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Also at the NCGA this week: Efforts to change transportation planning, study of Cherokee language

It’s another busy week ahead as the crossover deadline hits Thursday and any bills not passed by at least one chamber can’t be considered for the rest of the session. Committee calendars are loading up and legislators are expecting one or more marathon sessions this week to keep key bills viable.

Already on the agenda are two more Buncombe County-related measures.

House Bill 501 [PDF], which is up for a vote in the House on Monday night, would authorize Buncombe County to construct buildings on the campuses of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. The bill would exempt the county from a review of construction plans by the community college system and would void a 2012 memorandum of understanding between the college and the county. The bill requires the college to transfer the title of roughly 21 acres on the A-B Tech campuses to the county until the buildings are paid off, after which they will be returned to the college.

The bill would also allow for the county and community college to sign on to a new memorandum of understanding provided the terms “allow for the construction to be completed in a timely fashion and cost-efficient manner.”

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On Tuesday the House Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear House Bill 530 [PDF], which restricts the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ appointments to its local Metropolitan Planning Organization. MPOs manage local requests for federal and state transportation funding. The bill, sponsored by Asheville-area Reps. Nathan Ramsey and Tim Moffitt, both Republicans, would prohibit the county from appointing more than one elected official from the same commissioner district. Buncombe County is a member of the French Broad River MPO, which includes municipal and county representatives from Buncombe, Haywood and Henderson counties.

Governor takes a pass

When a bill is approved by the legislature, the governor can either sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature. Gov. Pat McCrory chose the last option in considering what to do about legislation forcing the merger of the Asheville water system into a regional water and sewer authority. McCrory’s decision to allow the ten day waiting period on House Bill 488 pass without his signature came after city of Asheville officials announced they would file a lawsuit to stop the merger.

The governor’s office issued a statement last Wednesday that read:

“The issues surrounding the transfer of the assets of the Asheville water department to a regional authority potentially raise a number of complicated inter-governmental issues. The City of Asheville has made it clear it will turn to the courts to resolve those issues should HB488 become law. To permit the process to run its proper course, HB488 will become law without my signature.”

Cherokee language bill advances

The Senate will vote Monday on a bill intended to expand the study of the Cherokee language in the University of North Carolina system. Senate Bill 444 [PDF], which was introduced by Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, requires each campus in the UNC system to come up with a way to allow students to satisfy their foreign language requirements through the study of Cherokee.

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Fisher wins a tie

Asheville Democrat Rep. Susan Fisher will receive the 2013 Representative of the Year award from the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters at the league’s annual Green Tie Awards dinner on May 29. Fisher is being recognized for her sponsorship of environmental legislation and her long record as an environmental advocate in the legislature. The league is a statewide environmental lobbying organization.

Dog breeder bill passes

A bill to regulate “puppy mills” introduced by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Hendersonville, and co-sponsored by Ramsey received an overwhelming majority in the House last week. The bill was publicly supported by First Lady Ann McCrory, who was in the House gallery last Thursday when it passed by a vote of 100-15. McGrady called the bill, which applies to dog breeders with more than five females, a good start on regulating the industry. The bill now heads to the Senate for review.

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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