Today @NCCapitol (May 15): Senate to take on regulation rollback bills today
Posted May 15, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Good morning and welcome to Today @NCCapitol for Wednesday, May 15. This is WRAL's roundup of what you need to know about North Carolina state government today.
CROSSOVER RULE REMINDER: Crossover is the deadline by which bills at the General Assembly that don't raise or spend money must pass either the House or Senate in order to remain eligible for consideration for this session. There are several ways to work around that rule, but the deadline is important for most legislation. This year's crossover deadline is midnight Thursday evening.
CROSSOVER UPDATE: There are two days left in the crossover period and today may see the most robust debates. That's because opponents of a bill who lose a vote have the option of "objecting to third reading."
Some background: All bills are "read" three times in a legislative chamber. The first reading is merely an acknowledgment of the bill's filing. Pretty much everything passes first reading. Second and third readings are when debates and votes actually happen.
Most bills, except those that raise taxes or fees, can receive their second and third readings in one day. However, if a measure is controversial, an opponent can "object to third reading," even if the measure passes a first vote. That objection forces another debate and vote on a separate day.
So any bill that is subject to crossover but hasn't passed second reading by the end of the day today can be killed by that procedural objection.
Therefore, lawmakers will try to shove anything with a hint of controversy through at least its second reading vote today.
SCHEDULING NOTE: Both the House and Senate are scheduled to convene their sessions before 10 a.m. today. As with yesterday, neither chamber will begin moving bills until the afternoon. The skeleton sessions merely allows lawmakers to move bills between committees and process legislation being reported in from committee more quickly.
SENATE TODAY: The Senate is expected to take up two long-fought environmental measures when it convenes at 2 p.m. Senate Bill 515 would repeal the Jordan Lake Rules, a regional water quality management plan that has long been a source of contention between environmentalists and local governments and developers. The rules were put in place in 2004 to improve water quality in Jordan Lake, a major source of Triangle drinking water, by restricting upstream discharges and runoffs.
Senate Bill 151, "Coastal Policy Reform," would do away with the state's restrictions on the use of "terminal groins" – they're also known as hardened structures or jetties – to protect inlets and property along the coast. For years, North Carolina disallowed the structures. Scientists warned lawmakers and policymakers that groins interrupt the natural movement of sand up and down beaches and dunes. While that might protect one piece of property, it can damage others, especially on North Carolina'a coast, where storms shift thousands of tons of sand several times a year.
Also Wednesday, the Senate is expected to pass a bill that overturns outdoor smoking bans in cities, on beaches and on community college campuses. Under Senate Bill 703, no local ordinance on outdoor smoking could be more restrictive than state law. State law places no restrictions on smoking outdoors.
WRAL.com will carry the Senate session live from 2 p.m. until at least 6 p.m. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
HOUSE TODAY: Under the schedule announced by House Speaker Thom Tillis at the end of Tuesday's session, the House Wednesday will meet from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., take a dinner break, and then come back to work from 7 p.m. until midnight.
A bill put forward by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, would allow local governments to stop advertising certain local meetings and other government actions in the newspaper. The measure has sparked a lot of debate about government transparency and has caused something as a legislative scramble as lawmakers worked to have their counties added to, or removed from, the bill.
House lawmakers are also expected to vote a second time on a bill that gives the governor more power over hiring and firing state workers. Although the measure was controversial in committee, it passed its second reading without much debate Tuesday.
Also on today's calendar, House Bill 918 is likely to get some debate. This measure would require more reporting by independent expenditure committees that spend money to help or oppose candidates. The bill would require faster and more regular disclosures of donors to and spending by such effort. A misunderstanding about what exactly the disclosure rules required stalled the bill earlier this week. The bill is backed by staffers at the state Board of Elections.
ASHEVILLE WATER: A Wake County Superior Court judge has granted a temporary restraining order halting the city of Asheville's transfer of its water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District. Judge Don Stephens issued the order Tuesday afternoon, hours before the date for a transfer set by state legislation. The City of Asheville had sued the state after the Republican-led legislature passed the bill. Gov. Pat McCrory said he would let the bill become law without signing it. More from the Asheville Citizen-Times.
I-40/440: Triangle drivers could see less congestion when road crews begin overhauling an 11.5-mile stretch of Interstates 40 and 440 early in 2014, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said Tuesday. DOT crews and construction crews from Granite Construction Company and RS&H Architect-Engineers-Planners, Inc. will work to keep three lanes of Interstate 40 open in both directions throughout the entire project, dubbed the I-40/I440 Rebuild. Officials had previously estimated that only two lanes in each direction would stay open. The extra lane could alleviate traffic headaches and delays for the approximately 110,000 drivers who travel the roadway each day.
COMMITTEES: Committee meetings will likely be called and moved throughout the day. For a full list of the meetings as scheduled this morning, check the main @NCCapitol page. Among the highlights:
Senate Education (10 a.m. | 544 LOB): Senators will take up the bill that allows county governments to take over property owned by school systems. Right now, although most school construction is funded by county taxpayers, school districts have control of the upkeep and management of the buildings. Counties say they deserve control since they pay the bills. Schools say they should keep control of the buildings they use to educate children. WRAL.com will carry this meeting live. Check the Video Central box on our home page.
House Judiciary A (10 a.m. | 1228 LB): Lawmakers will take up bills that restrict cities from regulating the size of soft drinks, allow employers to decide whether to pay for birth control coverage, protect social media accounts from prying by employers and something called the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act."
House Judiciary C (10 a.m. | 415 LOB): The committee takes up a bill updating the state's midwifery law and a bill prohibiting the use of Sharia law in North Carolina courts.
House Commerce (10 a.m. | 643 LOB): The committee looks a bill that requires labeling of children's products that contain certain chemicals.
IN THE NEWS: Other stories we've been following include:
GUNS: A bill put forward by Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, would do away with a 1930s era requirement that Durham County residents register their firearms at the county courthouse. The measure, which is considered noncontroversial since law enforcement rarely looks at the paper registry, is due to be heard in the Senate today.
MCCRORY SPOX: The media relations office for North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is again undergoing some changes. McCrory's office confirmed that Press Secretary Crystal Feldman has moved to the Department of Public Safety, where a spokeswoman said she started working Tuesday as deputy communications director. The departure by Feldman, who most recently worked for a House committee on Capitol Hill, means the top three people in McCrory's press office have all moved on since he took office in January.
DRUNK DRIVING: "The National Transportation Safety Board recommended on Tuesday that all 50 states adopt a blood-alcohol content (BAC) cutoff of 0.05 compared to the 0.08 standard on the books today and used by law enforcement and the courts to prosecute drunk driving," reports CNN.
BEER: "As of July 1, all 50 states will allow aspiring brewers to make their own beer at home. But states are still figuring out how to regulate the popular hobby," Stateline reports.