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A look at this week’s WNC-related efforts at the legislature

There’s a lot of anticipation that the Senate will be out with its state budget proposal next week, but this week could hardly be described as the calm before the storm.

Arrests for acts of civil disobedience at the N.C. General Assembly have ramped up recently as students and organizers with the state NAACP have protested votes on voter ID legislation and the GOP economic agenda. The NAACP and a coalition of progressive groups have announced planned protests to be held at the legislature today and Tuesday.

Amid the rising tension and much tighter security, state House and Senate leaders have pressed ahead to get bills passed before a May 16 crossover deadline. After that, bills that have failed to pass at least one chamber can’t be brought up again for the remainder of the session.

Action scheduled for Western North Carolina-specific legislation this week includes a vote on House Bill 418, which authorizes Buncombe County and municipalities in the county to form a joint culture and recreation authority to administer parks and recreation programs and facilities.

The bill, introduced by Asheville-area Rep. Nathan Ramsey and co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Asheville, sets up a flexible mechanism for the initial creation and subsequent expansion of the authority that would allow it to be formed by a combination of local governments, including — or not including — Asheville.

Once set up, the county would have the ability to issue bonds and to levy a separate ad valorem tax to fund the new authority and its facilities and services. The tax is capped at 7 cents per $100 valuation.

The bill passed the House last week on second reading, 110-0, and is scheduled for a final vote Monday night.

Also of note to WNC’s growing craft beer industry is a final vote in the House scheduled for House Bill 829, which expands the types of businesses that can refill growlers to include wine shops, grocery stores, restaurants and retail and food businesses. The bill, introduced by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Hendersonville, is also scheduled for a vote Monday night.

Forestry legislation

A bill sponsored by Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, to outlaw the use sustainable building standards for public facilities that “disadvantages” North Carolina forest products is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the House Agriculture Committee. Also on the committee’s agenda is another bill sponsored by Ramsey and Presnell that would make it harder to file nuisance lawsuits against agriculture and forestry operations. The bill also allows operations that win the suits to recover attorney fees.

Veto watch?

Although a push is on to get Gov. Pat McCrory to intervene in the Asheville water and sewer merger, the governor has yet to signal that he won’t sign House Bill 488, the Regionalization of Public Utilities. The bill was sent to the governor on May 3. By law, he has ten days to either veto it or sign it. Otherwise, it becomes law without his signature.

Asheville City Council has announced it will meet Tuesday to consider potential legal action related to the bill.

Kirk Ross

Based in the Triangle, Kirk Ross is the capital bureau chief for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at kross@carolinapublicpress.org.

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