The new Republican majority in the North Carolina General Assembly came ready to play on the first day of the 2011 session yesterday, Jan. 26, immediately introducing bills to forbid contraints on “health care freedom” and to amend the N.C. Constitution to prohibit use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R) of Hendersonville (Dist. 48) 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 a new position of parliamentarian, to be appointed by the president pro tempore, who will be Sen. Phil Berger (R) of Eden (Dist. 26) this session. The new position will allow for appeal of rulings of the presiding officer (the state’s lieutenant governor, currently Walter Dalton, Democrat from 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 Senate. The new rules do allow for overruling the parliamentarian by a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate.
In other first-day action, freshman Rep. Tim Moffitt (R) from Buncombe County (Dist. 116) was one of three Western North Carolina co-sponsors introducing a health care bill (HB 2) entitled “An Act to Protect the Freedom to Choose Health Care and Health Insurance.” Reps. Phillip Frye (R) of Spruce Pine (Dist. 84) and Chuck McGrady (R) of Hendersonville (Dist. 117) also co-sponsored the bill, which is designed to circumvent provisions in the U.S. National Health Care Act by forbidding any law that compels a person to provide for health care treatment or to enroll in a public or private insurance plan. It would also forbid the imposition of a penalty, fee or tax on anyone who fails to enroll in a public or private plan.
The eminent domain bill (HB 8), entitled “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,” was put forward by McGrady as one of three sponsors, with Frye, Guice, Moffitt and Roger West (R) of Marble (Dist. 120) among 53 co-sponsors.
Other House action included the introduction of a bill to appeal a 2009 annexation approval 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).
by Nelda Holder, Contributing Editor