Legislative Roundup

Taxes and possums on legislators’ minds

From Staff ReportsMay 21, 2014 

With a final vote Wednesday, the House sent a wide-ranging tax bill to the Senate, where it may face a rewrite.

The major provisions in the legislation put a $100 ceiling on local privilege taxes on businesses and a moderate levy on electronic cigarettes. It won final approval in the House by a 84-29 vote with no debate.

House and Senate lawmakers worked on the legislation for weeks before the legislative session began May 14. But the House stripped a provision to shift the formula that determines multistate corporations’ tax bill. It would weight corporations’ sales more heavily, instead of property and payroll, in a move that lowers their tax bill.

A fiscal analysis suggested it would mean the loss of $23 million in revenue for the state in fiscal year 2015-16. House lawmakers considered it too major a change to put into the tax bill.

But Sen. Bob Rucho, the chamber’s finance committee co-chairman, is pushing the change, saying it would help the state’s manufacturing base.

He said his committee will likely consider the measure – House Bill 1050 – on Tuesday. He declined to say whether he would add the corporate tax provision back to the legislation.

Staff writer John Frank

Regulatory overhaul bill headed to Senate

A second Senate committee approved a thick regulatory overhaul bill on Wednesday without opposition. The full Senate will take up the bill Thursday.

The kitchen-sink Senate Bill 734 streamlines regulations or diminishes safeguards – depending on your point of view – and also eliminates duplicate and obsolete requirements.

Lawmakers had a few questions about the dozens of provisions in the bill. Only two lawmakers expressed outright opposition to any of them: Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Republican from Monroe, didn’t think community colleges should be making and selling beer, which one provision allows.

Sen. Warren Daniel, a Republican from Morganton, didn’t like a section that increases the penalties for illegally using a handicapped-parking space, which now range from $100 to $250 and would increase to $300 to $500.

There was no public comment at either committee meeting, but environmental advocates are worried about several provisions, including one that increases the size that isolated wetlands must be before the state can regulate them. Environmentalists say that effectively eliminates all protections. Bill sponsors say only 2 percent of the wetlands are under state control, and the rest are regulated by the federal government and therefore not affected by the bill. It would also reduce the ratio by which developers must pay to restore another wetland in the same river basin from 2-to-1 to 1-to-1.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Brasstown Possum Drop legislation returns

It may be a short session, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for one of North Carolina’s perennial controversies: the Possum Drop New Year’s Eve celebration in Brasstown.

Rep. Roger West, a Republican representing Clay County, where Brasstown is located, filed a bill Wednesday that would ensure the annual event, which has been tied up in court because of opposition from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

West’s House Bill 1131 would exempt Clay County from state wildlife regulations on the capture, treatment or release of the Virginia opossum between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 each year.

The event in the mountain community in the southwestern part of the state involves lowering a live opossum in a cage at midnight. A Wake County Superior Court judge last year ruled the event could go on. But in January, the judge dissolved that ruling because of mistaken evidence that had been submitted, according to PETA.

West said the bill would clarify that the drop could continue, in light of uncertainty about the law passed last year allowing it. West’s bill was sent to the House Rules Committee.

Last year, Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that gave the state Wildlife Resources Commission the authority to issue permits for wild animals to be used in “scientific, educational, exhibition or other purposes.” The Senate version of the bill was dubbed the “possum right-to-work act.”

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

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