In the Statehouse: Two state budgets and 600 bills to go

The North Carolina General Assembly has begun its end-of-session wrestling to reconcile Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $20.6 billion budget for 2013-14 fiscal year and the goals of the Senate’s $20.58 billion proposal, released Sunday night (Senate Bill 402). Meanwhile, some of the nearly 600 bills still alive after crossover are also filtering through Statehouse committees.

Crossover is the deadline (this year, May 16) when most bills must have passed in either the House or the Senate in order to remain in consideration. But for legislation, a simple deadline can still be complicated. Financial bills (revenue or appropriations), for example, are generally exempted from crossover, and the texts of some bills failing to meet the deadline may show up later as part of other legislation eligible for passage. But in general, the list of bills still eligible for consideration is about one-third of the original number (approximately 1,700) of bills and resolutions filed in the 2013 session.

In Western North Carolina, some still-viable bills that have been reported on here include a regulatory reform act that could have a direct effect on soil and erosion control in the mountains (see “Local Environmental Controls Likely to Be Whittled Down by Regulatory Bill,” 5/14/2013 Xpress); a Buncombe County sales-tax use expansion that would allow the county to spend previously restricted construction money on technology; and a bill to establish a state charter school board separate from the State Board of Education, along with other management and oversight changes that would tentatively affect both Buncombe County’s traditional public schools as well as the charter schools located here.

The most controversial bill for the Asheville area has been House Bill 488, now State Law 2013-50, which passed both houses and then become state law without the governor’s signature (a signing-period option the governor chose to follow). That law, forcing the merger of the Asheville water system with the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County, is now being tested in court by the city of Asheville. The bill was sponsored by Buncombe County Reps. Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey and Henderson County’s Chuck McGrady, Republicans. Also passed and ratified was HB 224 (SL 2013-30), nullifying the Asheville’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, sponsored by Moffitt and Ramsey.

And House Bill 568, which would de-annex the Asheville Regional Airport and WNC Ag Center area from the city of Asheville, has been sitting in wait in the House Finance Committee since early April, but is now on the schedule for a 9:15 a.m. meeting tomorrow of the House Finance Subcommittee on Deannexation/Annexation.

Current status of select bills pertinent to WNC, along with any WNC sponsors or co-sponsors

SB 236: Counties Responsible for School Construction
Allows county to elect by resolution to construct/improve/acquire a named school administrative unit located wholly within the county. Sen. Tom Apodaca, Republican of Hendersonville, primary sponsor; Sen. Ralph Hise, Republican of Spruce Pine, co-sponsor. Passed by Senate on May 15; sent to House Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations.

SB 337: NC Public Charter School Board (see above)
Hise, co-sponsor; passed by Senate on May 7 and sent to House Committee on Education.

SB 612: Regulatory Reform Act of 2013
Fast-tracks environmental permits; repeals environmental rules more strick than state/federal, etc.; strong effect on soil and erosion control, including local steep-slope ordinances (see “Local Environmental Controls Likely to Be Whittled Down,” 5/14/2013 Xpress). Passed in Senate on May 2; currently in House Committee on Regulatory Reform.

SB 664: Consolidate DV Commission/Council for Women. Eliminates Council for Women; gives counties power over funds and provider choice; potential to close several service agencies in WNC, including Buncombe County. This bill went to the Senate Committee on Appropriations/Base Budget on May 9. It did not meet the crossover deadline but remains potentially accessible as a financial bill.

HB 334: Buncombe County Sales Tax Use Expansion (see above).
Reps. Ramsey, Moffitt, primary sponsors. Passed by House on April 10; in Senate State and Local Government Committee.

HB 568: De-annex Asheville Regional Airport and WNC Ag Center (see above).
Sent to House Committee on Finance on April 10. Scheduled for hearing on May 23. Moffitt, Ramsey and McGrady, primary sponsors

HB 597: Bail Bondsman Credentials/Official Shield
Credentials required increased from photo ID to include shield as well. Moffitt, primary sponsor. Passed by House on Aprill 22; sent to Senate Judiciary Committee II.

HB 609: NC Cancer Treatment Fairness Act
Requires insurance companies to provide for orally administered cancer drugs. Co-sponsored by Fisher, and Ramsey. Passed by the House on May 9; currently in Senate Health Care Committee.

by Nelda Holder, contributing editor


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