Toll-free driving, Medicaid, privacy get House boost

Posted May 16, 2013

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— The state House approved a measure that would keep at least some lanes free from tolls on existing highways as the chamber finished its hurried "crossover week."

The so-called crossover deadline is the point by which legislation that doesn't raise or spend money must pass in order to remain eligible for consideration this session. Dozens of bills have been vetted by the House and Senate over the last three days as lawmakers rushed to beat the deadline.

One of the final bills to get approval this week would say that, if the state decides to fund expansion of Interstate 95 or other existing highways through tolls, the state would have to keep at least as many lanes toll free as there are today. 

Bill sponsor Jeff Collins, R-Nash, said the state could offer perks for traveling on the tolled lanes. For example, highway administrators might offer a higher speed limit on the tolled lanes versus the local non-tolled lanes. 

"But you could never have less than the number of non-toll lanes than you have today," Collins said. 

The bill now goes to the Senate.

In other action Thursday, the House:

  • approved House Bill 980, redirecting $401 million in funds to the state’s Medicaid program to cover a gap between projected and actual program costs for the fiscal year. The money will come from unreserved funds, drug rebate funds, projected reversions and nearly $45 million in projected additional tax revenue for the year. The measure passed 111-1 and moves to the Senate.
  • sent the Senate a bill that would prevent employers and colleges from demanding access to the personal email and social media accounts of students, employees and prospective employees. Opposition to the bill came from some who feared it would encroach on North Carolina's status as a right-to-work state. "This creates another exception to employment at will," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake. "We don't need more exceptions without evidence of a burning fire." Backers of the bill said it would protect the workforce from unwarranted intrusion into their private life by employers. Employers would still be able to monitor activity conducted on equipment supplied by the company.
  • approved the "Brass to Class Act." Military veterans who teach in North Carolina schools would get salary credit for their service under House Bill 787. The bill says veterans’ formal military education and practical experience in active service should be counted as experience credits to raise their classroom pay. Sponsor Rep Tom Murry, R-Wake, says the bill will encourage retired and honorably discharged military personnel “to go teach our kids, become great teachers and principals.” The bill directs the State Board of Education to design standards for the program similar to those for lateral entry from the private sector.

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  • takenly May 17, 2013

    My guess is that Clayton Tarheel doesn't live on I-95. It's easy to advocate for a tax that he/she wouldn't have to pay....

  • Tax Man May 17, 2013

    Just make all toll roads "voluntary" - if you want to pay the toll, go right ahead - if you don't choose to pay the toll then you should not have to! We all pay taxes to the state, county, city and gas taxes - so why should we have to pay more taxes just to use public roads? Tolls need to be abolished. The citizens of NC should be able to vote for or against allowing the state to have toll roads. Let the taxpayers decide, not the politicians who then hire their buddies for the commission and pay them big fat salaries and retirement. Just say NO to tolls.

  • albegadeep May 16, 2013

    claytontarheel, imagine if I95 were turned into toll-only. Got to pay a fee every time to use an existing road that your tax dollars have been paying for for years? Makes no sense!

  • itsnotmeiswear May 16, 2013

    Really. how is the toll going to work unless you create a barrier between the lanes. What is that going to add to the cost? All this whining about the tolls is ridiculous. If you don't want to pay the toll, take another road. If you take the toll road and get billed, pay the bill. Simple.