Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was shortened by the Easter break, but we managed to get in almost a week’s work in two full days. We spent most of our time and energy on the House side finishing up the area budgets and getting bills considered in long committee meetings due to upcoming deadlines.
We returned late Wednesday to get an early start Thursday, and worked through Friday, which is usually a day back in the district rather than in Raleigh. We jumped on the final changes to the area budgets, including my area of Transportation. The Education budget, Health and Human Services budget and other areas were also still works-in-progress.
By Friday, we had to bring our proposed budget to the House Appropriations Committee on Transportation for approval, so that it could move on to the full House Appropriations Committee this week for final House approval. After ten amendments Friday morning it was approved by a unanimous bipartisan vote. The full House budget, House Bill 966, will be considered this Wednesday, which is normally an all day meeting with over 100 amendments.
Thursday afternoon I was chairing the Transportation Committee, which considers bills to be voted on by the House. Many controversial bills were moving through House committees, and we had six bills, two of which had some divisive debate. House Bill 267 – Require Safety Helmets/Under 21 allows adults over 21 to decide whether or not to wear helmets while riding a motorcycle. Our citizens as well as other states are totally split on this requirement. It is a freedom of choice issue to some and a lifesaving issue to others. After a contentious debate it passed our committee by a slim margin and goes on to the Health committee and the Rules committee.
Another bill with some debate was House Bill 87 – License Plate Reader Systems in State ROWs. This allows DOT to allow law enforcement agencies to place cameras which read license plates in the state Right of Way. They are already legal outside of the ROW, but there was some confusion whether DOT could allow them inside the line. Some believe it is good that law enforcement has shown they can catch criminals with the aid of these, and others are concerned about “Big Brother” photographing license plates. It passed on a close vote and moves to the Rules Committee.
Other bills of interest to Brunswick County was one in the Elections and Ethics Committee to delay the implementation of new voting machines, House Bill 502. I am a primary sponsor and spoke to the committee on it. The county requested this bill, due to the delay by the state in certifying the new machines, the cost of the machines, and the time needed to test them in an election. After some debate, it passed and moves to the State and Local Government Committee since it is for only six counties, so far.
One other bill of interest, House Bill 806, requires Homeowner Associations of over $25,000 to have insurance to protect against fraud and theft, known as crime and fidelity insurance. Also, House Bill 418 creates an NC Golf Council to promote golf in North Carolina.
So many bills are going through in anticipation of the crossover deadline on May 9th, that I encourage readers to visit the NC General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net.