RALEIGH — In a sign that time and patience are running out in the final hectic weeks of the short session, House leaders drew fire from fellow Republicans over a pair of regulatory bills that surfaced Wednesday.
Several House members objected to the grab-bag nature of issues thrown into what is titled the 2014 Regulatory Reform Act, calling it a mix of individual bills that couldnt clear committees. Others complained about new provisions rushed into an environmental bill at the last minute.
Both bills survived challenges in committees Wednesday morning, and at least one will be taken up by the full House on Thursday. Republican leaders wanted to vote on the environmental bill on Wednesday, but Democrats persuaded them to hold off for a day so they could read it first.
The regulatory overhaul bill covers such issues as allowing landlords to hire private process servers to evict tenants, insurance coverage for autism, third-party prescription administrators, farmers markets, and says mug shots of people who are arrested are confidential unless the person is convicted.
Here we are with a bill thats called regulatory reform and it adds regulations, Rep. Edgar Starnes, a Republican from Hickory, complained about Senate Bill 493.
Starnes singled out one provision regulating landscape contractors in particular as one that had been pushed for years but never made it past a committee. If anybody ever needed proof that the Resurrection is real, this is it, he said.
That provision was voted out of the bill, along with several others. There were so many proposed changes to the bill, that legislators ran out of time and said further amendments would have to be taken up on the House floor later.
But it was the process that upset seven-term lawmaker Rep. John Blust, a Republican from Greensboro, who said the issues werent receiving the thorough review they should. He said he understood that bill sponsor Rep. Tom Murry, a Republican from Morrisville, was just doing what he was told to do by leadership, and wasnt blaming him but:
I didnt know I could go to you with any subject under the sun that I wanted passed into the law in this state and have it inserted into a bill called regulatory reform, Blust said. This is not good legislating to put a hodgepodge of totally unrelated provisions into one bill, call it something its not, and run it through with a straight face.
Murry, who explained what he could of the bill to two committees and turned to legislative research staff to explain the rest, at one point shrugged off questions.
Im just bringing forward ideas that other people have decided to call regulatory reform, Murry said.
At another point he offered, This isnt my dog. Im just walking it.
To which committee chairman Rep. Mitchell Setzer, a Republican from Catawba, replied, Put a leash on it.
There were fewer objections to the Houses version of an environmental regulation bill the Senate passed last month. The Houses version makes one big change that pleases environmentalists: It spares air quality monitors around the state, which the Senate had targeted for partial elimination. But it retains a provision environmentalists dont like: easing regulation of wetlands that are not connected to another body of water.
Still, the Republican majority was not united.
Rep. Chris Millis, a Republican from the Pender County community of Hampstead, said he only found out the previous night about a provision remaking the Marine Fisheries Commission, ending the terms of its current members and changing the expertise that members must have. Millis said the provision hadnt been adequately vetted.
Bill sponsor Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Republican from Charlotte, said that the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources helped write the provision and that the state Division of Marine Fisheries supports the change. That didnt satisfy Millis.
The administration has put this in without any deliberation by the legislative body, Millis said. It is our authority to deliberate this and determine if its good or bad.
Yet Rep. Paul Skip Stam, a Republican from Apex, defended the bill as mostly good. Samuelson reminded committee members that lawmakers compromise on bills all the time.
The idea that you can only vote for a bill that you agree 100 percent with means we wouldnt vote for any budget, she said.
The regulatory catch-all bill passed two committees on a split voice vote, and the environmental bill also passed a committee.
Jarvis: 919-829-4576; Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO