As of April 6, the total number of bills filed in the N.C. House reached 1101, and in the Senate, 1096. But according to Gerry Cohen, director of bill drafting for the General Assembly since 1981, the number of bills has actually dropped during the bad economy. Cohen provides some “unofficial” news about the session on his Draft Musings blog, and by his tally, the total number of “substantive bill drafting requests” received by March 20 was down by over 12 percent, compared to the 2007 long session at the same point. Paper consumption, says Cohen, is also down — by a respectable 35.8 percent — due to formatting changes and some economies in numbers of bills printed.
Meanwhile, with the legislators now 10 weeks into 2009’s long session, the deadline for filing local and public bills has passed in the Senate and arrives April 8 in the House. Appropriations and finance bills still have until May 6 for introduction in the House, with crossover deadline slated for Thursday, May 14 — the time by which any nonappropriations bill must move from one house to the other in order to receive consideration this session.
Synopses of some of the bills of particular interest to WNC are offered below, and include action to establish a Small Business Assistance Fund (SB 982); create a system for permitting wind-energy facilities (SB 1068); increase aid to public libraries (HB 845 and SB 770), and establish a Mountain Resources Fund to assist in planning for quality growth and the preservation of special mountain areas (SB 968).
• HB 845 – Funds/Aid to Public Libraries Fund: Appropriates an additional $1 million to the Department of Cultural Resources for the 2010-2011 Aid to Public Libraries Fund. (Companion to SB 770.) Referred to Committee on Appropriations. Rep. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County, co-sponsor.
• HB 846 – Statewide Water Infrastructure Plan: Directs the State Water Infrastructure Commission to develop a statewide strategic plan for water and wastewater infrastructure funding by May 1, 2010 — as recommended by a joint evaluation final report that cites the need to identify infrastructure needs and statewide priorities in a single database; set policy goals linked to performance measures and clarify state and local roles; determine funding strategies and priorities. Referred to Committee on Water Resources and Infrastructure.
• HB 847 – Legislative Committee on Gasoline Shortages: Establish a committee to study how the gasoline shortage of 2008 occurred; what obstacles slowed gasoline supply recovery after the shortage; methods of avoiding shortages in the future. Referred to Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations. Reps. Jane Whilden and Bruce Goforth of Buncombe, primary sponsors.
• HB 849 – Sovereignty Under the 10th Amendment: A resolution supporting the state’s right to claim sovereignty over certain powers under the 10th Amendment, urging the federal government to “cease and desist” mandates that are beyond the scope of “constitutionally delegated powers.” Referred to Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations. Rep. Phillip Frye of Avery/Caldwell/Mitchell/Yancey counties, co-sponsor.
• HB 894 – Independent Redistricting Commission: Constitutional amendment to establish an Independent Redistricting Commission to determine state districts for senators and representatives. Members would be appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court (two, not of the same political party), the governor (three, no more than two of the same political party), the speaker of the House of Representatives (one), the leader in the House of the political party with the next highest number of members (one), the president pro tempore of the Senate (one), the leader of the political party with the next highest number in the Senate. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.
• HB 1080 – Condemnation of Conservation Easements: Requires a demonstration of lack of “prudent and feasible alternative” in order to condemn property encumbered by a conservation easement. (Companion bill, SB 600.)
• SB 968 – Mountain Resources Planning: Designed to “encourage quality growth and development while preserving the natural resources, open spaces, and farmland” of the mountain region, the bill would establish the Mountain Resources Fund for development of local and regional plans and programs for protection of important mountain resources, and create the Mountain Resources Commission as a permanent body composed of members from the mountain regions.
The commission would identify and evaluate issues affection important mountain resources, recommending policies and programs to address them; coordinate with existing local and regional efforts to address threats to important resources; provide a forum for discussion of issues; promote communication, coordination and education among stakeholders; allocate funds; collect research and information.
Membership (17) would include two at-large residents of the mountain region, appointed by the speaker of the house; two representives appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate; six appointed by the governor (four actively connected with or experienced in local government within the mountain region, one associated with a land trust organization in the region, one experiences in tourism in the region; one member representing the N.C. National Parks, Parkway and Forest Development Council; five representing the regional councils of government in the area; one representing the board of Blue Ridge National Heritage. Referred to State and Local Government. Sen. Joe Sam Queen of Avery/Haywood/Madison/McDowell/Michell counties, primary sponsor; Sens. Apodaca, Steve Goss of Alexander/Ashe/Watauga/Wilkes, Martin Nesbitt Jr. of Buncombe and John Snow of Cherokee/Clay/Graham/Haywood/Jackson/Macon/Swain/Transylvania, co-sponsors.
• SB 982 – Small Business Assistance Fund: Establishes the Small Business Jobs Preservation Fund with related programs coordinated by a technical assistance provider; includes the creation of a Small Business Assistance Commission and makes funds available for guaranteeing commercial loans, financing bonds to allow small business to better leverage federal stimulus dollars, provide emergency bridge loans, lend for other purposes related to small business job preservation. (Companion bill, HB 814.) Filed. Sens. Apodaca, Doug Berger of Franklin/Granville/Vance/Warren, Goss, Nesbitt, Queen and Snow, co-sponsors.
• SB 1044 – Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants: An act to provide economic relief to electric utility ratepayers during the economic recession and recovery period by placing a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants. (Companion bill, HB 811.)
• SB 1068 – Permitting of Wind Energy Facilities: Establishes that a system of permits be issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the siting of wind-energy facilities. (Companion bill, HB 809.) Filed; referred to Committee on Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources. Goss, co-sponsor.
— Nelda Holder, associate editor
Editor’s note: The Carolina Tartan (pictured above) became the official State Tartan in 1991.