The word in Raleigh this week appeared to be “Time is not of the essence.”
A substantial number of bills filed were local in focus and have little interest in other areas. Other bills were filed, but few went beyond first reading and assignment to committees.
One bill — on the gas tax — left the pack and seemed to fly through the Senate and now is heading to the House.
Introduced Feb. 4, Senate Bill 20 passed the third reading in the Senate and was heading to the House on Feb. 11. The proposed legislation would immediately cut the gas tax for a brief time, but it would be followed with a tax increase caused by a proposed new formula for setting the gas tax rate. It passed the Senate, mostly along party lines, but special interest groups on the left and right are expressing discontent with the bill.
To offset the immediate reduction in revenues if the bill passes, 500 Department of Transportation jobs would be eliminated. Gov. Pat McCrory and Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata have both asked the General Assembly to reconsider the layoffs. Sen. Bill Cook, R-District 1, voted for the bill.
The first bill to clear the House and land in the Senate is House Bill 3 that was introduced on Jan. 14. It is a proposed amendment to the state’s Constitution that, if approved by both chambers and signed by the governor, would be added to the ballot of a future election so that voters can decide its future.
The proposed amendment would prohibit condemnation of private property for public use and mandate that property owners be fairly compensated in condemnation cases. Reps. Bob Steinburg, R-District 1, and Paul Tine, U-District 1, both voted for the bill.
Senate Bill 81 is an attempt to protect children from the health impacts of toxic chemicals by prohibiting the sale of children’s products containing bisphenola, tris, or phthalates. All three of the chemicals are widely found in plastics used to make children’s toys and have been linked to illnesses, including cancer.
Compliance reviews for community colleges are called for in House Bill 87. The reviews would be to ensure that data used to allocate state funds among the colleges is reported accurately to the System Office and that the community colleges are charging and waiving tuition and registration fees consistent with law.
House Bill 89 is a proposal to restore tax credits and incentives for economic development. As part of the legislation, a special, non-reverting account to be known as the Job Catalyst Fund would be attached to the Department of Commerce to provide funds to local governments for projects that result in the creation of jobs. The Secretary of Commerce would be solely responsible for the administration of the program and would set up guidelines for the program administration. To be eligible for consideration, projects in Tier 1 areas would have to produce a minimum of 500 jobs.
Cook introduced Senate Bill 54 which, if it becomes law, would allow any county voter to challenge absentee votes in any precinct in that county.
(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.)
PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED 2015 LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
First bill filed would prohibit condemning property for economic development
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