Legislative Roundup

Puppy mill bill passes House

From Staff ReportsMay 9, 2013 

The state House overwhelmingly approved standards for large commercial dog breeders, known as “the puppy mill bill,” while First Lady Ann McCrory watched form the gallery above.

The 101-14 vote was the first success in many tries for those who want a law addressing poor treatment of dogs in large breeding operations. McCrory left the building without taking questions.

Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said the measure was intentionally watered down so it could pass.

To mute opposition, the measure exempts those who keep or breed hunting, sporting, or show dogs.

“We are all aware of what we will endure if we take the bill too far,” he said.

A few legislators objected to an effort they said added more unneeded regulations.

The bill requires access to fresh food and water, daily exercise, appropriate veterinary care, and if needed, humane euthanasia.

Rep. Michael Speciale said the bill was too vague.

“Daily exercise. If I kick the dog across the room every day, is that considered daily exercise?” the New Bern Republican asked. “Euthanasia performed humanely. Should I choose the ax or the baseball bat?”

Violations of the standards are misdemeanors, punishable by fines of not less than $25 per animal and not more than a total of $1,000. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Staff writer Lynn Bonner

Bill regulating chemo advances

A bill that says insurance companies cannot charge patients more for chemotherapy by pill than they do for chemo delivered by IV passed the House 112-5 on Thursday.

Before it did, however, lawmakers approved a change that requires patients to pay up to $300 for each filled prescription. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina had argued that patients in other states had use similar laws to get medications at no cost.

Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said she rarely sides with Blue Cross, but if the company has to pick up all the costs of oral cancer drugs, it will just raise insurance premiums or reduce coverage to make up for it.

“This is a fair amendment, and it does allow the insurance companies to implement this without any increase in premiums,” she said.

Patients taking pills to treat their cancer typically pay higher out-of-pocket expenses with no annual limits because of the way insurers treat pharmacy benefits. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Staff writer Lynn Bonner

House backs GOP-heavy boards

The House on Thursday approved a new version of the bill that would replace more than 100 incumbents on regulatory boards with Republican-appointed members.

This version spares the state’s 12 special superior court judges, the state Utilities Commission and the state Board of Elections. Gov. Pat McCrory has already named elections board and utilities commissioners, so it was moot to include them in the bill. Next, the Senate will weigh in.

Most Democrats opposed the bill. Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Greensboro, said 90 of the mostly Democratic-appointed incumbents will be removed from environmental boards. She said language prohibiting conflicts of interest for members of the Environmental Management Commission was removed from the earlier House version. “This is still an unprecedented sweep of board members on these important oversight commissions,” she said.

The House voted down her amendment to restore the conflict of interest provision, and then voted to approve the bill 68-43. Rep. Tim Moore, a Republican from Kings Mountain, said state ethics law made the language unnecessary.

Last month, a compromise between the House and Senate fell apart. The main sticking point between the two chambers was the Senate’s insistence on replacing the judges.

Environment North Carolina, an advocacy group, issued a statement criticizing the bill, especially its replacement of Environmental Management Commission members.

“When it comes to basic protections for our air and water, why would we let the fox guard the hen house?” asked Elizabeth Ouzts, state director for the organization.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Abortion teaching bill may pass

A bill requiring students be taught that abortion increases the risk of premature birth in future pregnancies is on the verge of clearing the Senate.

But it was put on hold Thursday while an amendment is fashioned.

The full chamber tentatively approved Senate Bill 132 on a 41-5 vote, with five Democrats against it.

One of them, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said she would change her vote if her amendment was added.

It would include students be taught one of the risk factors for premature births is cesarean surgery or induced labor done only for the convenience of the doctor or woman. Kinnaird said that is a recommendation of the perinatal health advocacy collaborative run by Dr. Marty McAffrey, who is the key figure behind the effort to teach that abortion increases risk for pre-term births.

The Senate amended the bill to require students be taught that smoking, alcohol, illicit drugs and inadequate prenatal care are also risk factors for premature births, at the request of Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat.

Sen. Warren Daniel, a Republican from Morganton, said there was nothing in the bill prohibiting students and teachers from discussing the merits of any of the risk factors. There are conflicting studies about whether abortion is connected to pre-term births. Bill supporters say more than 125 studies have proven it; but opponent point to the fact that five of the major health organizations in the country disagree.

The bill will go to the House after a final vote in the Senate.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

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