A House committee solidly approved legislation Monday that would roll back energy efficiency requirements in newly constructed commercial buildings by 30 percent. Supporters of the measure in the House Committee on Commerce and Job Development said that slashing conservation mandates will reduce construction costs and spur economic activity.
The proposal, which passed 25-14, is considered one of the most significant attempts in the state legislatures broader effort to roll back or repeal the states energy conservation standards. Its controversial even among home builders and general contractors; representatives of both of those construction industries said Monday their membership is divided on the pros and cons of state conservation mandates for new buildings.
The bill repeals sections of the 2012 N.C. State Building Code, and is next headed to the House regulatory reform committee.
The code is not there to drive a social agenda, said Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican who represents Burke and Rutherford counties. The code is there to build a structurally safe house.
House Bill 201 rolls back commercial conservation standards to 2009 levels. It originally proposed slashing energy efficiency standards for residential homes, which increased by 15 percent in 2010, but residential requirements were left intact with the support of the N.C. Home Builders Association. The association negotiated other breaks when it agreed to the 15 percent increase and did not want to undo that complex deal, said Michael Carpenter, executive vice president and general counsel.
Staff writer John Murawski
Spirits bill weakened
House lawmakers watered down the spirits bill Monday.
A measure that would have allowed the states distilleries to sell liquor on its tours much as breweries and wineries do now just calls for a study of the issue, rather than its legalization.
A House committee stripped the original bill (HB842) and approved the eight-member Study Committee on Spirituous Liquor Sales by Distilleries to Tour Patrons to analyze its feasibility. The report is due when the legislature convenes in 2014.
A study committee is progress for the measure, but still a blow to places like Topo Distillery in Chapel Hill, which makes its own vodka, gin and wheat whiskey, and Covington Spirits in Snow Hill, which makes vodka from sweet potatoes. No word yet on when, or where, the committee may meet.
Staff writer John Frank
Abortion bill advances
A bill requiring students be taught that abortion increases the risk of premature birth in future pregnancies passed the Senate 41-5. The five no votes were all Democrats.
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.
There are conflicting studies about whether abortion is connected to pre-term births. Bill supporters say more than 125 studies have proven it, but opponents point to the fact that five of the major health organizations in the country disagree.
The bill now goes to the House.
Staff writer Craig Jarvis
Forest bill clears House
A bill sought by North Carolinas forest products industry has cleared the House despite opposition by legislators worried it could harm a Charlotte-based steel company.
The House gave its final approval Monday evening to legislation making clear no taxpayer-funded project could use a green-building rating system in which North Carolina forestry products are at a disadvantage compared to imported lumber.
The bill now headed to the Senate following a 70-43 vote would target Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system. Bill supporters say a very small percentage of North Carolina forests meet LEED standards.
House members differed on whether the measure will generate new forestry jobs or hurt recycled steel manufacturer Nucor, which benefits from LEED projects.