Raleigh, N.C. — The budget and tax reform bills aren't the only high-profile bills still in limbo as the 2013 legislative session draws to a close.
House Speaker Thom Tillis said Thursday he expects the session to adjourn by July 4. If that's the case, lawmakers will have just a week and a half to resolve the fate of some high-profile bills.
A few of the ones we're watching for:
VOTER ID: House Bill 589, requiring government-issued photo identification for voters at the ballot box, passed the House April 24. The proposal drew fire from right-wing activists who say it isn't stringent enough. It was sent to the Senate Rules Committee and hasn't been seen or heard from since.
FRACKING: Senate Bill 76 would have set a start date of March 2015 for natural gas drilling to begin in North Carolina. The Senate bill removed many of the environmental and consumer protections in the current law. The House version put many of those protections back, including a requirement for a final legislative vote to approve the state's regulations before drilling, including a controversial method known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," can begin. Senate sponsors were unhappy with the House changes. It passed the House June 7, but the conference committee wasn't named until this week.
DIX DEAL REPEAL: Senate Bill 334 would void a lease agreement for the Dorothea Dix property signed by Raleigh and former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. The House approved a more moderate version that allows for re-negotiation of the deal. The bill has been in conference since June 4. Conferees say they're getting close but don't yet have a deal.
IMMIGRATION REFORM: House Bill 786, titled "Reclaim NC," came out of lengthy negotiations between employers, law enforcement, anti-immigrant groups and immigrant advocates. It would allow driver's licenses for illegal immigrants but would also allow Arizona-style enforcement measures. After it was amended and softened in the House Judiciary B Committee, it was sent to the House Finance Committee on May 2 and has not surfaced since then.
REGULATORY REFORM: Senate Bill 612 would roll back a host of environmental regulations and would ban not just state but local officials from enacting any rules stricter than federal regulations. It passed the Senate May 2 and was sent to the House Regulatory Reform Committee, where it hasn't yet been heard.
GUN OMNIBUS: House Bill 937, in its House version, would have allowed concealed weapons in bars, at sporting events and on college campuses. The Senate rewrite expanded the proposal dramatically, eliminating pistol permits, allowing guns on all school property and allowing hunting with silencers. The Senate passed its version June 13. It's been sent to the House Rules Committee, but no concurrence vote has been taken yet.
JORDAN LAKE RULES: Senate Bill 515 would immediately repeal water-quality rules and upstream mitigation requirements for cities and landowners in the Jordan Lake basin. It won Senate approval May 15 and was sent to the House Environment Committee, where it has not yet been heard.
BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS: Senate Bill 10 caused heated conflict between the chambers. The Senate version eliminated special Superior Court judges and fired virtually all members of the state's top oversight boards. The House version was substantially more moderate. After difficult negotiations, the House voted not to approve the compromise. Instead, House leaders filed House Bill 1011, "Son of Senate Bill 10," to resurrect the version preferred by the House. That bill passed the House May 9 and was sent to the Senate Rules Committee May 13. It has not yet resurfaced.
Any of these bills could surface at any time in the next two weeks – those currently sitting in Rules Committees are the most likely to pop up with little notice – and they would all be eligible for consideration when the session resumes in 2014.
However, Tillis will be on the May Republican primary ballot for U.S. Senate, where he may be joined by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. Other legislators will likely face primary challengers before they return next May, too. So, bills that appeal to the GOP base, like voter ID and gun rights, are very likely to resurface before lawmakers leave town.