As the N.C. House rolled out their final local and public bills by the April 8 deadline for the current session, topics included energy efficiency in state-funded buildings and a Green Building Code in the N.C. State Building Code, a statewide referendum on medical marijuana, changes in the Sex Offenders Registry, and the creation of a Department of Military & Veterans Affairs. Synopses of particular bills of interest to Western North Carolina legislators or citizens follow.
HB 1199 – Energy Efficiency in Buildings if State Funded: Extends standards governing energy efficiency and water use for major facility construction and renovation projects involving state, university and community college buildings, to include public school districts and other entities receiving funding in excess of $20,000 for the project. Passed first reading, referred to Committee on Energy and Energy Efficiency. Rep. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County, primary sponsor.
HB 1317 – Sex Offender Registry Changes: Provides for more effective use of law enforcement resources in monitoring registered sex offenders by establishing recognition of differences in offenses and their levels and degrees. In particular, establishes Tier I, Tier II and Tier III offenses with varying registration requirements, and allows for closer monitoring of sex offenders most at risk of repeat offenses. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Judiciary II. Rep. Bruce Goforth of Buncombe County, primary sponsor.
HB 1380 – Medical Marijuana Act: Amends the general statutes to protect qualified patients from arrest, prosecution or penalty for the possession of or the medical use of marijuana if the quantity does not exceed an “adequate supply.” Also exempts qualified patient’s designated caregiver, licensed producer and medical practitioner under specific guidelines. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Health. Fisher, co-sponsor.
HB 1366 – Create Department of Military & Veterans Affairs: Creates a Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, transferring the Division of Veterans Affairs from the Department of Administration to the new department. Requires that the head of the department be a secretary who shall be a veteran. The act’s purpose is to “provide assistance to members of the military and veterans, as well as their families and dependents, in obtainin or maintaining privileges, rights and benefits to which they are entitled under federal, State, or local laws.” (Companion bill, SB 973.) Goforth, co-sponsor.
HB 1383 – Medical Marijuana Act/Referendum: Amends the General Statues by adding Article 72, Medical Marijuana Act, and provides for a referendum therefore. Regulates identification of qualifying patients and the medical marijuana supply system; establishes a statewide referendum through the State Board of Elections on the question of enacting the Medical Marijuana Act. Passed first reading; referred to the Committee on Health.
HB 1443 – Green Building Code: Requires that new and renovated commercial buildings and new residential buildings comply with energy conservation standards under adaptions to the N.C. State Building Code. Passed first reading; referred to Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Fisher, co-sponsor.
HB 1493 – Legislative Campaigns Pilot: Establishes a pilot program to provide candidates for selected legislative seats with the option of financing their campaigns from a publicly supported fund, provided they gain authorization to do so from registered voters and abide by strict fundraising and spending limits. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Election Law and Campaign Finance. Rep. Ray Rapp of Haywood/Madison/Yancey counties, Fisher, co-sponsors.
HB 1505 – Honor John Hope Franklin: A joint resolution honoring the life and memory of John Hope Franklin, “distinguished educator, historian, and civil rights activist” who served as the first African-American professor to hold an endowed chair at Duke University, where he served as James B. Duke Professor of History, Professor of Legal History at Duke University Law School, and the James B. Duke Professor History Emeritus. His tenure there inspired the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, the Franklin Humanities Institute, and the John Hope Franklin Research Center. Franklin, born Jan. 2, 1915, died on March 25, 2009. Passed first reading, referred to Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations. Rep. Jane Whilden of Buncombe County, Fisher, Goforth and Rapp, co-sponsors.
SB 1095 – Honor John Hope Franklin: Joint resolution (see HB 1505 above). Referred to Committee on Rules and Operations. Sens. Tom Apodaca of Buncombe/Henderson/Polk counties, Doug Berger of Franklin/Granville/Vance/Warren, Steve Goss of Alexander/Ashe/Watauga/Wilkes, Martin Nesbitt Jr. of Buncombe, Joe Sam Queen of and John Snow of Cherokee/Clay/Graham/Haywood/Jackson/Macon/Swain/Transylvania, co-sponsors.
— Nelda Holder, associate editor
Editor’s note: The Eastern Box Turtle — Terrapene carolina (below) — is the official state reptile of North Carolina, designated in 1979. It is listed as “Near Threatened” and should be monitored to avoid population decline. The Eastern Box Turtle can live to be 100 years old, though the average is 40 to 60 years.