Bill delays rules to aid cleaning up Jordan Lake

lbonner@newsobserver.com afrank@newsobserver.comJuly 25, 2013 

XGR12-NE-072413-RTW

Rep. Kelly Hastings of Cherryville, N.C. shows the strain of a long day on the State House floor, as lawmakers met well past 10 p.m. on Wednesday July 24, 2013 at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C. working to close out their session.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

With the end of the session in sight, lawmakers in both houses pushed forward on more than 70 bills.

Changes to election law and the state budget received most of the attention on the chamber floor. But other bills of note also passed through each chamber. Here are a few of the others pushed through:

Jordan Lake cleanup

The House gave preliminary approval to a bill that would delay some of the rules on pollution control meant to clean up Jordan Lake, the drinking water source for parts of Wake, Durham and Chatham counties and other communities.

The vote was 66-44. A final House vote is scheduled for Thursday.

Supporters said the bill delays for three years agreed-upon strategies that have not yet been implemented in the broad cleanup plan. With the delay, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources would try an experiment to see if mechanical devises could help improve the water.

The cleanup rules are expensive to upstream communities and stifle development, said Rep. Steve Ross, a Burlington Republican.

Opponents said the cleanup strategies, which have been delayed twice since they were agreed to in 2009, should be given the chance to work.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to abandon methods that have been proven effective over time,” said Rep Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat. “We don’t need to delay that further.”

Welfare testing

Welfare recipients could be tested for drugs or fingerprinted under a bill that passed the House 92-21 on Wednesday. The Senate is scheduled to vote on it Thursday.

House Bill 392 requires drug testing of reasonably suspected illegal substance users applying for the Work First program, which gives cash benefits and job training to families. It also beefs up background checks to ensure people applying for food stamps or Work First aren’t parole or probation violators, and don’t have outstanding felony warrants.

Opponents say the measure is part of a larger plan to erode the state’s safety net for the less fortunate.

“My big concern … is how we balance the criminal justice issue of getting the bad guy here without catching everybody and fingerprinting everybody,” said Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville, a Democrat.

Rep. Dean Arp, a Republican from Monroe who sponsored the bill, says he wants to make sure only people who deserve aid – not drug users or fleeing felons – get it. The fingerprinting option was added to prevent out-of-state fleeing felons from getting aid in the state.

Legal notices

The House upended a bill that supporters had wanted to use to allow governments in Guilford County to stop running legal notices in newspapers.

Instead, House lawmakers gave preliminary approval, in a 99-12 vote, to a bill that strengthens newspapers’ role in publishing government legal notices. In addition to requiring ads appear in print, the bill requires notices be placed on the newspapers’ website at no charge – something most papers already do – with a link on the sites’ front pages.

Local governments in Guilford and other counties wanted to make print publication of legal notices optional. They want to be allowed to post the notices on government websites instead. The N.C. Association of County Commissioners, which wanted the original version, consider Guilford County a test project that could one day spread to other counties.

The original bill had the backing of House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius, who said local governments should be free to pursue more cost effective ways to tell people about official actions.

But Rep. Marilyn Avila, a Wake County Republican, said publication of legal notices in newspapers promotes transparency and introduced the amendment that ended up changing the law.

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