State News

Lawmakers Scramble to Push Bills Before 'Crossover' Deadline

Posted May 24, 2007 10:43 a.m. EDT
Updated May 24, 2007 5:58 p.m. EDT

— The General Assembly worked Thursday to keep alive favored bills before a key procedural deadline, preparing for debate on an anti-bullying measure, a constitutional amendment to restrict eminent domain and a ban on talking on hand-held phones while driving.

Lawmakers have passed most of the more than 110 bills through either the House or Senate this week. Proposals that don't call for new spending or taxes must be approved by at least one chamber by Thursday, otherwise they have a slim chance of being considered again until 2009.

Legislative committees have been convening up to three times a day during the so-called "crossover" week, as lawmakers push bills they support and work out compromises with lobbyists, local governments and other interest groups to keep some bills alive.

Some bills appear to be dead including legislation that would expand the scope of sex education in public schools. Legislation that would take rate-setting power away from the state insurance commissioner also appears dead.

The House and Senate met late into the evening Wednesday. House members worked past 11 p.m., taking on controversial topics for fear that an opponent could kill the measure by blocking a second and final vote Thursday.

Children and schools were the subject of several bills in the House, including one against bullying and student harassment that the House tentatively approved Wednesday and planned a final vote Thursday. The chamber rejected by one vote an amendment that would have removed an entire list of characteristics of potential victims, including sexual orientation.

The list is needed "because we know those people are far more likely to be the victims of bullying," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, before it was approved by a vote of 72-45.

But the House voted 50-66 against a measure that would have eliminated the right of school districts to adopt policies permitting physical punishment of a student.

"If you're not a strong disciplinarian you're doing something very bad for children," said Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, a bill opponent.

The House also scheduled its final vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban government from condemning private land for economic development. The measure, which calls for a statewide referendum as early as this fall, had been bottled up in committee for months before getting an initial approval late Wednesday by a vote of 112-4.

The Senate also Wednesday unanimously approved proposed changes to toughen laws against sexual predators and child pornography, including requiring parental consent for children to participate in social networking sites such as

The Senate prepared Thursday for the second of two required votes on a bill that would replace the winner-take-all system of choosing presidential electors with a more proportional method.

A presidential ticket would earn one elector for winning the vote in one of the state's 13 congressional districts, while two additional at-large electors would be chosen based on the statewide vote total.

The Senate also scheduled its final vote on a bill that would turn the election of district attorneys into nonpartisan races. The chamber tentatively approved the change 26-24 Wednesday.

Legislation on the Senate calendar Thursday also would restrict the use of hand-held cell phones while driving by all motorists. The bill comes a year after the General Assembly banned all wireless phone use by drivers under 18.