Last week, bills that had been piling up in committees began to be heard and moved to the House floor. Our sessions got longer and longer. Floor sessions averaged three or four hours. Some of our committee meetings lasted two hours and handled up to ten bills. In the House Transportation Committee, we planned on hearing 14 bills on Tuesday, handled 4 of them, and had to call a second meeting to handle the other 10.
House Bill 817 – Strategic Transportation Investments, the Governor’s transportation plan to spend our highway construction funds more efficiently, passed the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday morning, and went to the floor of the full House on Wednesday. After some debate, it passed by a bipartisan vote of 96 – 22 on Wednesday and 102 – 15 on Thursday, and it now goes to the Senate. This was a good example of the committee system. By the time this bill had been heard in three committees and had been amended or changed several times, it had already been seen by every House member before it got to the floor. This made passage more certain and thorough than if it had been a surprise bill.
Several more major bills were heard and passed last week. House Bill 930 – Dog Breeding Standards/Law Enforcement Tools is the “puppy mill” bill for this session. However, this year a thorough hearing was given to the sporting dog and agricultural interests in the state. The result was a bill that most in the House could support. Also, First Lady Ann McCrory took a personal interest in the passage of HB 930, and it passed the House by a vote of 101 – 14.
A very controversial bill on gun laws, House Bill 937 – Amend Various Firearms Laws, passed the House after many attempts at amendments. The vote was 83 – 36. This bill reduces the number and requirements on “gun-free zones.” It lifts some bans on law-abiding citizens, and should make it tougher on criminals intent on harming our citizens.
Two other bills based on fairness passed the House last week. House Bill 609 – NC Cancer Treatment makes patients’ insurance costs for oral cancer treatments equal to treatments by injection or chemotherapy. The oral care had been either not covered or had much higher co-pays and other costs. House Bill 101 – Repeal state Tax was very controversial. It was portrayed as only for the rich, but the intent is to protect family farms from having to be sold off to pay the estate taxes. It passed by a margin of 83 – 36.
This week the crossover deadline of midnight on Thursday, the 16th, will keep us working late into the night beginning Monday evening. I expect multiple committee meetings, long agendas, and long floor sessions. There are still many important bills to be acted upon. We also expect the budget to come over from the Senate this week, so we can begin our work on it. To follow us on line go to www.ncleg.net.