May 1, 2015

Legislative Update: Rushing to
meet the 'crossover' deadline 

Legislators are taking a four-day weekend after a crazy week of pushing legislation forward to meet the April 30 deadline for completing work on bills in one chamber so that they could be forwarded to the other.

Out of the more than 1,600 bills filed this session, fewer than one-third have moved from one chamber to the other and, if the past is a good indicator, many of those will never be sent on to the governor for signing. Thus far in this session, just 11 pieces of proposed legislation have reached the governor's desk.

But bills that didn't meet the deadline aren't necessarily dead. Proposed legislation containing appropriations or fees are exempt from crossover rules and as the deadline neared, several bills were amended to add finance issues so that they remain alive for further tinkering before sending them on.

One such bill is House Bill 562, titled "Second Amendment Affirmation Act." If passed, the proposed legislation would loosen restrictions on carrying concealed weapons by mandating that businesses wishing to bar weapons from their establishments would have to post prominent signs stating such. One particular provision has drawn the ire of the medical community. That provision would make it illegal for a doctor or psychiatrist to ask if patients possess firearms. And it would further prohibit them from notifying law enforcement that a patient who shows signs of possibly hurting themselves or others has access to weapons. To keep the bill viable for further consideration, a $20,000 appropriation was added to it this week to exempt it from the crossover deadline.

HB 346, sponsored by Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Edenton, and HB 591, sponsored by Rep. Paul Tine, U-Dare, both cleared the House chamber this week and are now in the Senate. Both bills aim to give local governments authority to regulate structures that restrict access to public trust beaches. Language in the bills differ but both would particularly help in situations where condemned buildings are on the publicly-owned beach. HB 346 pertains to county government. HB 591, if signed into law, gives authority to cities.

Senate Bill 524 passed the Senate and is now in the House. The proposed legislation, if passed into law, would expand the required teaching of Founding Principals to include: Constitutional limitations on government power to tax and spend and prompt payment of public debt; money with intrinsic value; strong defense and supremacy of civil authority over military; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; eternal vigilance by "We the People." Founding Principals is currently taught as part of American History but the latter has been struck from the statute as being required. Sen. Bill Cook voted for the bill.

SB 382 has passed the Senate and is now in the House. The bill, if it becomes law, would instruct the Board of Transportation to issue a Request for Information for the privatization of the North Carolina Ferry System. The board would forward its findings to the  Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee and the Fiscal Research Division no later than Feb. 1, 2016. Sen. Bill Cook voted against the bill.

SB 25 has moved to the House. The proposed legislation restricts local government authority to dictate design and aesthetics of structures. 

HB 248 seeks to eliminate end-of-year testing in schools. The bill states that the State Board of Education shall eliminate the use of the N.C. Final Exam and the analysis of student work process to assess teachers' performance in relation to Standard 6 of the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation System.

SB 101, a blank bill filed early in the session by Sen. Bill Cook, had language added in last week that would add Dare County to the list of counties that must approve any other county's efforts to purchase property within Dare County. It passed the Senate and is now in the House.

HB 836 contains an assortment of issues, ranging from eliminating pre-audit certifications for government payrolls to changing the manner in which absentee votes are reported. The bill also includes new technology to use for paper ballots. Rep. Paul Tine voted for the measures.

(Sandy Semans is a retired newspaper editor and reporter who now works as a free-lance writer.  She lives in Stumpy Point. Her update on the goings-on in this session of the General Assembly will appear weekly in The Island Free Press, usually on Friday.)


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Legislative Update: Occupancy tax provision is out of dredging bill
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