Busy days in the state legislature

Busy days in the state legislature-attachment0

It’s a busy time at the N.C. General Assembly, with the end of the 2007-2008 Session anticipated soon. On Monday, the House and Senate finalized a $21.4 billion budget that authorizes some $850,000 in borrowing for capital construction projects around the state. Other bills or resolutions of note, particularly for the Western North Carolina region, include those listed below. The votes of the region’s legislators (when recorded) are noted as well.

Ratified

Budget bill: HB 2436 was ratified on July 8 and presented to the governor for signature. It authorizes $21.4 billion in spending and includes $850 million in borrowing for capital construction projects. Sens. Martin Nesbitt, John Snow and Joe Sam Queen voted in favor; not voting: Sen. Tom Apodaca.

Cherokee County occupancy tax increase: HB 2783, finalized as SL 2008-33 on June 30, authorizes Cherokee County to levy an additional 3 percent room-occupancy and tourism-development tax. Primary Senate sponsor Sen. John Snow was joined by Sens. Martin Nesbitt and Tom Apodaca in the approving vote; Rep. Roger West, the House sponsor, was joined by Reps. Susan Fisher, Bruce Goforth, Phil Haire, Carolyn Justus, Charles Thomas, Ray Rapp, Trudi Walend and Roger West in voting for approval; Rep. Phillip Frye voted against.

Property-tax deferment: SB 1876 (SL 2008-35) modifies legislation passed in 2007 authorizing deferment of property taxes under certain income, age and other eligibility provisions, standardizing administration and changing the effective date of the homestead exclusion to beginning of the 2008 fiscal year on July 1. Co-sponsored by Sen. John Snow, passage was supported by Sen. Tom Apodaca (Sen. Martin Nesbitt was absent). All WNC House members supported the bill.

Everybody’s Day: By joint resolution (HJR 2796), the Legislature acknowledged the 100th anniversary of “Everybody’s Day,” the oldest festival in North Carolina, held in Thomasville for the purpose of bringing “all citizens of the community and neighboring communities together for a community and regional celebration.” Ratified on July 3; Everybody’s Day will be celebrated Sept. 29. (All WNC House and Senate members supported the bill.)

Still pending

Bigger trucks on state roads: SB 1695 was previously passed by the Senate, but has undergone changes in committee. The bill replaces a 48-foot limit on most roads with permission for 53-foot tractor-trailers. (See a related Xpress report, “They’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain”. Still at issue are DOT’s power to bar trucks from certain roads, and the permitting of boats wider than 8.5 feet to be towed at night — a provision Gov. Mike Easley has threatened to veto (see today’s related story in The News & Observer of Raleigh).

Public access funding changes: SB 1716 clarifies distribution of supplemental PEG (public, educational, governmental) funding — that is, funding for local public and government cable channels —and clarifies service areas resulting from annexation.

Wildlife land property tax changes: HB 1889 would create a new class of lower, present-use value taxes for land designated for wildlife conservation—joining the present-use designations of agricultural, horticultural and forestry land.  Passed by the House last year, this bill has just emerged from the Senate Finance Committee and goes to the full Senate. Changes to the original bill include requiring a minimum of 20 acres (instead of 10) and a cap of 100 acres per landowner (per county). Co-sponsors in the House included Reps. Fisher, Frye, Goforth, Haire, Justus, Thomas, Rapp, Walend and West.

— Nelda Holder, associate editor

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