NC lawmakers take up slew of bills

State lawmakers argued all day long and into the night Thursday as they slogged through dozens of pending bills in advance of a legislative deadline.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State lawmakers argued all day long and into the night Thursday as they slogged through dozens of pending bills in advance of a legislative deadline.

Most bills that don't make it through either the state House or Senate by midnight Sunday can't be taken up again until 2013. Normally, that deadline would fall at midnight Thursday, but House Speaker Thom Tillis said legislative leaders agreed to extend it to give them extra room to get work done.

After several hours of debate, the House voted 66-48 to approve a measure that would require voters to show one of eight photo ID documents or cast a provisional ballot and later prove their identity.

Democrats argued that the idea would preclude elderly residents, college students and poor people who don't have the required photo ID from voting. Republican sponsors said it would ensure that people's votes were accurate.

The House also voted 63-51 to pass legislation that would bar the North Carolina Association of Educators from collecting dues from teachers through payroll deductions.

Republicans acknowledged last week that the move was political payback for teacher support of Democrats, and the bill was tailored so that it affected only NCAE.

"The political bullying that Speaker Tillis is engaging in will not deter us," NCAE President Sheri Strickland said in a statement. "Parents, teachers and North Carolinians need to know that Tillis' plan leads to thousands of classroom layoffs, increased class size and will take North Carolina to near the bottom in per pupil funding nationally."

Chrissy Pearson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Beverly Perdue, called the bill "yet another attack on teachers," but there was no indication on whether the governor would veto the bill.

A bill that would have allowed people to drive up to 15 mph over the limit – with a maximum of 80 mph – and not pick up any points on their license or insurance surcharges failed.

The Senate voted unanimously to remove the cap on the number of North Carolina charter schools. A compromise bill removed other changes to how charter schools operate.

“Removing this arbitrary cap on public charter schools will increase educational opportunities for our kids and give parents the freedom to choose a school that best meets their children’s needs,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement.

The House later concurred with the amended bill, sending it to Perdue.

The Senate also approved medical malpractice reform by capping jury awards for pain and suffering at $500,000 unless a patient can show malice or gross negligence by a physician. After much debate, the House concurred with the measure and sent it to Perdue.

The Castle Doctrine, which expands the rights of people to use deadly force with guns to protect themselves in their home, workplace and vehicle, also passed the Senate. Likewise, the Senate approved legislation that would prohibit state environmental regulators to issue rules that are tougher than federal regulations.


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