Two new bills introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly last week came directly from the people — 13 elementary-school students, to be exact. The Mooresville self-designated “pit crew” worked secretly at first on their proposal to make stock-car racing the official state sport, according to “That’s Racin’” in The Charlotte Observer, so as not to tip off enthusiasts of any other sport. Then they obtained the cooperation of Rep. Gray Mills, Mooresville Republican, who became the primary sponsor of HB 333. Across the aisle, a familiar Western North Carolina racing enthusiast, Buncombe County’s Democract Martin Nesbitt Jr., was joined by Hendersonville Republican Tom Apodaca in introducing a companion bill (SB 322), and the race was on.
The students, who hailed from Lake Norman Elementary and Mount Mourne IB schools in Iredell County, compiled a number of facts about the homegrown sport that are enumerated in the legislative bills, including the state’s claim to racing legends Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and the late Dale Earnhardt, and statistics that the motorsports industry’s economic impact in the state is more than $6 billion a year; Charlotte is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame; and the state is home to more than 90 percent of the NASCAR Sprint Cup stock-car race teams. Not just that, but the students’ home territory of Mooresville is nicknamed Race City USA. (Think Dale Earnhardt Inc., JR Motorsports, Rusty Wallace Inc., Penske Racing, Red Bull Racing, MTJ Motorsports, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Cagnazzi Racing, Foley Racing, Kasey Khane Racing and more.)
While Senate sponsor Nesbitt did not return a request for comment, his own stock-car racing involvement includes the fact that his son is Mart Nesbitt of Nesbitt Racing Enterprises — a racing veteran who took the 2010 Super Late Model Champion at Newport Speedway and whose daughter Taylor, 13, had three wins in her 2010 rookie year. Meanwhile, a phone call to the Atlantic Coast Conference headquarters in Greensboro (think basketball) was also not returned, leaving the question of a potential rivalry for the state-sport designation unconfirmed.
Another legislative initiative that goes even further back in the history of the state is the resolution (HB 191/SB 142), honoring the Marquis De Lafayette. Adopted by the House and now pending in the Senate. N.C.‘s Fayetteville was the first city in the United States named for Lafayette, known as the “Hero of Two Worlds” because he fought in both the American and French revolutions during the 1700s. Historically, the town was the capital of North Carolina when the state’s constitutional delegates ratified the U.S. Constitution and chartered the University of North Carolina.
Other new bills in the past week with WNC legislator involvement included the following:
HB 237 (Economic Impact/Regulatory Legislation): Would require economic impact statements on all bills that propose regulatory changes that would create “substantial economic impact” (defined as $1 million for all persons affected in a 12-month period, or $1,000 for any one person). Passed first reading; referred to Committtee on Commerce and Job Development. Co-sponsor, Tim Moffitt, Buncombe County Republican.
HB 241 (North Carolina Firearms Freedom Act): Would exempt firearms, firearm accessories or 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. Co-sponsor, Phillip Frye, Republican from Spruce Pine.
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 related March 4 Xpress story.) Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Education. Primary sponsor, Ray Rapp, Mars Hill Democrat; co-sponsors, Susan Fisher and Patsy Keever, Buncombe County Democrats, and Sylva Democrat Phil Haire.
HB 326 (Buncombe Involuntary Annexation Moratorium): Would place a moratorium on annexation by municipalities located in Buncombe County until July 1, 2016, including annexation proceedings not yet included in a town’s ordinances, and those that are the subject of litigation in any court as of the effective date of the proposed law. Filed. Primary sponsor, Moffitt.
HB 327 (Incorporate Leicester): Would incorporate the “Town of Leicester,” subject to a referendum. Filed. Primary sponsor, Fisher.
SB 268 (Enhance Protection of Victims and Witnesses): Would create enhanced protections for victims and witnesses by allowing an exception to the hearsay rule if offered against a party that engaged in wrongdoing to effect the unavailability of the witness, and by increasing the penalty for intimidating or interfering with a witness. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Rules and Operations. Co-sponsors, Apodaca, Youngsville Democrat Doug Berger and Spruce Pine Republican Ralph Hise.
SB 334/HB 84 (Expand Inpatient Psychiatric Bed/Funds): Would appropriate additional funds for expansion of 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, Nesbitt; co-sponsor, Berger. House co-sponsor, Rapp.
by Nelda Holder, contributing editor