Legislative roundup

Legislative roundup: House to vote on voucher bill for special education students

May 14, 2013 

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A power company crew in a boat approaches a precariously leaning power pole along Hwy 12 in Rodanthe, North Carolina, Tuesday, August 30, 2011 after Hurricane Irene passed through on Auguest 27, 2011.

CHUCK LIDDY — 2011 News & Observer file photo

A hearing on a broad voucher bill was pushed to after crossover, but a bill offering vouchers for disabled students to attend private schools continues its march to the House floor.

A bill offering vouchers of up to $6,000 a year to pay private school tuition for special education students who leave public schools cleared the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Low-income parents are excluded from the tax credit’s advantages.

“We want to give everybody the opportunity to have a high quality education,” said Rep. Marcus Brandon, a High Point Democrat and a bill sponsor.

The bill’s opponents said that the money won’t come close to helping needy families, just those who can afford to supplement the voucher with their own money.

“We need to be pouring more money into the public system to help all children,” said Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat.

Staff writer Lynn Bonner

Transparency for rate making

A bill that adds transparency to the state’s ratemaking process for homeowners insurance passed the House 115-0 on Tuesday. It now goes to the Senate.

Lawmakers had earlier made changes to HB 519 to accommodate issues raised by the Insurance Department and the industry.

The bill requires the N.C. Rate Bureau, which represents insurers on rate issues, to use at least two computer models to calculate potential losses from catastrophes if computer models are used at all. Critics along the coast, where homeowners have been hit by much higher rate increases than the rest of the state, have complained about the models used by the industry.

The bill also calls for each industry rate request to include historical data dating back to 1987, broken down by territory, for losses stemming from hurricanes.

Staff writer David Ranii

Electronic filing bill weakened

Last-minute amendments to an election bill weakened an effort to require that most candidates and political committees file electronic campaign finance reports.

The original bill, HB919, required candidates, particularly state lawmakers, to file electronic disclosures of donors and expense that are searchable in a database.

But an amendment offered by Rep. Bert Jones, a Reidsville Republican, allows candidates and committees to file paper documents that are sent electronically to the State Board of Elections. Another amendment let candidates file under the existing rules until a software that is compatible with Mac computers is developed.

State elections officials support electronic filing to ease auditing procedures and improve public transparency. The measure passed 115-1 and now goes to the Senate.

Staff writer John Frank

Brake lights fixed

Motor vehicles will need two working brake lights, not just one, under legislation approved Tuesday by the House by a 112-4 vote.

Bill sponsor Rep. Brian Brown, a Greenville Republican, said the new law would only apply to vehicles made after 1970. Supporters said it is designed to correcIt a court ruling that determined the malfunction of one brake light was not reasonable cause for a traffic stop.

Staff writer John Frank

Energy standards rolled back

The House passed a major environmental bill with minimal debate, overwhelmingly approving a 30 percent rollback in energy conservation standards for new commercial building construction. The bill passed 82-33 less than 24 hours after it was voted out of committee; it now goes to the Senate.

Rep. John Torbett, a Republican from Gaston County, sponsored the measure. He said the state’s strict efficiency standards would have forced a businessman in his county to pay $150,000 to replace the lighting in an old mill that was being converted to a warehouse.

Staff writer John Murawski

Higher fines for passing buses

North Carolina lawmakers want to increase the consequences for drivers who fail to stop for school buses picking up or dropping off students.

The bill approved unanimously Tuesday by the House would require those convicted to receive a minimum $500 fine. A driver who hits a child and faces a felony would receive a minimum $2,500 fine, while a death conviction would mean at least $5,000.

The measure also requires motorists convicted of repeat violations to have their driver’s licenses revoked for at least one year and possibly permanently in the most egregious circumstances.

The Associated Press

Senate wants to fine late filers

Some North Carolina legislators want to make sure people pay a penalty when they file income taxes late, even if they’re supposed to get a refund.

The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill changing the law requiring filers to pay a penalty for up to 25 percent on what’s called “the amount of the tax.”

The bill heading to the full Senate would instead impose a $100 penalty on anyone who fails to file an income tax return on time.

The Associated Press

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