A look at where legislation stands

June 11, 2011 

  • The N.C. General Assembly's web site allows visitors to search for bills by number or by key words: www.ncleg.net/.

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The legislature this week met its "crossover" deadline, when most bills have to pass at least one chamber in order to become law or at least stay alive through 2012.

Crossover usually marks the midpoint of the session that started in January, but this year, it came near the end. Legislative leaders say they want to finish their work by the end of next week. And the crossover point is a good opportunity to provide a scorecard.

As expected, the GOP-controlled General Assembly has worked quickly to put its stamp on state policies, approving new bills that shift North Carolina to the right.

Some significant bills are already law, or are on their way to Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue to become law. But several have gotten vetoed by Perdue and more may meet the same fate.

Much more action is expected next week before legislators take a break.

They'll be back in a few weeks. though. The work sessions are being broken up, with a special session to vote on new election maps scheduled for mid-July and another special session to deal with suggested constitutional amendments likely to follow.

One other thing to keep in mind: Even if a bill doesn't meet the crossover deadline, there are exceptions and loopholes lawmakers can use to keep it alive. One way is to simply replace all of an approved bill's language.

Some highlights of bills in this session's General Assembly:

GUNS

HB111: Allows concealed handguns in parks and in restaurants that serve alcohol. Passed the House.

SB34: Details when a person may use defensive force if presumed to have reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm. Passed the Senate.

HB582: Increases penalties for felons carrying guns. Passed the House.

HB650: Gives protection to property owners who fire at intruders, reduces penalty for firearm possession on school grounds, and allows concealed-carry permit holders to have their handguns locked in their cars at schools, courthouses and state highway rest stops. Passed the House.

LAWSUITS

SB33: Gives emergency-room doctors new protection against lawsuits, and sets a $500,000 cap on most "noneconomic" damages, including pain and suffering. On its way to the governor.

HB542: Expands product liability protection for FDA-approved drugs, and requires that juries be told how much of a plaintiff's medical expenses are covered by insurance. Passed the House.

VOTING

HB351: Requires voters to show photo ID at the polls. Passed the House

SB411: Eliminates straight-ticket voting. Passed the Senate.

SB456: Allows candidates to list party affiliations in nonpartisan elections. Passed the Senate.

SB47: Restores partisan labels in judicial elections. Passed the Senate.

HB452: Repeals public campaign financing for council of state races, restores partisan judicial elections and eliminates instant run-off for judicial offices. Passed the House.

HEALTH

HB115: Establishes a marketplace for people who have trouble getting insurance and for small businesses. Is required by the federal health insurance law. Passed the House.

HB709: Changes in workers' compensation act. On its way to the governor.

HB854: Require a 24-hour waiting period, prescribed counseling, and ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. Passed the House.

HB474: Requires more training in infection control for workers in assisted living centers. Is law.

ENVIRONMENT

SB308: State cannot regulate greenhouse gas emissions if not required by federal law, or if the state law is more strict than the federal law. Passed the Senate.

HB242: $100,000 to study "fracking." Passed the House.

SB709: Encourages offshore oil and gas exploration, allows "fracking" to start sooner. Passed the Senate.

SB110: Allows for small coastal jetties. On its way to the governor.

SB183: Allows for more trees to be cut around billboards. Passed the Senate.

SB781: Would impose requirements meant to clarify environmental rules and regulations, and give administrative law judges the final word in appeals of agency decisions. New environmental restrictions could not be more strict that federal requirements. Certain permits would be valid from up to eight years instead of the current maximum of five. Passed the Senate.

EDUCATION

HB7: Allows community college to opt out of a federal student loan program. Vetoed by the governor.

HB15, 58, 134, 541: Four bills that do the same thing; constructed to sidestep vetoes. Passed the House.

SB8: Eliminates the 100-school cap on charter schools. On its way to the governor.

HB344: Provides a $6,000 annual tax credit for parents of special needs children who send their children to private schools. Passed the House.

SB727: Prevents N.C. Association of Educators members from having dues deducted from their paychecks. On its way to the governor.

HB744: Requires a birth certificate and immunization record before a child is enrolled in kindergarten. Passed the House.

HB342: Prohibits state colleges and universities from using accreditation status of a high school as a factor in admissions, loans and scholarships for students. Also gives State Board of Education power to accredit high schools. Passed the House.

HB823: Sets referendum May 8, 2012, for voters to consider change to governance structure of State Board of Education; would give House and Senate appointments each to the board in addition to governor's appointments; would make state superintendent a voting member. Passed the House.

HB48: Eliminates end-of-course high school tests in U.S. history, civics and economics, Algebra II and physical science. Passed House and Senate, became law without Perdue's signature.

JUSTICE

SB9: Changes a 2009 law that gave people facing the death penalty ways to raise legal challenges using statistics and anecdotal evidence to bolster racial bias claims. Under the bill, the accused would have to show that the state or a juror sought to discriminate. Passed the Senate as a bill about synthetic marijuana. The House gutted the Senate bill and replaced it with the death penalty language.

HB642: Would more closely supervise people released from prison in hopes of keeping them out of trouble, which would theoretically save the state the cost of having to build new prisons. Misdemeanor offenders serving less than six-month sentences would be moved the county jails if there's room. It also creates tougher sentences for repeat breaking-and-entering offenses. Passed the House.

HB215: Makes it a crime to injure or murder a fetus. Is law.

IMMIGRATION

SB205: Lists documents people must use in applying for public benefits and makes it a misdemeanor for public employees who administer public benefits to fail to report immigration violations. Passed the Senate

HB33: Prohibits governments from accepting the matricula consular as ID. Passed the House.

HB36: Businesses in North Carolina with more than 25 employees would have to use the E-Verify federal database to determine that new hires are legal citizens of the United States. Passed the House.

OTHER

HB61: Limits the terms of House Speaker and Senate leader to two two-year sessions. Passed the House

SB224: Specifies that sports agents cannot give student athletes anything of value unless the student has signed with the agent. Sports agents must report contact with student athletes to the Secretary of State. Passed the Senate.

HB810: Increases interest rates on many consumer loans. Passed the House.

HB129: Put new restrictions on municipalities providing broadband services. Is law.

PROBABLY DEAD

HB31: Makes it illegal to drive while talking on cellphone. Stuck in committee.

HB448: Make gold and silver legal tender in the state. Stuck in committee.

SB571: Repeals a law allowing poor people to get free fishing licenses. Failed in the Senate.

HB232: Would allow drivers caught speeding to have gone up to 15 miles-per-hour above the speed limit before their insurance premiums increased. Failed in the House.

WILD CARDS

HB200: The budget. Will Gov. Bev Perdue veto it, and what happens if she does?

Adjournment resolution: When will they wrap up the session and head home?

Staff writers Lynn Bonner, Craig Jarvis and Jane Stancill contributed.

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