As the heat in Raleigh tried to moderate last week, the temperature inside the Legislative Building seemed to go up. A group of controversial bills came to the House floor, received extensive debate, and had close votes. We had bills on immigration, farming, and utility rates. The Governor vetoed more bills on immigration and outdoor advertising.
House Bill 370 – Require Cooperation with ICE Detainers was designed to make the policy consistent that Sheriffs need to notify ICE when an illegal alien is being released after being arrested for committing a crime. A few Sheriffs in large North Carolina counties are refusing to notify or cooperate with federal authorities. They are releasing felons into their city populations. One has to wonder how that is supposed to protect the public and reduce crime in their inner cities. It passed on a straight party line vote, 62 to 53. The Governor vetoed this bill immediately the next day, on Wednesday.
Another immigration bill, Senate Bill 250 – Remove Foreign Citizens from Voting Rolls, was on the calendar for Wednesday. It requires court officials to report to election boards when someone is excused from jury duty due to being a foreign national citizen. Then, if they happen to be registered to vote, they will be removed. It was a party line vote except for five Democrats, passing 65 to 47.
The NC Farm Act of 2019, Senate Bill 315, was debated and passed the House on Wednesday. It received plenty of debate, in spite of the fact a controversial provision on hemp had been removed. Farmers can still grow industrial hemp for the medicinal oils and other products, but smokable hemp is banned. The NC Sheriffs’ Association had been concerned, but were okay with it once that provision banned the smokable hemp. It passed with some bipartisanship, as again five Democrats joined the Republicans to pass it 63-48.
Senate Bill 559 – Storm Securitization/Alternative Rates was on the House floor for a vote, after much debate and many revisions in committees. It allows utilities to use private bonds to recover from storm damage costs, and allows multi-year rates to plan ahead for utility infrastructure. It is all still under the control of the NC Utility Commission. It also requires that excess profits be returned to the rate payers. After some debate it passed with a strong bipartisan vote of 112 to 2.
We got word that the Governor vetoed two other bills last week. House Bill 645 – Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws was vetoed Wednesday. Senate Bill 438 – Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019 was vetoed on Friday. These bills have adjustments to the replacement of billboards condemned by DOT, as well as improvements to the Read to Achieve reading program in Kindergarten through 3rd grade. It appears we will have a full schedule of voting sessions and interesting bills this week. We are still hopeful of an override of the Governor’s veto of the state budget.