From Kids Voting to Queen Anne’s Revenge: State legislative update

A flurry of appropriation bills in the N.C. General Assembly last week saw funding requests for the Kids Voting program, the Domestic Violence Policy Center Fund, an Adult Protective Services Pilot, compensation for victims of the eugenic sterilization program (1929 to 1975) in the state and more — including matching funds for Queen Anne’s Revenge, an archaeological exploration of what is believed to be Blackbeard’s ship. Synopses of these and other bills introduced during the week that are of particular interest to Western North Carolina legislators and/or constituents are included below.

And a note for policy wonks: The N.C. General Assembly Web site, redesigned and even easier to navigate this session, just announced a new, companion Web site for the Research Division — the central office for legal and other research, bill drafting, policy analysis and library services to legislative committees and individual members. Among its features: a guide to the committee structure of the Legislature; a list of research publications; a virtual library of research, guides, collections and services.

HB 173Kids Voting: An appropriations bill for $300,000 to fund the Kids Voting of North Carolina for 2009-2010. $50,000 would go for new programs; $250,000 would fund current programs, which include those in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson and Madison counties. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Appropriations. Reps. Susan Fisher of Buncombe and Ray Rapp of Haywood/Madison/Yancey counties, primary sponsors; Reps. Bruce Goforth of Buncombe and Carolyn Justus of Henderson counties, co-sponsors.

HB 183Taxpayers’ Protection Act: Passed first reading; referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations. Reps. Phillip Frye, Avery/Caldwell/Mitchell/Yancey and Justus, Henderson, co-sponsors.

HB 193Electronic Notice of Public Hearings: Allows cities and counties to give electronic notice of public hearings, in substitution for other published notice. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Local Government II. Frye, co-sponsor.

HB 197Queen Anne’s Revenge: Appropriates $200,000 to continue archaelogical and historical research on the Queen Anne’s Revenge — believed to be Blackbeard’s flagship — to match available federal and private grant funds for recovery and exhibition of shipwreck materials. Passed first reading; referred to Appropriations. Rep. Haire, primary co-sponsor.

HB 208Spay/Neuter Program: Transfers the state’s spay/neuter program and fund established under G.S. 19A-61 from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Funding appropriation of $1 million for 2009-2010 and $1 million for 2010-2011 fiscal years for funding the Spay/Neuter Account; appropriation of $60,000 to fund rabies education and prevention programs, with up to 20 percent available for spay/neuter program administration and statewide education. The bill also requires an annual report from every animal shelter in receipt of state or local funding. Cities or counties not filing the report will not be eligible to receive spay/neuter reimbursement. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on State Government/State Personnel. Rep. Haire, co-sponsors.

HB 220Write-In Candidate Rule: Provides that no candidate whose name appeared on the ballot in a primary election “shall be eligible to have votes counted for him as a write-in candidate for any office in that year.” Passed first reading; referred to Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform.

HB 255Agricultural Annexation Exemption: Provides a zoning exemption for any agricultural interest annexed by a municipality, to include areas of land (including structures) used primarily for production of produce, grains, livestock or fibers, horticultural or aquaculture products, or as demonstration/research/test farm or petting zoo. Filed; no action. Rep. Roger West, Cherokee/Clay/Graham/Macon, co-sponsor.

SB 178Repeal Ban on Labor Contracts: Would repeal G.S. 95-98, which currently prohibits contracts between governmental entities and labor organizations for the purpose of collective bargaining. Referred to Judiciary II.

SB 179Sterilization Compensation: Would provide compensation to any person sterilized through the state’s eugenic sterilization program between the years 1929 and 1975 in the amount of $50,000; appropriates $172,750,000 to establish the Eugenic Sterilization Compensation Fund. Referred to Appropriations/Base Budget.

SB 189Adult Protective Services Pilot: Funds a pilot program to assess proposed improvements to enhance the capacity of county departments of social services in responding to the needs of abused, neglected or exploited adults, as recommended by the N.C. Study Commission on Aging. Appropriation request: $2,209,000 for the 2009-2010 fiscal year; $2,200,000 for 20-10-2011. Referred to Appropriations/Base Budget.

SB 206 — Kids Voting:  Companion bill to HB 173; filed and referred to Appropriations/Base Budget in the Senate; Sens. Joe Sam Queen of Avery/Haywood/Madison/McDowell/Mitchell/Yancey counties and John Snow, Cherokee/Clay/Graham/Haywood/Jackson/Macon/Swain/Transylvania, co-sponsors.

SB 227Domestic Violence Funds: Appropriates funds to the Domestic Violence Center Fund (approximately $4.9 million in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011) and for Web-based software ($88,200) to maintain grant application and distribution for domestic violence, sexual assault and displaced-homemaker grant funds. Referred to Appropriations/Base Budget.

SB 256Local Government Evacuation Authority: Clarifies that counties and cities have the authority to order evacuations in certain situations, rewriting G.S. 14-288.12(b) to include evacuating “all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the governing body’s jurisdiction, to prescribe routes, modes of transportation, and destinations … and to control ingress and egress of a disaster area. Filed; no action. Sen. John Snow, Cherokee/Clay/Graham/Haywood/Jackson/Macon/Swain/Transylvania, primary sponsor; Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Buncombe, co-sponsor.

Nelda Holder, associate editor

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