Two bills introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly recently came directly from the people — 13 elementary-school students, to be exact. And if they’re passed, the state will have its first official sport: stock-car racing. The Mooresville "pit crew" worked secretly at first so as not to tip off fans of any other sport, according to a report in The Charlotte Observer. Then they obtained the cooperation of Rep. Grey Mills, a Mooresville Republican, who’s the primary sponsor of HB 333. Meanwhile, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a Buncombe County Democrat and longtime stock-car aficionado, teamed up with Hendersonville Republican Tom Apodaca to introduce SB 322, and the race was on.
The Iredell County students compiled a number of compelling facts about the homegrown sport that are cited by the bills. They include: the state's claim to racing legends Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and the late Dale Earnhardt; the industry's estimated $6 billion-plus annual economic impact in the state; the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte; and the fact that more than 90 percent of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams are based here. Furthermore, the students themselves hail from the Lake Norman and Mount Mourne IB schools in Mooresville, aka Race City USA. (Think Dale Earnhardt Inc., JR Motorsports, Kyle Busch Motorsports and more.)
Nesbitt, meanwhile, is involved with the sport in conjunction with son Mart Nesbitt of Nesbitt Racing Enterprises. The younger Nesbitt is a racing veteran who took the 2010 Super Late Model Champion at Newport Speedway and whose 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, had three wins in her 2010 rookie year.
A call to the Atlantic Coast Conference headquarters in Greensboro (think basketball and more) went unanswered, leaving the question of a potential basketball/stock-car-racing legislative rivalry stalled.
Reaching further back in N.C. history is a resolution honoring the Marquis de Lafayette. Fayetteville was the first U.S. city in named for Lafayette, known as the "Hero of Two Worlds" because he fought in both the American and French revolutions. The town was North Carolina’s capital when the state's delegates ratified the U.S. Constitution and chartered the University of North Carolina. The House has adopted HB 191; at this writing, the companion bill (SB 142) was pending in the Senate.
Other bills introduced the week of March 7 that Western North Carolina legislators were involved with included the following:
• HB 237 (Economic Impact/Regulatory Legislation): Would require economic-impact statements for all bills proposing regulatory changes that would create "substantial economic impact" (defined as $1 million for everyone affected within a 12-month period, or $1,000 for any one person). Passed first reading; referred to Committtee on Commerce and Job Development. Buncombe County Republican Tim Moffitt co-sponsored.
• HB 241 (North Carolina Firearms Freedom Act): Would exempt firearms, accessories and ammunition manufactured and retained in the state from federal regulation "under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution." Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Judiciary. Spruce Pine Republican Phillip Frye co-sponsored.
• HB 247 (Enhance Charter School Accountability): Would eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, establish the N.C. Charter School Commission and "provide for enhanced accountability for charter school academic performance, along with other changes in the current law. (See “Backdoor Vouchers?” March 9 Xpress.) Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Education. Primary sponsor: Mars Hill Democrat Ray Rapp. Co-sponsors: Buncombe County Democrats Susan Fisher and Patsy Keever; Sylva Democrat Phil Haire.
• HB 326 (Buncombe Involuntary Annexation Moratorium): Would establish a moratorium on annexations by Buncombe County municipalities until July 1, 2016, including annexation proceedings not yet included in a town's ordinances and any that are the subject of litigation as of the proposed law’s effective date. Filed. Primary sponsor: Buncombe County Republican Tim Moffitt.
• HB 327 (Incorporate Leicester): Would incorporate the "Town of Leicester," subject to a referendum. Filed. Primary sponsor, Buncombe County Democrat Susan Fisher.
• SB 268 (Enhance Protection of Victims and Witnesses): Would allow testimony by people not present in court to be admitted if offered against a party that engaged in wrongdoing to make the witness unavailable; would also increase the penalty for intimidating or interfering with a witness. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Rules and Operations. Co-sponsors: Hendersonville Republican Tom Apodaca, Youngsville Democrat Doug Berger, Spruce Pine Republican Ralph Hise.
• SB 334/HB 84 (Expand Inpatient Psychiatric Bed/Funds): Would provide additional funding for more local inpatient psychiatric beds or bed days (as recommended by the Committee on Mental Health, Development Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services). Filed. Senate primary sponsor: Buncombe County Democrat Martin Nesbitt; co-sponsor: Youngsville Democrat Doug Berger. House co-sponsor: Mars Hill Democrat Ray Rapp.
— Nelda Holder can be reached at email@example.com. Follow our Statehouse news at mountainx.com/special/ncmatters.