For the last several months, legislators’ primary focus has been on getting bills filed, and some number of those bills have been heard in committee and came to the floor for a vote. Over the next eight days, more bills will likely be heard in committees and come to the floor for a vote than have been taken up over the last eight weeks. What is causing this flurry of activity is the so-called “Crossover Deadline.” Thursday, April 27 is the Crossover Deadline, the date by which most bills have to pass either the House or the Senate to stay alive for the remainder of the session.
Over the next week, legislative committees will be hearing numerous bills, and both chambers — House and Senate — will be holding long sessions to vote on the bills coming out of these committees. Many of the bills are noncontroversial and will pass quickly. However, in the rush to make crossover, my experience has been that some bills will receive favorable votes without full vetting. Since all bills have to pass both chambers, making crossover is just the next step in the legislative sausage-making business.
A look at Wednesday’s legislative calendar can give one a flavor of the run up to Crossover. Numerous committees are meeting and numerous bills are being considered. Those bills will receive a hearing in their respective committees, the results will be reported, and if favorable, may go immediately onto the House calendar for a vote. Thus, with respect to any of my bills that come out of committee tomorrow, I’ll need to be prepared to present those bills on the House floor, since it is likely that some of them will be added to the House Calendar in time for tomorrow’s 4pm session.
The bills that I expect to be heard in their respective committees tomorrow include:
House Bill 616 [NC Public Benefit Corporations Act] The bill authorizes the creation of benefit corporations or “B Corps” in North Carolina. A benefit corporation is a for-profit corporation which must include, within its corporate purposes, charitable work that benefits society. So a benefit corporation is sort of a hybrid. It is a for-profit entity like “C Corps” or “S Corps” but it also can do the work that a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation can do. Over 30 states now provide for “B Corps” but North Carolina is not one of them. However, there are B Corps operating in the state, e.g. New Belgium Brewing, that are incorporated in other states. This bill will be heard in the Judiciary I Committee.
House Bill 10 [Eminent Domain Statutory Provisions] This bill dealing with eminent domain was actually passed as part of HB3 [Eminent Domain]. When HB 3 passed the House, I simply added the provisions in HB10 to that bill. That means that there is no reason for HB10, although it remains alive. I asked that the bill be moved over to the Health Committee, and the chairs of that committee have agreed to allow me to use the bill to create a study committee that will consider what role, if any, the state should play in getting information to parents about eating disorders. In past sessions, I’ve filed bills to try to get either the Department of Public Instruction or the Department of Health and Human Services to work on the eating disorders issue without success. The bill would have a legislative committee study the issue after the Long Session and report back prior to the Short Session next year.
House Bill 307 [Board Cert. Behavior Analyst/Autism Coverage] This bill would require insurers to provide coverage for adaptive behavior treatment provided by a board-certified behavior analyst. Behavior analysts are among the primary providers of services to autistic persons. However, they are not licensed in North Carolina and, therefore, have to work under licensed psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians or other licensed providers to get paid. Last year, the House passed a bill to license behavior analysts, but the Senate didn’t want to add a new licensure. This bill seeks to add behavior analysts to the list of professionals who can provide adaptive behavior treatment and have it covered by insurance. The bill will be heard in the Insurance Committee.
House Bill 376 [Subdivision Improvement Guarantee Changes] The bill arose out of demise of the Seven Falls subdivision in Henderson County. When the subdivision failed, the county moved against the bonding company and ultimately received monies which it sought to use to address some environmental issues related to the subdivision, like soil sedimentation. The county was without specific direction under North Carolina law as to how it could use the funds, and this bill authorizes counties and cities to administer funds they receive as collateral for a performance guarantee in furtherance of the required improvements. The bill will be heard in the State and Local Government II Committee.
House Bill 371 [Agency Powers and Duties/Technical Changes.-AB] This bill seeks to clarify certain powers of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR). Two years ago, the legislature moved parks, the zoo, and a few other similar agencies from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) over to the Department of Cultural Resources (DCR), and then renamed both departments. With the move, some of the powers that DENR had were not transferred to DCR. This bill corrects that and somewhat expands the power of the DNCR Secretary with respect to the zoo. After this bill was heard in committee, the Department came back wanting additional authority for DNCR law enforcement officers to make arrests, and another House Member wanted a revision in a provision relating to the zoo. Therefore, I had the bill sent back to State and Local Government II to make these changes.
House Bill 491 [Henderson County Fire Tax Districts] This bill was sought by Henderson County. It simply changes some of the boundaries of fire districts in the county. It also will be heard in State and Local Government II.
House Bill 500 [ABC Omnibus Legislation] This is craft brewing legislation. It provides for a wide-range of changes to NC law relating to craft-brewing, including authorizing the sale of “crowlers,” authorizing tastings during brewery tours, amending home-brewing laws, authorizing brewery taprooms to sell other alcoholic beverages upon receiving the appropriate permit, and authorizing farm breweries. The most controversial parts of the bill would move the self-distribution cap from 25,000 barrels to 200,000 barrels and would revise the franchise law governing small brewery terminations. The beer and wine wholesalers oppose the latter two provisions, while the craft brewers fully support the bill. The bill was heard before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee last week, and it will be back in committee tomorrow for a vote.
In a normal week, I might have one or two bills that are moving through the committee process or on the House floor. By contrast, I’ve got seven bills in various committees tomorrow, all of which have to come out of committees and get a favorable vote by the House before the end of next week to remain alive. With 120 legislators presumably trying to move their bills over the next week, the bills that make crossover are likely the bills that are the least controversial and/or have the most support. This is the time in the legislative process when the competency of a legislator may make the difference between a bill living or dying at the crossover deadline.