Business registration, legal notice bills too hot for Senate committee

Posted June 10, 2015

— A bill that would raise a new fee on virtually all businesses in the state and another measure that would change how local governments advertise meetings were withdrawn from consideration after rolling out in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Bill 544 would have created an annual $100 business license fee for all businesses – from large corporation down to small proprietorships – as part of a push to take a census of companies operating in the state. While some companies already have to register with the Secretary of State's Office, others, such as home-based businesses, do not. Businesses that make less than $1,000 per year would be exempt from the proposed requirement.

"If you want to hit a hornet's nest in North Carolina, we're about to do it," said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, saying the fee would be particularly onerous for small companies.

Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, was also skeptical of the measure.

"How does this bill help us encourage business to grow and prosper?" Cook asked.

Shortly after Cook's comment, committee Chairman Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, conferred with Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, and pulled the bill.

Newspaper measure also pulled

Senators then moved on to House Bill 156, a measure that would have originally expanded how and when local governments would have been required to publish meeting notices online. The bill had been redrafted by Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, to go further.

The new bill would have allowed governments in counties with a population greater than 150,000 to move to all electronic notices for their meetings, rather than being required to publish in newspapers. The bill would have also allowed those counties that continued to publish notices in newspapers to do so in weekly papers with circulations of more than 10,000 readers.

Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, the original House sponsor of the bill, said she saw the redrafted version only 90 minutes before the committee hearing and immediately blasted it.

"Now we're passing legislation that's going to limit (people's) ability to know initially what's going on in their neighborhood," Avila said, asking senators to kill the new version of the bill.

Wade argued the measure would save local governments money and that daily newspapers don't have the same reach they once did.

It's also worth noting that Wade has been the subject of fierce criticism by the editorial board of her local daily newspaper, while the biggest alternative weekly in the county is more sympathetic toward the senator.

The provision dealing with the publication of notices in weekly papers caught the attention of Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, who said he was uncomfortable with the move.

"I just can't warm up to the free one's now," Apodaca said, alluding to criticism he has received by papers published in and around Asheville.

A few minutes later, Tillman pulled the public notice bill.

It's unclear whether either measure will be heard again.


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