The General Assembly’s second week of the 2009 session included the introduction of a number of bills of particular interest to Western North Carolina legislators and constituents, including a provision to create four-year terms for the legislators (HB 71). Synopses of some of those bills with their WNC sponsors follow:
• HB 34: A joint resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded Feb. 12, 1908. Passed first reading; referred to Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations. Reps. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County and Phil Haire of Haywood/Jackson/Macon/Swain, co-sponsors.
• HB 43: Makes it unlawful (Class 1 misdemeanor) for school board members to “willfully fail to discharge the duties of the office.” (This bill would add school board members to G.S. 14-230, which currently includes sheriffs, commissioners, county surveyors, coroner, clerks of courts of record, and officials of state institutions, counties, cities or towns.) Passed first read; referred to Rules, Calendar and Operations. Fisher, a primary sponsor. (Fisher is former Buncombe County Board of Education member and chair.)
• HB 48: Amend the N.C. Constitution to allow the governor the power of line-item veto in appropriations bills. Passed first reading; referred to Rules, Calendar and Operations.
• HB 46: Appropriates $1 million for 2009-2010 and $1 million for 2010-2011 to increase funding for the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching, an affiliate of the UNC system with a main campus in Cullowhee. Referred to Rules, Calendar and Operations. Reps. Ray Rapp, Haywood/Madison/Yancey and Haire, primary sponsors; Fisher, co-sponsor.
• HB 50: Amend the Constitution to allow for recall elections for any state office established by the Constitution. The procedure would require petition by at least 25 percent of registered voters from the affected area. Passed first reading; referred to Rules, Calendar and Operations.
• HB 68: Prohibits use of electronic devices (mobile phones or accessing additional technology) while operating a motor vehicle on a public street or highway or public vehicular area. (Companion bill: SB 12.) Passed first reading; referred to Rules, Calendar and Operations. Rep. Bruce Goforth of Buncombe County, co-sponsor.
• HB 71: Amend the N.C. Constitution to provide four-year terms for members of the General Assembly. Passed first reading; referred to Rules, Calendar and Operations. Referred to Commerce. Goforth, primary sponsor; Reps. Phillip Frye of Avery/Caldwell/Mitchell/Yancey, Roger West of Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon, Fisher, Haire, Rapp, co-sponsors.
• HB 88: “Healthy Youth Act of 2009 ” amends G.S. 115C?81(e1) to provide for both an abstinence-only-until-married program and an abstinence-based comprehensive sexuality health education program, seventh through ninth grades in each local school administrative unit. Schools would offer both programs; parental consent forms required for the comprehensive sexuality health program. Fisher, primary sponsor; Goforth, co-sponsor.
• HB 91: Appropriates $500,000 for 2009-2010 fiscal year to the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Aging, to fund Project C.A.R.E., which provides support for individuals with dementia and their caregivers — as recommended by the N.C. Study Commission on Aging. Rapp, Fisher, Goforth, primary sponsors.
• SB 32: Requires that employers in the state use the federal E-verify program or similar verification program for new employees, operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pursuant to the Immigration and Control Act of 1986, and appropriates funds to support implementation. Referred to Commerce Committee. Sen. John Snow of Cherokee/Clay/Graham/Haywood/Jackson/Macon/Swain/Transylvania, primary sponsor; Sens. Tom Apodaca of Buncombe/Henderson/Polk, Steve Goss of Alexander/Ashe/Watauga/Wilkes, Martin Nesbittt of Buncombe, Joe Sam Queen of Avery/Haywood/Madison/McDowell/Mitchell/Yancey, co-sponsors.
• SB 46: Makes it unlawful “to communicate false, defamatory material that is libelous or slanderous through an electronic medium,” including “bulletin boards, a network, an online service, electronic mail, a forum, a blog, or a news group.” Criminal and civil offense. Referred to Judiciary I. Goss, primary sponsor. (See related Xpress Web entry, “Bloggers Gone Bad: Criminal Penalty for Libel Considered.”)
• SB 47: Limits liability for unauthorized use of wireless telephones to $50. Referred to Committee on Commerce. Goss, primary sponsor.
• SB 50: Limits towing service storage fees to a maximum of $25 a day for any stored vehicle. No storage fee may be charged unless the towed vehicle is placed inside a locked area. Referred to Commerce. Goss, primary sponsor.
— Nelda Holder, associate editor