State News

Lawmakers working overtime to end session

Posted July 8, 2010 12:34 p.m. EDT
Updated July 8, 2010 7:01 p.m. EDT

— The General Assembly is working day and night to try to complete its work for this year's session by early Saturday.

On Thursday, the House and Senate approved reforms to the state-run liquor system, and the Senate passed legislation allowing law enforcement to collect DNA from people charged with felonies.

Lawmakers also were working behind the scenes to negotiate differences on competing legislation on ethics reform and economic incentives.

"The last few major bills are happening in various meeting rooms," said Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake.

Leaders of both chambers, which worked into the evening Tuesday and Wednesday, predicted long floor sessions on Friday to squeeze in as many votes as possible. If some bills require votes on separate days, lawmakers planned to stay past midnight Saturday to finish their business before heading home until January.

"You've got 170 people, lots of issues and trying to bring everything to conclusion on the same day at the same time. It's a pretty monumental task," Stevens said.

The reforms to the Alcoholic Beverage Control system include limits on employee salaries, travel restrictions and a requirement that local ABC boards create nepotism policies. The reforms also addresses conflicts of interest.

The Senate passed the bill 45-2 and the House, which had passed it earlier, agreed 109-0 to the minor changes the Senate put in the bill. Gov. Beverly Perdue is expected to sign the bill into law.

The state ABC Commission in January banned liquor companies from providing anything of value to ABC employees, but the state commission has no power to enforce reforms on locally appointed ABC boards.

The DNA bill, which the House is expected to debate on Friday, would allow law enforcement to build up a state database of DNA samples to match to unsolved crimes by collecting samples from people charged with felonies and with misdemeanors that would fall under the state's sex offender registry.

Currently, state law allows DNA samples only after someone is convicted.

"We're going to make the state of North Carolina a safer place," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, cast the lone vote against the DNA bill.

"I think this is a very bad bill. It's sweeping the country. It's on a freight train. The governor likes it. The attorney general likes it," Kinnaird said. "This is a fishing expedition, and I feel it really violates (people's) Fourth Amendment rights, as well as their presumption of innocence."

Lawmakers also agreed Thursday to put rules in place so motorists can locate their cars more easily when they're towed. The bill, which will take effect Oct. 1, requires the towing company's name and phone number be prominently displayed and restricts how far away tow trucks can take the vehicle.