Raleigh, N.C. — After taking one step forward and a step back yesterday, legislation that would remake several state boards and commissions is back on its fast track.
The House Commerce Committee had already rewritten measure eliminating, firing or reconfiguring more than two dozen state oversight boards on Wednesday, much to the chagrin of Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the original author. The Senate Republican said he was most disturbed that the bill removed a provision getting rid of special superior court judges.
However, the Commerce Committee did opt to restore a provision that clears out the Utilities Commission, a panel that oversees power companies, phone companies and other regulated utilities. Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, a former Duke Energy employee and the chamber's Republican whip, advocated keeping the the commission subject to an immediate purge of members.
But that did not sit well with House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes and Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, the Republican conference leader. The stop-and-start nature of the bill appears to be the result of the disagreement among key House leaders about how to handle the measure.
In the Rules Committee on Thursday morning, Starnes, R-Caldwell, offered an amendment that softened the blow, keeping members of the Utilities Commission in place until 2015, when two rate cases involving Duke and Progress Energy will be finished. The amendment also expands the types of people who are qualified to sit on the commission to include engineers and those with expertise in renewable energy.
Hager sat by quietly as the Starnes amendment advanced.
That will "make sure we have a broader pool of people to pull from," Starnes said. His amendment also reduces the number of utility commission members from seven to five.
Another amendment, offered by Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, adjusts how the bill deals with members of the Industrial Commission, shortening and staggering the terms but not eliminating the membership all at once.
"We'll have a seamless transfer when the time comes," Daughtry said.
Both amendments and the bill itself passed on a voice vote.
During Wednesday's House floor session, Speaker Thom Tillis said he planned to hear the bill Thursday. Then, later on Wednesday, the bill was assigned to the Rules Committee meeting, and a Tillis spokesman said it would not come to the floor until next week.
But at the end of the Rules Committee meeting, Chairman Tim Moore announced the the full House would hear the measure Thursday afternoon.