State News

'Crossover day' produces flurry of lawmaking

Posted May 14, 2009 6:36 a.m. EDT
Updated May 14, 2009 7:08 p.m. EDT


— The North Carolina General Assembly worked feverishly Thursday to resolve any unfinished business to ensure some key legislation can still be considered for the next two years.

Bills unrelated to spending or taxes needed to pass one chamber by Thursday, or they are probably dead until they can be reintroduced in 2011.

After working until 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, House members were back in session Thursday morning, trying to consider 82 bills. Senate members had an easier schedule, with 22 bills up for a vote.

Many lawmakers said the hallways of the Legislative Building saw plenty of action as well, with people lobbying for last-minute amendments and compromises.

"You've got lobbyists ... talking to members about bills they'd like to see changes they'd like made before (they're) presented on the floor.  I've seen a couple of (state) secretaries around pushing their side of things. You've got some of the governor's people outside the halls too," said Sen. A.B. Swindell, D-Nash.

Among the bills the Senate approved Thursday morning was one that would eventually require county registers of deeds to redact people's personal information, such as Social Security numbers, from documents that are available online.

The Senate also passed the so-called Racial Justice Act, which would allow prisoners on death row to challenge their sentences on the grounds of racial bias, and a proposal referred to as the "Terry Schiavo bill," which would allow people to note on their driver's license whether they have a living will.

Schiavo was a Florida woman on life support whose husband and family engaged in a long battle over removing her feeding tube.

Meanwhile, the House passed bills to extend pay cuts ordered for state workers to legislative and judicial employees, allow warrantless searches of people on probation, create a misdemeanor offense for bullying someone online, set limits on lawsuits by jilted spouses and allow habitual drunken drivers regain their licenses after 10 years.

Republican lawmakers said they were somewhat disappointed that more bills weren't heard, including the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The GOP also wanted bills to control state spending, revise annexation laws and limit legislative sessions.

"We have a full agenda this week. However, too often it is full of the wrong things,” said House Minority Leader Paul Stam, a Wake County Republican.