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Updated Tuesday, March 5.
State budget prep also to begin
The North Carolina House voted Monday night on its version of Senate Bill 10 — the Government Reorganization and Efficiency Act — setting up what promises to be a contentious negotiation between the two chambers.
According to a report from WRAL, the vote was 71-43 in favor of the measure. Two Republican mountain lawmakers — Rep. Chuck McGrady, of Hendersonville, and Rep. Nathan Ramsey, of Fairview — joined those opposing the move.
Last week, as the House leadership unveiled its rewrite of the bill, Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville), who helped write the bill, promised a fight over the changes at the of end brief remarks to the House Commerce and Job Development Committee.
“Mr. Chairman, I don’t know what to say. This is nothing like what we sent over, so I’d be wasting the House’s time if I spoke about it,” Apodaca said, concluding his short, blistering critique of the House changes.
Then, as he began to leave, Apodaca turned to the committee’s leadership, including vice-chair Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Asheville), and added, “I just look forward to seeing the conference committee.”
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Apodaca said his main complaint to the House version was that it strikes language that would fire 12 special superior court judges.
Other parts of the bill, including the elimination of dozens of obsolete and rarely convened boards and commissions remain the same, but the House tweaked sections of the bill, that under the Senate version would have replaced the entire Environmental Management Commission, to keep four current members on the 19-member panel that oversees environmental rules and polices.
The only member of the EMC from the western part of the state is longtime Valdese Town Manager Jeffrey Morse, from Burke County. His term, which expires on June 30, 2015, would end this year under both versions of the bill.
The House version of S10 initially removed language in the Senate’s to replace current members of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, but an amendment by Rep. Mike Hager (R-Rutherfordton) that restored the Senate’s language firing the commissioners, was approved by the committee.
Much of the legislative week ahead will be in preparation for drafting a state budget with appropriations committees scheduled to continue work on program reviews and potential funding changes, but at least one other controversial piece of legislation is expected to surface.
House Speaker Thom Tillis told a gathering of conservatives in Raleigh on Friday that the process of moving legislation on Voter ID bill would start this week.
McCrory pays WNC a visit, weighs in on payday lending
Pat McCory’s trip last week to the North Carolina mountains included a number of photo ops — from reading to school children in Flat Rock to a visit with Rev. Billy Graham in Montreat. It also included at least one major policy disagreement with a key local legislator.
During his swing through Buncombe County, the governor finally weighed in on legislation to allow payday lenders back into the state, saying he had serious reservations about the measure, which recently earned a full-throated endorsement from Apodaca.
New bills filed: Guns, schools, specialty plates, tax credit
WNC lawmakers also upped their sponsorship of new bills recently.
Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Spruce Pine) is a primary sponsor of newly introduced legislation to allow trained personnel and volunteers to carry concealed firearms at private schools and places of worship. Hise also is co-sponsor of a bill to create a new accountability board that would review how government and non-government agencies spend tax dollars.
Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin) found a way to say Macon County without saying it in a piece of legislation aimed at giving higher teacher allotments to K-12 schools in sparsely populated areas where consolidation isn’t practical.
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One qualification limits the additional funds to counties “containing more than 150,000 acres of National Forest.” According to the U.S. Forest Service’s 2011 survey of lands, Macon County is the only county in the state to meet the definition. The legislation would aid efforts to shore up the cash-strapped county’s support for the isolated Nantahala K-12 school.
Republican Rep. Roger West, of Murphy, and Democratic Rep. Joe Sam Queen, of Waynesville, proved that there’s still bipartisan agreement on some things in Raleigh, in this case a fish. Both are primary sponsors of a bill for a specialty plate honoring the native Brook Trout. Fees collected for the $30 specialty plate would be used by the state Wildlife Resources Commission for public access and habitat protection of Brook Trout waters.
Queen is also one of four Democrats who sponsored legislation to extend the sunset of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to 2019. GOP leaders have said they don’t want to extend the tax credit, which expires on Jan. 1, 2014.