Republicans step up to bat

The new Republican majority in the state Legislature came ready to play on Jan. 26, the first day of the 2011 session, immediately introducing bills to forbid contraints on “health care freedom” and to amend the state constitution to prohibit the use of eminent domain for economic development. Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, representing the 48th District, even changed the traditional rules of the game.

Apodaca, the incoming rules chairman, added a new layer of control in the permanent Senate rules adopted for 2011-12 by establishing the position of parliamentarian, to be appointed by the president pro tempore, Sen. Phil Berger of Eden (26th District). The new position will allow legislators to appeal rulings made by the presiding officer (the state’s lieutenant governor, currently Democrat Walter Dalton of Rutherfordton).

“This is nothing but a partisan power play,” was Dalton’s response to the rules change, as quoted by State Government Radio. In the past, the lieutenant governor has been the final arbiter of parliamentary procedure in the state Senate. The new rules do allow the parliamentarian to be overruled by a two-thirds majority vote.

In other first-day action, freshman Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County (116th District) was one of three Western North Carolina co-sponsors introducing a bill titled “An Act to Protect the Freedom to Choose Health Care and Health Insurance” (HB 2). Republican Reps. Phillip Frye of Spruce Pine (84th District) and Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville (117th District) also co-sponsored the bill, which is designed to circumvent provisions in the U.S. National Health Care Act by prohibiting any law compelling a person to enroll in a public or private insurance plan. It would also forbid the imposition of a penalty, fee or tax on those who fail to do so.

The eminent-domain bill, titled “An Act to Amend the Constitution of North Carolina to Prohibit Condemnation of Private Property to Convey an Interest in that Property for Economic Development and to Provide for the Payment of Just Compensation with Right of Trial by Jury in All Condemnation Cases” (HB 8), was put forward by McGrady as one of three sponsors, with Frye, Moffitt, David Guice of Brevard (113th District) and Roger West of Marble (120th District) among 53 co-sponsors.

Other House action included the introduction of a bill to appeal a 2009 annexation approved for the city of Kinston (HB 5), and a bill to disapprove the closure of the state’s Dorothea Dix psychiatric hospital in Raleigh (HB 4).

Find more state news at mountainx.com/special/ncmatters.

— Freelance reporter Nelda Holder can be reached at nfholder@gmail.com.

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