Today @NCCapitol (April 25): Bill eliminating special judges back from conference committee

Posted April 25, 2013

— Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Thursday, April 25. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.

S10: The bill eliminating or remaking dozens of state boards and commissions is back from a House-Senate conference committee. 

The bill was already a subject of fierce debate when it crossed over from the House to the Senate. But after the House made some changes dealing with special superior court judgeships, Senate leaders were particularly unhappy.

Special Superior Court judges are appointed by the governor and not attached to a particular county. The Senate version of the bill would have gotten rid of the posts, which many view as sinecure positions for political allies, this year. The House version of the bill cut language with regard to the 12 special superior court judges. 

The compromise measure, which is on the House calendar today, allows the current group of special superior court judges to serve out their terms before eliminating their positions. This avoids a constitutional fight over whether judges can be removed from office by legislative act. The measure also leaves in tact three business court judgeships, who handle complex financial cases. 

The Wrap @NCCapitol (April 24) The Wrap @NCCapitol (April 24) WRAP: Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie and reporter Mark Binker wrap up Wednesday's action at the General Assembly and look ahead to bills on Thursday's calendar in The Wrap @NCCapitol

HOUSE FLOOR: The state House is scheduled to meet at noon. In addition to the boards bill, it will take up a measure limiting the amount of non-voter approved debt the state may issue, a bipartisan school safety act, and a bill that would allow drivers with very poor vision to drive with bioptic lenses. 

WRAL.com will carry the House floor session live. Check the Video Central box on the home page. 

SENATE FLOOR: Lawmakers will review bills moving Asheville's water system to a regional water authority, requiring cursive handwriting to be taught in elementary grades, and stopping Blue Cross from using "most favored nation" clauses in contracts with providers.

MCCROY: Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to make an "information technology announcement" and conduct a walk-through at the new DENR building on Jones street at 9 a.m. this morning.

COMMITTEES: For a full list of committees meeting today, check the @NCCapitol home page. Among the highlights:

Senate Commerce (11 a.m. | 1027 LB): The committee takes up a measure titled the "Regulatory Reform Act." It deals with a hodgepodge of issues, ranging from creating "fast track permitting" for certain environmental permits to giving the Rules Review Commission authority to review current administrative rules. The bill would also keep cities and counties from enacting laws and ordinances more stringent that federal or state laws. 

House Government (10 a.m. | 643 LOB): The committee has more than a dozen bills on its calendar, including one that would treat state-recognized Indian Tribes as eligible for "for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians." This appears to be aimed at extending certain benefit programs to state-recognized tribes, even if they haven't achieved full federal recognition. 

THE NEWS: Stories we were following Wednesday included:

VOTING: Presenting photo identification before being able to vote in North Carolina moved a step closer to reality Wednesday when the House approved a Republican-backed proposal. House Bill 589 passed on an 81-36 vote and now moves to the Senate.

"Our system of government depends on open and honest elections," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett. "Having people prove they are who they say they are makes sense." Opponents of the measure say that it is a modern-day poll tax that unconstitutionally stands in the way of people's right to vote.

STABBING: A Raleigh man accused of fatally stabbing a political fundraiser was under suspicion for questionable activities involving the political campaign of former Rep. Brad Miller, Miller told WRAL News Wednesday. Jonathan Wayne Broyhill, 31, is facing a murder charge in the death of Jamie Kirk Hahn, 29, who died Wednesday after he allegedly attacked her and her husband at their home Monday.

PERDUE: Three supporters of former Gov. Beverly Perdue pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges for improperly aiding her 2008 campaign. Among them was Trawick Hamilton "Buzzy" Stubbs Jr., 70, of New Bern, who pleaded guilty to providing Perdue more than $28,000 in undisclosed flights on his law firm's plane. A longtime friend of Perdue and the law partner of her late first husband, he provided the flights between January 2007 and November 2008 but billed them as in-kind donations to the North Carolina Democratic Party instead of to the Perdue campaign.

GUNS: Concealed handgun permit holders would be able to lock their handguns in their cars when they park on college campuses under a sweeping gun rights measure that passed the House Judiciary A Committee Wednesday. The measure increases the potential penalties for some gun-related crimes but is focused on expanding the rights of gun owners, particularly those who hold concealed handgun permits.

University system officials objected to the measure. "We see it as more of a problem than a solution," said Andrew Moretz, a lobbyist for the University of North Carolina system.

The bill also clarifies the procedure for putting someone with mental health problems in the database that restricts gun purchases.

Related: The law varies from state to state. In North Carolina, those who apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon must prove mental or physical competence. To get that proof, a sheriff's department may place a call to the applicant's personal physician. "One of the real problems which we really found is there really are no standards by which physicians can assess the safety and how that relates to physical conditions and psychological conditions," said Dr. Adam Goldstein, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

RENEWABLE:  A western North Carolina lawmaker received a stinging defeat Wednesday as his own committee voted down his proposal to freeze and repeal the state's renewable energy standards. Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, had pulled House Bill 298 from the House Committee on Environment, where it faced questionable support, to put it in front of the House Committee on Public Utilities and Energy, which he chairs, in hopes of keeping the legislation moving forward. Instead, an 18-13 vote killed the bill, with powerful Republican Reps. Tim Moore, Ruth Samuelson, Nelson Dollar and others joining Democrats in opposing the measure.

IMMIGRATION: Democratic lawmakers urged the architects of a North Carolina House immigration bill Wednesday to tone down some of its enforcement measures.


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