Under the Dome

Dome: Regulatory reform bill could emerge in General Assembly’s waning days

July 17, 2013 

Some sort of regulatory reform could emerge from the General Assembly in its waning days, but right now, the details are a fast-moving target.

On Wednesday, a new version unexpectedly materialized in the Senate Rules Committee, adding more than two dozen new sections to a bill the House had put together last week.

Both bills – SB112 and HB74 – address a grab bag of regulatory issues, from environmental to workplace and more. Since HB74 is so extensive and committee members didn’t have copies of it until the meeting, the bill will return to Rules on Thursday and likely be voted on.

That will leave the House and Senate with another disagreement that leaves in question whether the underlying issues will be addressed in legislation this session or not.

Fundamental sections of the bills are the same: establishing a three-tiered process for evaluating the rules and regulations that state agencies impose based on laws the General Assembly passes. All agencies would be required to determine whether the thousands of rules they impose are necessary but controversial, necessary and not controversial, or unnecessary.

The Senate’s version doesn’t include provisions in the House bill that have local governments up in arms, restricting the extent of local zoning ordinances and prohibiting the use of citizen protests against zoning maps.

It also drops the House provision that would subject the administrator and deputy commissioners on the Industrial Commission to political hiring and firing.

It requires that a study be done to determine whether independent licensing boards should be consolidated.

Overhaul to cap gas tax

North Carolina drivers scarcely noticed when the state gas tax rose on July 1 by one-tenth of a penny per gallon. So they may not notice when the tax falls again in September to its June level.

The comprehensive tax overhaul legislation zooming through the General Assembly this week, which will have a big impact on income taxes, also includes a provision to reduce and freeze the gas tax, now 37.6 cents per gallon: It would be capped at 37.5 cents for almost two years – from Sept. 1, 2013, through June 30, 2015.

Under state law, the fuel tax rate is adjusted every January and July to reflect recent ups and downs in wholesale fuel prices. The new tax law employs an occasional legislative tool – putting a cap to prevent it from rising higher, without changing the formula used to calculate the tax.

Meanwhile, drivers are noticing sharp increases in the prices they’re paying for gas. Triangle average prices for self-service regular have risen 12 cents in the past week, to $3.538 per gallon as of Wednesday, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

Saturday votes scheduled

Sen. Tom Apodaca scheduled Saturday votes on bills, though the House hasn’t committed to staying the weekend. “We’re here to work,” Apodaca said. “I don’t know what they want to do. I’m sick of the House.”

The long session is winding down, though the legislature still has some big bills to pass. Apodaca seemed eager for it to be over.

The Saturday session isn’t certain, Apodaca said, though senators were told to be prepared to stay the weekend. “We’ll see what the boss wants to do,” he said.

Senate leader Phil Berger said the developing Saturday calendar was a demonstration of the Senate’s “willingness and intent to stay here until it’s done.” Berger canceled a weekend flight to California, where he was scheduled to attend a conference early next week.

House Speaker Thom Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw says the House doesn’t plan to work this weekend, though that could change.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Bruce Siceloff and Lynn Bonner

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