One-day session bogs down over legislative push for regulatory veto

Posted August 3

This is the N.C. Legislative Building as seen on Feb. 2, 2015 at 6 p.m.

— Legislation to expand a General Assembly veto over executive branch rule-making and a grab-bag of changes in environmental law emerged at the state house Thursday, bogging down a one-day gathering initially set aside to consider Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes.

Legislators set all override votes aside, agreeing to handle Cooper's four outstanding vetoes in three weeks. That's also when they're set to approve new House and Senate maps as ordered by the federal courts.

Much of the wrangling that stretched Thursday into a 10-hour day instead centered on regulatory reform as backroom negotiations dragged from afternoon into night.

In the end, those bills had to wait. The Senate went home at 7:20 p.m. after first gaveling in at 10 a.m. The House followed at 8:20 p.m., with leaders for the Republican majority saying they couldn't quite bridge disagreements over these heretofore unseen bills. Democrats cried foul over the lack of public notice for House committee hearings for the reforms in House Bill 162, which state Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, called "far reaching [and] stunning in its impact."

"It's outrageous that it will be taken up w/no public notice & no House review," Harrison tweeted.

That bill included a ban on any new regulations that would cost $100 million or more over five years, something state agencies would calculate based on all people affected and without subtracting any benefits expected from the rule. Any rule with $10 million in impact over five years would be delayed until the General Assembly had a chance to review it.

Current law triggers this delay and legislative review if 10 people object to a new rule in writing. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he and others feel the state's regulatory bureaucracy needs to be reined in at times.

"The idea is that folks who are elected are the ones who have the authority to impose on citizens things that cost money," said Berger, R-Rockingham.

House Bill 162 remains alive for future sessions, as does House Bill 56, which included changes to landfill regulations and mining permit lengths and a new coastal storm damage fund, based on a version of the bill that circulated Thursday night. A number of sources said that an effort to add a rollback on the state's coastal plastic bag ban to this bill caused delay as both the House and the Senate sat at ease or in recess for hours Thursday.

As the Senate went home, Berger said the two bills were "the reason that we've been waiting for the last several hours."

At the end of the day, the Senate had voted through nine pieces of legislation and the House seven. One of them, Senate Bill 407, creates a new section at the Industrial Commission to investigate reports of employee misclassification and push back against businesses that try to deny employees wages or benefits by incorrectly classifying them as independent contractors.

Like other measures passed Thursday, this was a holdover from the regular legislative session that ended in June, and the compromise that broke the logjam on the bill was simple: Delaying implementation of key sections until June 2018.

The chambers also passed Senate Bill 16, which would roll back local governments' ability to require extra stormwater mitigation on redeveloped properties. Under this bill, if a pre-existing development gets reworked, new stormwater control measures can be required only on the amount of impervious surface added to the development, not on the full property.

Environmental groups were concerned, saying retrofit opportunities would be lost, making it harder to achieve clean water standards. Another section of the bill broadened an exemption from coastal stormwater rules for residential projects.


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