While the Senate continues working on the budget, House members continue to focus on moving their bills through committees with the intention of making the crossover deadline for keeping bills alive for further consideration. In a way it is like playing Backgammon: the object is to push your bills through the legislative process. Sometimes luck is involved, but strategy usually plays a more important role. You and your constituents win by passing your bills — much like removing your pieces from the board in Backgammon.
So what bills moved?
Hose Bill 488 — Regionalization of Public Utilities — was amended by the Senate and came back to the House for concurrence on the changes made by the Senate. Since the changes were made with the full support of the House sponsors of the bill (Representatives Tim Moffitt, Nathan Ramsey and me), the House gave final approval to the bill by a vote of 76-40. The bill now goes to the Governor, and he has 10 days to sign it, veto it, or allow the bill to become law without his signature. The bill’s effective date is May 15, 2013, but my expectation based on various media reports of statements made by Asheville City Council Members (including this story from WLOS) is that the City of Asheville will sue to try to block implementation of the bill. Our work is done, though.
Inexplicably, all of my bills popped up in different committees that met at the same time, so I was pulled from one committee to another to make presentations. HB671 — Mills River Deannexation — received a unanimous favorable report from the Government Committee and is headed to the House floor. HB755 — DENR Electronic Notice— also received a favorable report from the Environment Committee, but there was nothing unanimous about the committee’s views.
The Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, John Skvarla, supported my bill, which would allow the department to publish a range of public notices electronically, rather than in newspapers, saving money and hopefully providing better notice. The North Carolina Press Association opposed the bill, and the Hendersonville Lightning’s Publisher, Bill Moss, was among those who came down to lobby against the bill as well.
In the Environment Committee, an effort was made to totally substitute another bill for the bill I was presenting. This was a clear effort to derail another bill of mine—- HB504 — Local Electronic Notice. The good-natured debate resulted in a 13-6 vote in support of HB755 (DENR Electronic Notice). The bill will next be debated on the House floor.
The “Growler Bill” (HB829 — Sale of Growlers by Certain ABC Permittees) also received a positive report from a House committee and will probably move to the House floor next week. As I’ve indicated in earlier updates, this bill came to me because a colleague recognized that I’d been quite successful in moving “beer bills.” While pushing legislation to allow Southern Appalachian Brewery and Sierra Nevada to operate in Hendersonville and Henderson County was related specifically District 117, I’m not sure if the sale of “growlers” is going to catch on in Henderson County.
A growler is a refillable and re-sealable glass jug that carries approximately 64 oz (a half-gallon) of beer. While North Carolina presently allows growlers to be filled and re-filled at breweries across North Carolina, HB829 allows growlers to also be sold at other locations by stores, restaurants, bars or other establishments that have certain alcoholic beverage licenses. To my surprise, the Piggly Wiggly grocery stores (doesn’t that name bring back memories?) that still operate in coastal South Carolina sell growlers. Basically, my Growler bill will allow North Carolina stores and other establishments to do what is already done in South Carolina and a number of other states.
I’m still not sure how exactly I’ve become the beer specialist at the General Assembly, but I now sense some appreciation by my 24-year old son, Steve, for the work I do.
The expectation is that there will be debate on all of these bills on the House floor next week. Additionally, I’m hoping I’ll be able to move several bills through committees, including HB498 (Mandate Autism Health Insurance Coverage), H 440 (North Carolina Benefit Corporation), and HB504 (Local Electronic Notice). The latter bill is sought by Henderson County and the cities and towns in Henderson County.