Do-or-die date arrives for state legislation

Thursday, May 14, is this year’s crossover date for the N.C. General Assembly—when all legislation not requiring new funding must move from one chamber to the other to be eligible for passage.

With more than 2,700 separate bills and resolutions filed in the House and Senate, crossover is a time—as pointed out by columnist Chris Fitzsimon—when committee meetings grow burdensomely long and the huge flurry of bills is chased down the halls by lobbyists. Fitzsimon, who is with the progressive public-policy organization NC Policy Watch (a project of the nonprofit NC Justice Center), recently pulled a few “not very reassuring” quotes from the deadline chaos surrounding the Senate debate on a statewide smoking ban. From Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger (Guilford/Rockingham counties): “If people want to jump out of airplanes, that’s not something I want to do, but people should have the choice.” From Sen. David Weinstein (Hoke/Robeson counties): “Is it true that a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke?” (See Fitzsimon’s full column here.)

Meanwhile, weighing in on the pending state budget, the John Locke Foundation—a conservative, nonprofit think tank—has served up its own “Back to Basics Budget” for the state, totaling some $18.8 billion in spending for 2009-2010. According to another NC Policy Watch article, even a conservative budget isn’t good enough: State revenues for that period are currently projected at only $17.5 billion. And the N.C. Budget and Tax Center (another project of the NC Justice Center) projects a gap of $4.6 billion in immediate budget shortfall, with revenue collections for the current year running 11 percent lower than last year—a record drop in year-to-year tax revenues. All those figures leave legislators with their hands full—or rather, empty—as they try to finalize the state’s budget while tending their other work.

But the work goes on, and some of the bills of note for Western North Carolina that recently passed in the House and Senate—along with how our regional legislators voted—include the following:

Passed in House

HB 9No Texting While Driving: Makes it illegal to use a mobile telephone for e-mail or text messaging while operating a vehicle on a public street. (Buncombe County Reps. Susan Fisher and Bruce Goforth, co-sponsors.) Passed 109 to 5.
WNC Legislators Voting Aye: Fisher, Haire, Frye, Justus, Rapp, Whilden

HB 116Railroad Corridor Management: Plans for management and protection of railroad corridors. (Ray Rapp, primary sponsor; Fisher, Goforth, co-sponsors.) Passed 91-25.
Aye: Fisher, Goforth, Haire, Justus, Rapp, Whilden
No: Frye, Guice

HB 266 Use of Deadly Force by LEO/Collect & Publish: Requires the Division of Criminal Statistics to collect and publish statistics on use of deadly force by law enforcement resulting in death. Passed 115-2.
Aye: Fisher, Frye, Goforth, Guice, Haire, Justus, Rapp, Whilden

HB 439State Health Plan/Taxpayer Recovery Act: Reduces loss to counties and cities by requiring the state health plan to make payments for county or city ambulance services used by health-plan members. Passed 117-0.
Aye: Fisher, Frye, Goforth, Guice, Haire, Justus, Rapp, Whilden

HB 672Accountability for State Funding/MHDDSA: Institutes new requirements for Local Management Entities’ use of state funds for mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse services. (Goforth, co-sponsor.) Passed 117-0.
Aye: Fisher, Frye, Goforth, Guice, Haire, Justus, Rapp, Whilden

HB 722Paraphernalia Control Act: Regulates certain drug paraphernalia by requiring, at purchase, identification with photo and current address, and verification of signature. (Frye, co-sponsor.)
Aye: Fisher, Frye, Goforth, Guice, Haire, Justus, Rapp, Whilden

Passed in Senate

SB 143Continue Child Support/21 Yrs./College Students: Allows child-support payments to continue until age 21 if child is attending a community college or college or university. (Sen. John Snow, primary sponsor; Doug Berger, co-sponsor.) Passed 37-11.
Aye: Apodaca, Berger, Nesbitt, Queen, Snow

SB 167No Smoking/Cell Phones on Prison Grounds: Prohibits smoking on premises of correctional facility; prohibits possession of tobacco products or cell phones. Passed 40-8
Aye: Berger, Goss, Nesbitt, Queen, Snow
No: Apodaca

— Nelda Holder, associate editor

Editor’s note: The Scotch Bonnet (pronounced bonay) was designated the state shell of North Carolina in 1965. First cataloged as Phalium granulatum in 1778, it was named for its resemblance to caps worn by Scottish peasants and its coloration resembles a Scottish plaid.


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