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Regulatory reform bill sails through Senate committee

Posted May 20, 2014

Jordan Lake

— A Senate committee took a little more than an hour Tuesday to green-light a 60-page suite of regulatory changes that would affect everything from the sale of university-brewed beer to construction in coastal communities.

In an announcement Tuesday morning, state Republican leaders praised the reforms as an effort to streamline the environmental permitting process and clear outdated and ambiguous rules from the state law books while expanding environmental protection.

But some Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns in committee about Senate Bill 734, which until Tuesday morning's meeting contained only a short provision to consolidate fertilizer regulations.

Environmental advocates seeing the bill language for the first time said they were wary of some of the measures, although they said further study would be needed before commenting further.

Among other changes, the bill would:

  • Allow the governor, after the declaration of a state of emergency, to waive requirements for the repair or replacement of bridges on the coast
  • Prohibit the use of voluntary internal environmental audits for use as evidence in a lawsuit
  • Require the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to stop air quality monitoring not required by the EPA, unless it's part of an investigation or emergency situation
  • Repeal an old ban on cursing on public highways in the state, which legislative staff says is likely unconstitutional
  • Discontinue five-year energy audits of state agencies and universities
  • Allow the use of pesticide on all moles except the star-nosed mole
  • Permit those who lawfully salvage shipwrecks and donate the artifacts to the state to have access to them under certain conditions
  • Begin the process of establishing 10,000 acres of the Pamlico Sound as a shellfish sanctuary
  • Move authority over wastewater systems from the Commission for Public Health to the Environmental Management Commission, an appointed group under DENR
  • Establish a honeybee working group to study colony collapse disorder, a condition leading to massive bee die-offs
  • Allow community colleges to get a brewery license and sell beer with some limitations if brewing or distillation is part of an official curriculum.

Lawmakers offered only one amendment to the reform bill, which members of the committee voted to recommend without opposition.

But Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, did raise concerns about the transfer of wastewater oversight powers from the public health commission to the EMC, which includes one appointed doctor.

"I just wanted to express this concern that, while I think it's great that we have that physician, there is a whole body of expertise related to public health, that we don't lose that in this process somehow," Bryant said. "Hopefully there will be other factors that apply."

In a joint statement, co-sponsor Sens. Trudy Wade, Brent Jackson and Andrew Brock pointed out that this has been the fourth regulatory reform bill introduced since Republicans were elected the majority in 2011.

"For decades, government regulation and red tape were a real roadblock to job creation in North Carolina," the statement read. "But by offering regulatory reform legislation every session we've been in leadership, Senate Republicans have proven our commitment to freeing North Carolinians from bureaucratic headaches, spurring economic growth and making our state a more attractive place to do business."

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  • teleman60 May 21, 2014

    This is exactly the road we went down 14 years ago with GWB. Spend the surplus, deregulate the banking industry, start a few wars for oil and stand back.

    In 2008 we saw the results of republican deregulation and malfeasance - WORST ECONOMIC DISASTER SINCE 1929!

    NC is heading for that same cliff and republicans are gleefully waving their hands overhead, tearing up environmental regulations and squeezing their eyes shut so they won't see the state laid waste by their ill advised or down right corrupt new laws.

    How many years will it take to repair republican malfeasance this time?

  • teleman60 May 21, 2014

    "By offering regulatory reform legislation every session we've been in leadership,"

    Read these things - THERE'S NOTHING HERE RELATING TO JOB CREATION! "Allow pesticide use - discontinue energy audits - stop air quality testing - prohibit internal audits - change waste water authority"

    There are NO JOBS CREATED with any of this!!! Just gives free reign for the destruction of NC air and ground water.

    The only thing IT DOES is assure violators that they won't be fined for pollution anymore by their gop buddies!

  • dwntwnboy2 May 20, 2014

    Yet another example of the GOP being in the pockets of industry and NOT working for the people of the state. To end air quality monitoring? REALLY? We all need air, would be nice to know when it's not safe or good....but then again if we knew, we might try to do something about that and it could harm corporate bottom lines.

  • Kenny Dunn May 20, 2014
    user avatar

    First "tax reform" now "regulatory reform". Perhaps "reality reform" should be on the list.

  • May 20, 2014

    Bee Colony Collapse is now known. Pesticides. But since this state uses so much pesticide, this "study group" will take 12 more years to determine "there just isn't any scientific consensus" to make a determination.

  • bbruck May 20, 2014

    Lets see-- if we don't monitor air quality- then it can't be bad!!! Problem solved??

  • RDcallsit May 20, 2014

    who comes up with this stuff? allow colleges to brew beer if part of curriculum? hahaha All moles but the Star-nosed? repeal cursing on the highway? (they best not listen to me half the time!!!) Steal artifacts from those finding and salvaging old shipwrecks... what about gold and other valuable items? are they to 'donate' those to the state too? I don't think so.