Last week in the General Assembly was “crossover week”. The bills that were voted out of one chamber by Thursday, June 9th, could cross over to the other chamber for consideration. Those that didn’t make it are dead for this session. It was hectic with packed committee meetings and long floor sessions, one lasting 10 hours up to midnight Wednesday.
Several of the bills that made it to the floor and were passed were very controversial and had taken weeks or months of hearings, committee votes, and reworking to get to this point. Two of those passed Thursday afternoon:
- House Bill 351 – Restore Confidence in Government is the “voter ID” bill that requires a photo identification card to be shown when one goes to vote. It had been through months of hearings and committee meetings, and was still debated for almost two hours on the floor. It passed 66 – 48 with a party line vote with a few members absent or not voting. As most of you know, I have supported this concept for years. 27 states already have voter ID.
- Senate Bill 8 – No Cap on Number of Charter Schools has been around since the second day of the session back on January 27th. This legislation has gone through many rewrites and amendments and has been from the Senate to the House, back to the Senate, and to a conference committee. The first vote in the House back in April was 68 – 51 along party lines. The bill that came back for a vote Thursday had been simplified from over thirty pages to three. It completely removes the cap, allows 20% growth in individual school enrollment, and leaves the chartering procedure much like it is now instead of being controlled by a separate commission. It won wide consensus and passed by a vote of 108 – 5. I voted for it every time.
Many other important bills on education, voting and other subjects were passed last week:
- HB 452 – Judicial Election Changes will identify candidates in the judges’ races by party, as they were prior to 2004. It also eliminates taxpayer financing of the council of state races. It passed 67 – 50 on a party line vote with my voting for it.
- HB 36 – Employers/Gov’t Contractors Must Use E-verify requires employers to certify by means of the E-verify web-based system the citizenship status of their employees. It passed 68 – 43 with some bi-partisan support. I voted for it.
- HB 650 – Amend Various Gun Laws/Castle Doctrine provides protections when someone is defending his/her home or workplace, and further defines where a weapon may be carried. It passed 77 – 39 with my voting for it.
- HB 744 – Safe Students Act basically states that a child’s age must be established by an acceptable document before entering public school and that immunization records must be provided. I voted for it and it passed 77 – 27 with a few members absent.
- HB 344 – Tax Credits for Children with Disabilities provides a tax credit up to $3000 per semester for parents who move their disabled/special needs child to a private school. It was controversial, but passed 73 – 39 with bipartisan support. I voted for it.
With almost 150 bills moving through our floor sessions this week, it is difficult to list all that I would like. However, if I have left off a favorite of yours, please go to the General Assembly web site at www.ncleg.net for more information.
On Sunday, the Governor vetoed the budget HB 200 – Appropriations Act of 2011. It was so similar to her budget that one has to wonder if her real objection is that it doesn’t contain the penny sales tax that she promised was temporary and would cost NC taxpayers $1 billion a year. We hope to override her veto this week.