There are only three weeks left before the 2013 session of the N.C. General Assembly hits its crossover deadline of May 16. In general, that means to have a chance at becoming law, each bill must have passed a third reading in the chamber where it originated and moved to the remaining chamber by that date. Over 1,700 bills have been introduced since January (1,002 in the House; 725 in the Senate), including the recent arrival of Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $49,590,935,190 budget outlay for 2013-14. So it’s going to be a busy time.
In all that proposed legislation, the one bill most directly affecting the Asheville-Buncombe County is the controversial HB 488 (Regionalization of Public Utilities), which would transfer the Asheville water system into the ownership and governance of the existing Metropolitan Sewerage District. In turn, a new entity called the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage District would be created. The bill passed in the House on April 15 by a 72-39 vote, and has moved to the Senate Committee on Finance, which includes Western North Carolina delegation members Tom Apodaca, Republican, and Martin Nesbitt, Democrat, both of whom represent portions of Buncombe County. The bill’s primary sponsors are Republican Reps. Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey of Buncombe County and Chuck McGrady of Henderson County.
A de-annexation bill (HB 568), which would remove the Asheville airport and Western North Carolina Agricultural Center area from city jurisdiction, has further to go toward crossover. It has had its first reading in the House, under the sponsorship of Moffitt, Ramsey and McGrady, and is currently in the Committee on Finance – where Moffitt is a member. Another bill affecting annexation (HB 224) moved forward quickly this session and has already become state law under the primary sponsorship of Moffitt and Ramsey. It has removed the city’s power to zone within what is known as the extraterritorial jurisdiction (an area not to extend more than three miles from the city’s corporate limits). The bill – also sponsored by Moffitt and Ramsey – leaves Buncombe County with the authority to appoint two members to both the planning board of Asheville and to the city’s board of adjustment.
Meanwhile, some of the lesser known bills from the WNC delegation that will be subject to second and third readings before crossover include the following:
HB 315 (Plastics Labeling Requirements): Calls for clear labeling of biodegradable plastics in order to prevent their contamination of the recyled, rigid-plastic collection and re-use stream. Primary sponsor, McGrady; co-sponsor, Ramsey.
HB 597 (Bail Bondsman Credentials/Official Shield): Creates a second layer of required identification for bail bondsmen in the state by instituting issuance of an official shield in addition to a photo ID. It replaces the words “Private Investigator” with the title “North Carolina Bail Agent.” Primary sponsor, Moffitt.
HB 609 (NC Cancer Treatment Fairness Act): Would require every policy or contract of accident or health insurance to provide coverage for presecribed, orally administered anticancer drugs on a basis no less favorable than intravenously administered or injected medication. Co-sponsors, Ramsey and Buncombe County Democrat Susan Fisher.
HB 704 (Study and Encourage Use of Telemedicine): Seeks to have the Joint Committee on Health and Human Services study the use of telemedicine to increase access to health care and provide more efficient health-care delivery. Co-sponsors, Fisher and Ramsey.
HB 874 (Broaden Agricultural Present Use Value): Reduces tract requirement of the current present-use statute—G.S. 105-277.3(a)—from 10 to five acres in actual production. Primary sponsors, Fisher, Moffitt, Ramsey, and Joe Sam Queen, Democrat from Waynesville.
SB 236 (Counties Responsible for School Construction): Amends the statues establishing school boards as owners and construction agents for public school property by allowing a county to elect by resolution to act in this capacity. Primary sponsor, Apodaca.
by Nelda Holder, contributing editor
Editor’s note: A public discussion of state legislation affecting the public schools is scheduled for this Tuesday night from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Asheville City Schools Board Room at 85 Mountain St. The meeting is hosted by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Public Schools First NC organization, and is co-sponsored by Asheville City Schools Foundation and Children First.
UPDATED April 22, 2013: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that HB 488 would be on the agenda of an April 23 joint finance committee meeting. That reference was in error and has been removed.