It was hot in Raleigh last week and promises to be even hotter this week and I’m not just referring to the weather. It seemed that bills were coming through committees by the dozens and we took up almost 100 on the House floor. The Senate continued debating and voted on the 2011 – 2013 budget on Tuesday and Wednesday. The budget passed 31 – 19 in the Senate early Thursday and was read on the House floor later that day. We debated and voted on second reading in a special Friday session. After several hours of debate, the budget bill passed 73 – 44. Since it had to be voted on two separate days, we adjourned at 11:30 Friday night and reconvened at 12:10 Saturday morning. The final vote of 73 – 45 was at 12:20 a.m. I was on the road to Oak Island at 12:30. The Governor received the budget later on Saturday. She has 10 days to sign the bill, veto it, or allow the bill to become law.
Many critical bills came through the House last week:
HB – 709 Protect and Put North Carolina Back To Work reforms the workers’ compensation laws to clean up the workers’ comp. system and make the state competitive with other states as we try to attract businesses. The bill passed 110 – 3.
HB – 659 Capital Procedure/Severe Mental Disability was one of those bills that sounds good on the surface. People with severe mental disabilities should have that considered as part of their trial or sentencing in a murder trial. However, if this can be used to nullify the death penalty over the definition of “severe” or the timing of the mental problem prior to the homicide, then it may not be desirable. The District Attorneys across the state found out about this bill at the last minute, and took a unified stand against it. I called our DA Jon David, and he got back to me immediately. I voted against the bill, but it passed 84 – 31. We hope the Senate will take a more critical look at it.
HB – 165 Planned Community and Condominium Act Amendments changes the disclosure laws, so that buyers will be more informed about what the HOA/POA rules are before they purchase a property. Other changes give the property owners more power in their dealings with their HOA or POA. It passed 114 – 0.
HB – 810 Consumer Finance Act Amendments changes the length of terms (years) that consumer loan companies may loan money, allows additional fees, and is intended to provide credit to more people. It is controversial, since some think it is predatory lending and others believe it is better than loan sharks. It passed 61 – 54 with bipartisan votes and I voted the bill.
HB – 503 Nutrition Standards/All Foods Sold at School attempts to tell local school districts what nutrition content not only cafeteria and vending foods may have, but also what other foods such as class parties and fund-raisers may sell or serve. Some of us thought that this was the “nanny state” gone too far. The legislation passed 91 – 24 with my voting against it.
HB – 855 Personal Learning Plan For Each Child was another education bill that was controversial, but passed 105 – 9. This bill creates an opportunity for school districts to set up a computer program so that a child in grades 6 – 12 can plan his/her own path to graduation. After setting it up, it is intended to be student/parent controlled with minimal work for the educators. Legislators are hopeful that the Student Government Associations can assist with this effort.