Carbon monoxide detectors, billboard rules part of regulatory reform rules
Posted July 11, 2013
Updated July 12, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Hotels would be required to install carbon monoxide detectors in certain hotel rooms under a bill that cleared the state House 83-29 Thursday night.
The detectors would have to placed in rooms near fuel-burning appliances, such as a pool heater that police suspect killed three people and injured another at a Boone hotel this year.
That language was included as part of a lengthy regulatory reform bill that covers dozens of topics ranging from sanitation standards in bars to how citizens can challenge local zoning cases. The bill will now return to the Senate, where it was originally drafted as a bill altering environmental regulations.
Among the most contentious provisions in the bill was a measure that strips Industrial Commission hearing officers of protections under the State Personnel Act. The provision would allow Gov. Pat McCrory's appointed Industrial Commission to more easily hire and fire hearing officers, who determine whether a company is at fault when a worker is injured.
Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, argued that removing the hearing officers from the SPA would open them up to undue political influence.
"They need not to be pressured by people above them to make certain decisions," Blackwell said.
But others, including Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, argued that the head of the Industrial Commission needed latitude to get rid of hearing officers who were not performing well.
Lawmakers turned back several amendments aimed at weakening this provision.
Other provisions in Senate Bill 112 include:
BILLBOARDS: The owners of billboards would be able to replace and update their signs, even if they were built in an area where local governments had banned billboards.
"The language in this bill is clarifying language," said Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, explaining that the bill would clear up conflicts in a law passed during the past General Assembly session.
But opponents of the measure said it would allow billboard companies to maintain their signs in perpetuity, even when communities wanted to cut down on outdoor advertising.
Efforts to remove the language from the bill failed.
PROTEST PETITIONS: Residents of most cities can currently use "protest petitions" to challenge zoning cases, which change how land can be used. Typically such cases determine what sort of homes or businesses can be built on a property.
A protest petition gathered by enough local property owners would require the city council to garner a super-majority in order to approve the land use changes.
As currently drafted, the bill would do away with protest petitions, making it easier for developers to push through their projects.
"It gives them (neighbors of proposed projects) a little bit of leverage," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Greensboro. Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, agreed, calling protest petitions "an effective tool."
But Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, said that protest petitions were conceived in the 1920s when public notice about zoning cases was not as good as they are today.
Lawmakers turned back attempts to remove the measure from the bill.