Raleigh, N.C. — State lawmakers galloped through about three dozen bills in a handful of hours Monday night. Most were non-controversial and received little or no debate, with a few notable exceptions.
Sailed: House Bill 838, giving nearly $750,000 to Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson to hire staff without the approval of the State Board of Education, 76-41.
The measure is the latest step in a power struggle between Johnson and the board. He recently filed an affidavit in a lawsuit complaining about his inability to hire support staff to carry out his vision for the agency.
While opponents of the measure cautioned against wading into active litigation, sponsor Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, said the House ought to "consider letting the superintendent choose less than 1 percent of the employees in the building without having to get the state board’s approval." The measure is now headed for the Senate.
Sailed: A measure requiring all school personnel who work with children to be trained to recognize students at risk of committing suicide passed 109-7 after being delayed over objections about the cost.
Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said House Bill 285 would add extra hours to the already extensive training that school personnel are required to have and questioned whether the measure would save enough lives to be worth the expense. But sponsor Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said students are greater risk these days because of the internet.
"Whether it’s bullying or that very strange social network," Dollar said, "I think having more eyes that are trained and on the lookout for these kids will save some lives."
Sailed: It took the Senate about 60 seconds to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of Senate Bill 68, which overhauls state and county oversight of elections, creating even-numbered boards divided on party lines. In his veto message Friday, Cooper said the bill is an attempt to bring partisan gridlock to elections administration. The veto now moves to the House, where it's expected to be overridden in a morning session Tuesday.
Failed: House Bill 395, which would have added a member of the Police Benevolent Association to the North Carolina Training Standards Commission, failed 52-65. This is the third session in which similar proposals have been unsuccessful.
Sponsor Rep. Donna White, R-Johnston, argued that "rank-and-file policemen should be at the table when rules and policies are being made for them."
"This is a very large board of 34 members," agreed Rep. Debra Conrad, R-Forsyth. "I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have one seat."
But lawmakers who've been law enforcement officers spoke out against it, saying that the commission hears appeals from officers to whom it has denied certification and that the PBA often represents those officers.
"If you look at the national organizations which both of these organizations [the PBA and the Fraternal Order of Police] were titled after, you’ll find they’re very active labor unions. They bargain for salaries, they bargain for all those things," said Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, a retired police chief. "They undercut quite a bit the ability of professionals to run these organizations."
The House voted it down after a fairly lengthy debate. The proposal is now ineligible to be considered through the end of the biennial session in 2018.
"We don't fail very many bills, but there's one," noted House Speaker Tim Moore. "But it's crossover week. Who knows what'll happen?"