Crossover stampede hits the Statehouse

With two weeks left before the North Carolina General Assembly’s May 16 crossover deadline, Asheville-specific legislation remains in focus among the more than 1,700 bills and resolutions entered in the 2013 session. And everything must now compete for time with the $49,590,935,190 budget recently proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Simply put, crossover is the deadline by which — in order to stay in the running to become law — most bills must pass second and third readings in their home chamber and move to the opposite house. If a bill misses the crossover bus, it generally has little to no chance of finding an alternate route to enactment in the current session.

In terms of local impact and interest, one piece of legislation that achieved crossover is House Bill 488, which would force the merger of the Asheville water system with the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County. The controversial legislation, sponsored by Republicans Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey of Buncombe County and Chuck McGrady of Henderson County, has raised complicated issues of state control over municipal assets, as well as legislative discretion over public versus local bills.

The merger bill won approval in the House on April 15 by a 72-39 vote and is moving through the Senate. It is expected to pass.

Another Moffitt/Ramsey/McGrady bill, HB 568, has a more difficult bus ride. The proposal would de-annex the Asheville Regional Airport and WNC Ag Center from the city of Asheville. At press time, the bill was resting in the House Finance Committee with no scheduled hearing. It is embroiled with a debate over a land transfer already mandated by the state but which Asheville officials say is contingent on addressing questions raised by the Federal Aviation Administration.

A third Asheville-focused bill moved forward quickly this session and is already law: HB 224, which removes the city’s power to zone within what is known as extraterritorial jurisdiction (an area not to extend more than three miles from the city’s corporate limits). The bill — sponsored by Moffitt and Ramsey — leaves Buncombe County with the authority to appoint two members to both the planning board and the board of adjustment of the city, which raises more jurisdictional issues.

But wait – there’s more

Lesser-known bills from this area’s delegation remaining in the crossover queue include:

HB 334:  Expands the allowable use of school capital funds derived from local sales taxes in Buncombe County to include technology needs. Sponsors are Moffitt and Ramsey.

HB 874: Broadens the agricultural present-use value law, which reduces taxes on land being used for commercial production or growing of crops, plants or animals by reducing the required tract requirement from a minimum of 10 to a lower threshold of five acres – a special benefit in WNC’s terrain, where production acreage is likely smaller than in other parts of the state. Primary sponsors are Democrats Susan Fisher of Asheville and Joe Sam Queen of Waynesville, along with Moffitt and Ramsey.

HB 704: Asks for a study of the use of telemedicine by the Joint Committee on Health and Human Services. Co-sponsors: Fisher and Ramsey.

HB 609: Promotes cancer treatment fairness by requiring health or accident insurance policies to provide for certain orally administered drugs on par with intravenous or injected drugs. Co-sponsors: Fisher and Ramsey.

HB 315: Calls for clear labeling of biodegradable plastics in order to prevent their contamination of the recycled rigid-plastic collection and re-use stream. Primary sponsor: McGrady; co-sponsor: Ramsey.

HB 597: Creates a second layer of required identification for bail bondsmen through issuance of an official shield, in addition to a photo ID. Primary sponsor: Moffitt.

SB 236: Amends the statutes establishing school boards as owners and construction agents for public school property, allowing counties to act in this capacity by resolution. Primary sponsor: Tom Apodaca of Henderson/Buncombe counties.

— Nelda Holder can be reached at nfholder@gmail.com. Follow our Statehouse news at mountainx.com/ncmatters.

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