Bill woud allow shorter wait for convicted felons who want guns

From staff reportsJune 26, 2013 

Convicted felons would be able to petition to own guns 10 years after finishing their sentences rather than the current 20 under a bill that had its first hearing Wednesday. It would also change the requirement that petitioners have only one non-violent felony on their record, and instead require they have no convictions for any violent felony.

A House judiciary subcommittee approved House Bill 618 after removing language establishing whether a drug conviction counts as a violent or non-violent felony. Only those convicted of a non-violent felony would be able to ask a judge to restore their right to buy, sell, own or possess a firearm.

Rep. John Faircloth, a Republican from High Point, questioned a provision that would consider multiple drug offenses as non-violent felonies, in some cases, allowing people to get their guns back. He said some criminals might have simply managed not to get caught over the ensuing years.

“I have a problem with drug use and firearms coming together,” Faircloth told the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Michael Speciale, a Republican from New Bern. “Does that not concern you at all?”

Speciale said a judge would have to sign off on it. He also said it was a Second Amendment right.

“Why penalize someone using drugs by taking away their weapons, taking away their right to protect their families and protect themselves?” Speciale said.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Wetlands out of farm bill

A controversial measure that would roll back some wetlands protections was removed from a farm bill approved in a House committee on Wednesday.

The provision originally would have removed the current requirement that development and other activity in wetlands that are not under federal jurisdiction obtain water quality permits. The N.C. Home Builders Association said the requirement exceeded federal rules and was therefore in conflict with a law enacted last session.

Environmental organizations contend the provision would eliminate protections for nearly half of the state’s wetlands. They say the protections are needed because many wetlands are vital components of regional water systems.

After the meeting, co-chairman Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Hendersonville, said the bill’s sponsors wanted to keep it focused on farms. He said the wetlands issue could show up in other legislation.

The bill is headed to the full House on Thursday.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Tuition for disabled students

The Senate Education committee approved a bill providing taxpayer money to pay private school tuition for disabled students. The bill would allow parents to use vouchers worth $6,000 a year to move disabled children who have spent at least a semester at public schools to private schools.

The state offers parents a tax credit for the same purpose, but the credits are unavailable to low-income families who don’t pay income taxes. If the legislature passes the bill, the tax credit program would end and the families who use it would be rolled into the voucher program. The House approved the measure last month.

Staff writer Lynn Bonner

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