May 1, 2015

Legislative Update:  A week
of committee work in Raleigh 

It was “tweakin’” week in the General Assembly this week with most work taking place in the various committees instead of on the floors of the chambers.

Changes to proposed legislation occur in the committee process and often give bills entirely new focus.

The week could be aptly tagged The Week of the House since almost all bills being considered originated  there.

The County Omnibus Legislation, House Bill 430, hit a wall this week during a committee meeting when there were strong objections voiced about language that was supposed to clarify how counties can charge for recycling. An amendment was offered to remove that section from the bill but the sponsors instead chose to pull it off the table and rewrite that portion. The amendment to remove the section is now listed as pending

HB 760, the Regulatory Reform Act, has cleared the House and is now in the Senate. The bill  contains a number of provisions that have drawn criticism, including steps to weaken environmental protection, reduce local building inspection laws, and prohibit nonprofit volunteers from being covered by Workers Compensation. The bill also seeks to remove volunteer firemen from the coverage unless working with Forestry on wildfire suppression.

The Second Amendment Affirmation Act, HB 562, was pulled from committee because of opposition to the sweeping changes the proposed legislation seeks to make to gun laws. One provision would remove state background checks for the private sale of handguns and the resulting handgun permits. Sheriffs are opposing the change because, they say, the background checks help them stop criminals and others who shouldn’t have guns from obtaining them.

“Re-establish North Carolina as The Good Roads State," HB 927, seeks to increase Division of Motor Vehicles fees and change the base gas tax. Until this week, the legislation would have added 6.5 percent sales tax on vehicle insurance.  That was one the most hotly contested provisions in the bill and was pulled this week by one of the bill’s sponsors. If the bill becomes law, it bill will make changes to another bill aimed at raising revenues for state road maintenance that recently was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Of local interest, Senate Bill 160, Enhance Safety & Commerce for Ports/Inlets, is set to eventually be heard by the Senate Finance Committee, which has not yet calendared it. According to Sen. Bill Cook's aide, it is not expected to be ready for a few weeks while some details are worked out.

Going forward, with the end of the state’s fiscal year just several weeks away, both chambers will work to rid themselves of the local bills while hammering out the details of the next fiscal year’s budget.

(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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