“Purgatory” is a Catholic concept but has come to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment — especially one that is temporary. The concept seems to be an apt description of last week at the General Assembly.
Part of the pain came from a House bill filing deadline. There are several such deadlines for filing bills, and a legislator has to make the deadline — or a bill you may want to introduce cannot be introduced. The bill filing deadline for local bills and Agency Bills — bills put forward by a state agency — had already passed, but the most important bill filing deadline relates to bills that seek to change the state’s General Statutes — the broadest category.
The situation is complicated in the House, since a member can only file 10 bills (excluding local bills). And as I headed back to Raleigh last week, I had eleven bills — but I wasn’t worried, since I was filing a bill for another member who had given me one of his bill allotments.
While I don’t understand it, some members just don’t like the pressure of having to move a bill through committees and both chambers of the legislature. I sort of like doing that (and apparently am good at it) so among my colleagues I’ve developed a reputation as a member who can move a bill.
Well, by the time the bill deadline passed, I’d ended up with 13 bills, not including three local bills and one Agency Bill. I gained one bill from a committee chair who felt I would be good person to run the bill on the floor. I gained another bill because a bill introduced on the Senate side needed a companion bill on the House side. It is common to file the same bill in both chambers and try to push them both ahead, hoping that one will get approved in one of the chambers. Once one bill passes, that bill is the one which becomes the primary vehicle for passage of the law.
So here are the new bills on which I’m the lead cosponsor:
H 679, The Utilities/The Military Good Neighbor Act: Generally, when a person or business generates electricity, the power cannot be sold to anyone other than a utility. The bill would allow excess energy that was generated for a military facility to be directly sold to customers. It is noteworthy in that it would allow “third party sales” of electricity for the first time in North Carolina. Generally, power companies have a monopoly on distribution of electricity, but this bill creates an exception to that monopoly.
HB755, DENR Election Notice: The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) publishes and mails numerous notices and announcements. This bill allows the Department to electronically post these notices and announcements saving money because there is no publication of ads or mailing of notices.
HB756, Reform Recreational Use Statute: The bill seeks to tighten up the recreational use statute to protect landowners who allow their property to be used for recreational events or activities. For example, a landowner who allows horseback riders to cross her property shouldn’t worry about being sued for use of her land when some accident occurs on a trail ride. The same would be true for land accessed by mountain bikers.
HB758, Student Screen and Education/Eating Disorders: This is an effort to get parents information about eating disorders and to adopt guidelines on screening for eating disorders.
HB829, Sales of Growlers by Certain ABC Permittees: Growlers are a type of beer container, and this legislation allows the sale of growlers for off-premise consumption. Having passed the only two “beer bills” that passed last session, it seems I’ve developed a speciality — beer legislation. This bill was drafted by another legislator, but he thought I was the person to run the bill. (Note: my family doesn’t pay much attention to what I do, but my son, Steve, has taken more of an interest now that I’m the go-to legislator on beer legislation.)
HB848, NC Toxic-Free Kids Act: The bill would prevent the manufacture and sale of children’s products containing Bisphenol A, Tris, or Phthalates — three chemicals believed to have negative health effects in both infants and children. The bill would have North Carolina join 10 other states in regulating these chemicals.
Additionally, I’m a primary cosponsor (there can be up to four primary cosponsors on a bill) on two bills that are drawing statewide interest:
HB606, Non-Partisan Redistricting Process: This bill would place responsibility for drawing congressional and legislative districts with a non-partisan redistricting commission. A similar bill passed the House last session and has been put forward by Republicans for several sessions. Of course, the Democrats weren’t real interested in this bill when they were in the majority, but they seem to have more interest in it now.
HB930, Dog Breeding Standards/Law Enforcement Tools: This is the so-called “puppy mill” bill. It proposes to regulate commercial dog breeders.
But wait — there’s more!
While I knew I was going to be really busy putting the final touches on several of these bills, adding two additional bills put me in a near-panic. The Bill Drafting staff got way behind because of the volume of bills being drafted, proofed and filed, and this only put more pressure on legislators to get their bills out, find cosponsors, get them signed by cosponsors, and then filed.
If the bill filing deadline wasn’t enough, at the same time, the bill to create a regional water and sewer authority (HB488) went through the House Finance Committee and came to the floor. You can read my advocacy on the bill on my website here, but the debate on the bill in the Finance Committee disclosed some issues that still needed to be addressed. So my cosponsors (Representatives Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey) and I spent time working with legislative staff to address those issues as well as concerns raised by other legislators. When the bill came to the House floor, it was amended to address the issues that were raised by other members.
Not unexpectedly, the only opposition came from the legislator who represents most of Asheville, Representative Susan Fisher. She made all of the usual arguments from this legislation being the first step toward privatization of the water system to how Henderson County would be over-represented on the new district’s board to the fiscal impact on Asheville. In the end, the House voted 68 to 42 in support of the bill. The House will vote on the bill one more time, probably on Monday or Tuesday, and then the bill will move to the Senate.
Two of my bills are likely to come to the House soon. First, HB321, Amend Local Solid Waste Planning is scheduled for floor debate this week. This bill does away with a ten-year solid waste planning process that counties thought was a waste of time. Second, HB315, Plastics Labeling Requirements will also likely be cleared for floor debate.
Please remember that you can listen to each day’s session, committee meetings, and press conferences on the General Assembly’s website at www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, select “Audio,” and then make your selection: House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room, or Press Conference Room.