Under the Dome

Voter ID measure fails to find bipartisan compromise

jmurawski@newsobserver.comJune 26, 2012 

House Speaker Thom Tillis’ effort to find a bipartisan compromise on a voter ID measure has failed.

Republicans didn’t want to take a softer approach that would allow voters to use other forms of identification, such as a utility bill, to replace a hard-line measure requiring a government-issued photo ID. Perdue vetoed the GOP-backed voter ID bill and Democrats held their ground to prevent an override, unlike other bills when a handful sided with Republicans.

“The speaker asked me to try to strike a balance to ensure the integrity of the election system ... but I could never strike that balance,” said Rep. David Lewis, the House elections committee chairman, in an interview Tuesday. “It was going to have to be a substantially watered down version and the more I moved in that direction the more I risked losing the members of my caucus.”

Car inspection efforts

Senate members made another attempt Tuesday to roll back the inspection requirements for some cars, this time with a bill to end emissions inspections for newer cars.

The Senate Rules Committee discussed a proposal to end the required emissions checks for cars from the three most recent model years, and for older cars with no more than 80,000 miles on the odometer. Safety inspections would not be affected.

“On the new cars you have very, very few emissions problems,” said Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican.

The proposal, part of a recommended rewrite of a House-approved bill (H585), was amended to make 70,000 the odometer number. The committee postponed voting on it after questions were raised about another section of the bill not related to inspections.

Efforts by Brown and other legislators to curtail inspection requirements have been defeated repeatedly in recent years, with committee votes that have prevented the issue from being discussed on the House and Senate floors. In May, after legislators were lobbied heavily by garage owners who make money inspecting cars, a joint House-Senate transportation oversight committee killed a proposal to end safety and emissions inspections for newer cars.

Fracking foes’ pressure

Fracking opponents are continuing to apply pressure on Gov. Bev Perdue to veto legislation intended to create a natural gas production industry in the state.

The Sierra Club and Clean Water for North Carolina delivered 77 signatures to the governor last week, releasing the letters Tuesday. Forty-four are local business owners and 33 are elected officials.

“Shale gas development offers little prospect of real economic gain here,” the business petition states.

It’s signed by owners of Asheville Geothermal, Southern Energy Management of Morrisville, Sage Cafe of Chapel Hill, Merge Records of Durham, Carolina Gymnastics Academy of Wilmington and Raleigh Cary Realty, among others.

The letter from elected officials say the fracking legislation is flawed because it does not explicitly grant local officials power to ban fracking in their towns and counties. It is signed by representatives from Butner, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Creedmoor, Durham, Pittsboro, Raleigh as well as Chatham, Durham and Orange counties.

The measure passed the state legislature last week, with a final vote in the N.C. Senate. It authorizes a Mining and Energy Commission to create new regulations to govern extracting natural gas from shale rock formations through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

The governor’s office has received some 10,000 emails and phone calls on the issue in recent months, mostly against the legislation. It is supported by the N.C. Chamber, the state’s business lobby, the N.C. branch of the American Petroleum Institute and by a range of public officials.

Gov. Perdue has until midnight Sunday to decide whether to veto it. She has expressed support for fracking in the past if it’s done safely, but has remained conspicuously silent on the legislation that many Democrats oppose.

Staff writers John Frank, Bruce Siceloff and John Murawski

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