If last week felt like Purgatory brought on by bill filing deadlines, this week was totally different. The time for filing bills was behind us and the time for moving bills was upon us.
I’m not much of a golfer, but I know that professional golfers refer to the third day of a tournament as “moving day” — the day that someone who is down in the pack needs to step up his game and move up the leader board. Well, that’s sort of the stage we’re at in the General Assembly. All the bills have been filed, and each legislator is looking to move the bills through the process into becoming law.
The next deadline is what’s called “crossover” — Thursday, May 16. To be eligible for consideration this year, a bill has to crossover from the chamber in which the bill was introduced to the other chamber. For me, that means I need to pass my bills in the House so they are eligible for consideration this year in the Senate. So that’s what I did last week — moved (and prepared to move) the bills that I’d introduced.
Last Monday, the House passed HB488 — Regionalization of Public Utilities — by a vote of 72-39. This is the public bill that, if passed into law, would have the effect locally of combining the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County with Cane Creek Sewerage District and the water system currently managed by the City of Asheville. With its passage in the House, the bill has now made “crossover” deadline and is eligible to be heard in the Senate any time before the end of the session. The bill was read in the Senate for the first time and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee; I expect the bill could be heard in Senate Finance this week.
Also on Monday, the House passed HB321 — Amend Local Solid Waste Planning — by a vote 111-0. This bill does away with a ten year planning process that had apparently outlived its usefulness and its passage is a priority of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. The bill is now with the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, and I expect I’ll be able to pass this bill before the end of the session.
HB315 — Plastics Labeling Requirements — came out of the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee on the Environment with a favorable recommendation, after previously receiving a favorable recommendation from the Commerce and Job Development Committee. While it is common for a bill to be assigned to two committees for consideration, it’s hard to move a bill when there are more than two “serial referrals.” HB315 was also referred to the Environment Committee, but having already cleared two committees, I asked the Rules Committee Chairman Tim Moore to strike the third referral and not put me to the task of moving a noncontroversial bill through three committees.
Evidently, someone thought the bill might be controversial since it would require degradable plastic products to be clearly labeled to prevent contamination of recyclable plastics. However, the bill has broad support since recycling is a major industry in North Carolina. The Rules Chairman struck the third referral, and the bill will now move to the House floor.
HB545 — Modify Henderson County Occupancy Tax — got its first hearing and a favorable recommendation from the House Government Committee. It next moves to the House Finance Committee, and I hope to move the bill prior to the crossover date.
This past weekend, I spent part of the day working with a constituent on HB756, a bill to Reform the Recreational Use Statute. This bill seeks to tighten up liability standards relating to landowners who allow their property to be used for recreation — for example, by mountain bikers or horseback riders. The idea is to dispel landowners’ fears that they may get sued if they allow their property to be used for recreational purposes. My hope is to move this bill in a House Judiciary subcommittee in the next two weeks.
Similarly, the Senate version of an electronic notice bill SB287 — Notice Publication by Some Local Governments — that I’ve sponsored in the House is going to be debated on the Senate floor this week. Assuming that bill passes, I would expect to move that bill and maybe my similar bill, HB504 (“Local Electronic Notice”) here in the House in the coming weeks.