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Lawmakers play beat the clock

Posted April 26
Updated April 27

— Staring at a Thursday deadline that will kill off most legislation that hasn't cleared either the House or the Senate, lawmakers worked furiously late into the night Wednesday to move as many bills as they could.

The two chambers took up a combined 109 bills, passing many with little discussion and others with debate marked by irritation and exhaustion.

Here are some of the measures that successfully navigated the so-called "crossover" deadline:

Immigration compliance: The Senate passed a proposal that would punish cities, counties and college campuses that don't enforce immigration laws by withholding state funds. The proposal says local officials must investigate any allegations of non-compliance made by the public. Meanwhile, the House passed a bill requiring all government contractors to use the E-Verify system to check workers' immigration status.

Campus free speech: The University of North Carolina Board of Governors would have to establish a policy on free expression that can be limited only by "narrowly tailored viewpoint- and content-neutral restrictions on time, place, and manner of expression" and includes a range of disciplinary sanctions for anyone who "substantially disrupts the functioning of the constituent institution or substantially interferes with the protected free expression rights of others."

Business recruiting incentives: Because the lion's share of state funds used to lure new or expanding operations to North Carolina have gone to a handful of wealthy counties, a bill the Senate passed would restructure the funds to encourage more business recruitment in rural areas and limit the awards that can go to businesses setting up shop in wealthy areas.

Britny's Law: The Senate approved a measure that will make it easier to pursue first-degree murder charges in domestic homicides if someone has a history of domestic violence. The bill is named for Britny Puryear, a Fuquay-Varina woman who was killed by her boyfriend in 2014.

Hog farm nuisance lawsuits: The Senate passed a measure that would limit the compensatory damages awarded in any lawsuit filed by someone living near an agricultural or forestry operation over nuisances from the business, such as hog farm odors, to the fair market value of the property. Opponents say it will encourage such operations to set up in poor communities.

Craft breweries: Farms that raise crops that they later use to brew beer can sell their brew even in dry counties under a bill approved by the House. The measure also would allow retailers to sell beer in "crowlers," which are containers sealed on site; allow breweries to offer tastings during tours; and allow home brewers to participate in exhibitions and competitions.

Fishing feud: Commercial shrimpers and recreational fishermen have fought for years over the impact of trawlers on fish stocks in coastal estuaries. The state Marine Fisheries Commission recently began drafting stricter rules for trawlers, but a bill that cleared the Senate puts that rule-making process on hold.

Constitutional convention: It's been 230 years since the last convention of states – before the U.S. Constitution was even ratified – but North Carolina senators want another one to propose amendments designed to crack down on what some see as a federal government run amok. Thirty-eight states must call for a convention before it could take place.

Body art regulation: While tattoo parlors require permits from local health departments, shops that providing body piercing, branding and other services have been unregulated. The House passed a bill to change that.

Wilson broadband: Wilson will be able to continue providing high-speed internet service to surrounding communities until commercial providers enter the market, under a bill that cleared the House. Lawmakers several years ago cracked down on municipal broadband services, saying they had unfair market advantages.

Replacing judges/senators: The House passed two measures that would require vacant seats on the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, as well as vacant U.S. Senate seats and district attorney positions to be filled by someone from the same political party. The party would submit nominations for each open seat.

Payroll deductions: A few years ago, courts struck down a state law that blocked the North Carolina Association of Educators from collecting dues through payroll deductions. The Senate passed a bill that isn't so targeted, deciding to end payroll deductions for state employees, for all employee associations and labor organizations.

School board funding suits: The Senate approved a measure barring school boards from suing their local county boards over funding issues. Supporters say it's a waste of tax money, while opponents say it removes the only leverage school districts have in trying to obtain more local funding.

Employee misclassification: Some businesses get around payroll taxes, unemployment insurance and other costs by classifying employees as contract workers. The Senate passed a bill that would create a new section in the state Industrial Commission to investigate reports of misclassification and pursue civil and criminal penalties.

Running over protesters: A bill that cleared the House would provide immunity from lawsuits to drivers who hit someone who is in a roadway as part of a protest, as long as the driver wasn't purposely trying to hit someone. Opponents criticized the measure as a threat to valid protests and noted the state's contributory negligence standards would prevent any injured protester from winning a lawsuit anyway.

Study smaller school districts: The House approved a proposal to study the logistics of breaking up large school districts, including whether any state legislation or local votes are needed to accomplish any separations. The study would be done by May 2018.

Booting cars in private lots: People who park illegally in a private lot could wind up with an "immobilization device" on his or her car under a bill that cleared the House. Violators would face an infraction that carries a $100 fine, and tampering with the device to remove it would be a misdemeanor.

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  • Norman Lewis Apr 27, 8:37 a.m.
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    The Lawmakers were not playing beat the clock. The "deadline" is known, somebody didn't just suddenly say, "be done by Thursday or else". This is grandstanding and likely done to be able to look busy and to sneak things in the bills at the last minute that ordinarily would not pass.