies.
The bill was debated for two hours on
the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, opposed
the bill. Stein said that to grant magistrates and deputy Registers of
Deeds recusal based on religious beliefs will open the door for those
in other government positions to claim discrimination if their
religious beliefs differ from what their duties are. For example, he
offered, a health department nurse who is a devout Catholic could say
that providing birth control is against her “sincerely held religious
Two Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the bill
and two Republicans voted against it. Sen. Bill Cook, R-First District
voted for the legislation. The bill is now heading to the House.
Senate Bill 19,
Revenue Laws Technical Changes, includes language aimed at forcing
Dominion Power to roll back their power rates to reflect the drop in
corporate income taxes.
Cook is co-sponsor of Senate Bill 112,
which urges community colleges serving the 24 coastal areas to offer
classes on commercial fishing and aquaculture.
Senate Bill 121,
if passed, would give principals and assistant principals a three
percent raise in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The bill also
provides for one-time bonuses of $2,000 to principals of schools that
exceed annual growth expectations for student achievement, as measured
by the Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS).
House Bill 110
seeks to reduce the amount taken each year from the Highway Fund to be
transferred into the General Fund. For four consecutive years,
beginning with the 2017-18 fiscal year, the amount to be taken from the
Highway Fund is to be reduced by $49,145,745.
Senate Bill 113,
co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Cook, if made into law, would allow the Ferry
Division to enter contracts for set prices for fuel. The price could
not be for more $2.50 per gallon or exceed 2 million gallons per
contract. The legislations also provides for the Division's Manns
Harbor facility to keep revenues earned by offering sandblasting and
Senate Bill 130,
another bill introduced by Sen. Cook, states that if the law
requires a protective riparian buffer for coastal wetlands in either
the Neuse River Basin or the Tar-Pamlico River Basin, the coastal
wetlands and marshlands shall not be treated as part of the surface
waters but instead shall be included in the measurement of the
protective riparian buffer.
The bill reads:
protective riparian buffer for any of the coastal wetlands or
marshlands in the Neuse River Basin or the Tar-Pamlico River Basin
shall be delineated as follows:
"1. If the
coastal wetlands or marshlands extend less than 50 feet from the high
normal water level or normal water level, as appropriate, and therefore
would not encompass a 50-foot area beyond the appropriate water level,
then the protective riparian buffer shall include all of the coastal
wetlands and marshlands and enough of the upland footage to equal a
total of 50 feet from the appropriate normal high water level or the
normal water level measured horizontally on a line perpendicular to the
"2. If the coastal wetlands or
marshlands extend 50 feet or more from the normal high water level or
normal water level, as appropriate, then the protective riparian buffer
shall be the full width of the marshlands or coastal wetlands up to the
landward limit of the marshlands or coastal wetlands but shall not
extend beyond the landward limit of the marshlands or coastal wetlands."
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