Takin’ care of (legislative) business: 1,000 bills and more to come

Government lumbers along in Raleigh, as the N.C. General Assembly checks off bill-filing deadlines and begins to jam committee schedules with hearings on this session’s crop of proposed legislation.

Local bills (dealing with specific municipalities or counties) were due for filing in the House last Wednesday; the deadline for public bills (not including appropriations or finance) is this Wednesday, April 6. The appropriations bills have until May 4. In the Senate, the local bills were due March 9; public bills and resolutions must be filed by Tuesday, April 12. Crossover deadline is Thursday, May 12 — the date by which a bill that does not raise or spend money must move from its chamber of origin to the opposite chamber in order to remain under consideration during the 2010-2011 session. (Note: Redistricting bills for Congress, State House and Senate, and local governments are not subject to filing deadlines.)

So far, legislators have introduced more than 1,000 bills this session. Only 18 bills have been ratified (see list here). So expect April to be a busy month.

Local and public bills filed last week in the Legislature with the support of Western North Carolina delegates included the following:

WNC Local Bills
HB 547 (ABC Law/Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians): Authorizes the establishment of a tribal Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to regulate purchase, possession, consumption, sale and delivery of alcoholic beverages. Passed first reading; referred to Commerce and Job Development. Primary sponsor, Phil Haire, Democrat of Haywood/Jackson/Macon/Swain counties.

HB 548 (Swain/Graham County Line): Clarifies the county line between Graham County and Swain County in relation to the Tennessee River, Fontana Dam and Fontana Lake. Passed first reading; referred to Rules/Calendar/Operations. Primary sponsor, Haire.

HB 550 (Asheville-Buncombe Regional Park Authority): Establishes the Asheville-Buncombe Regional Park Authority for the purpose of providing parks and recreational facilities and holding jurisdiction. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Government. Primary sponsors, Buncombe County representatives Susan Fisher and Patsy Keever, Democrats, with Republican Tim Moffitt co-sponsoring.

HB 552 (Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority): Would create an Airport Authority of seven members (two registered voters of the city, appointed by City Council, one having experience with the travel and tourism industry and one having experience in finance and accounting; two registered voters of Buncombe County, appointed by the Board of Commissioners, one with experience in aviation and one with experience in marketing and business development; two registered voters of Henderson County, appointed by that Board of Commissioners, one with experience in either construction or facilities and one having experience with logistics. The seventh member would be appointed by the six above. No person holding any elected public office could be a member of the Authority. Passed first reading; referred to Government. Primary sponsors, Buncombe County’s Moffitt, Keever, Fisher, and Henderson County Republican Chuck McGrady.

HB 562 (Asheville/Woodfin Boundary Adjustments): Would annex to the city of Asheville and the town of Woodfin certain state-owned properties and allow the city of Asheville (with approval of property owner and town of Woodfin) to annex any part of Woodfin totally surrounded by the city.
Passed first reading; referred to Government. Primary sponsor, Fisher.

Public Bills

HB 478/SB 452 (Nondiscrimination in State/Employment): Would ensure equal opportunity for employment and compensation by state departments or agencies and local political subdivisions by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the non-discriminatory categories in GS 126-16. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations. Primary sponsor in House, Fisher; co-sponsor, Ray Rapp, Democrat of Haywood/Madison/Yancey counties.

HB 479 (Small Business New Job Creation Incentive): Establishes a tax credit for small businesses creating new jobs ($1,000 per job). Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Commerce and Job Development. Co-sponsor, Rapp.

HB 495/SB 473 (The Solar Jobs Bill): Doubles the requirement for use of solar energy resources and expands the compliance schedule. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Public Utilities. Primary sponsor in House, Moffitt; co-sponsors Fisher, Rapp and McGrady. Primary sponsor in Senate, Tom Apodaca, Republican of Buncombe/Henderson/Polk counties; co-sponsors, Ralph Hise, Republican of Avery/Haywood/Madison/McDowell/Mitchell/Yancey counties.

HB 522 (Midwifery Licensing Act): Establishes a certified professional midwives licensing process and requirements. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Health and Human Services. Co-sponsors Fisher, Rapp.

HB 531 (Involuntary Annexation Reform): Establishes one uniform process for involuntary annexation across the state, along with other changes, primarily re-writing sections of GS 160A, specifically Annexation by Petition. Passed first reading; referred to Rules/Calendar/Operations. Co-sponsor, Moffitt.

SB 467 (Naturopathic Licensing Act): Provides standards for licensure of naturopathic doctors wishing to practice in the state. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Health Care. Primary sponsor, Apodaca.

SB 475 (Funding for One LEA per County): Would provide state funding for only one local school administrative unit per county. (If a county contains more than one local school administrative — such as Buncombe County and the city of Asheville — the State Board would divide the amount allotted on a per county basis between the units on the basis of average daily membership.) Passed first reading; referred to Rules and Operations. Primary sponsor, Apodaca; co-sponsor, Hise.

Committee Hearings

Under the current schedule, some of the recently highlighted legislation in this column will be presented in committee this week, including SB 229, which would transfer the Soil & Water division from N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. That hearing ia at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Senate Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources Committee. The bill (HB 422) that would refuse high-speed rail money being allocated to the state by the federal government is being heard at noon tomorrow in the House Committee on Transportation. And a bill (SB 411) to eliminate straight-party ticket voting on N.C. ballots is getting a hearing at 10 a.m. tomorrow in the Senate’s Judiciary I.

by Nelda Holder, contributing editor

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