Legislative Roundup

NC House passes bill to legalize medicinal use of hemp oil

From staff reportsJune 19, 2014 

— A bill that would allow the medicinal use of an oil extracted from marijuana plants to treat people with drug-resistant epilepsy rushed through the House this week, culminating in a near-unanimous vote on Thursday.

Medical trials underway in other states have shown promising results. Typically, those who have the disorder are children suffering from both frequent seizures and side effects from ineffective drugs.

Rep. Jim Fulghum, a Republican from Raleigh who is a neurosurgeon, said those children spiral into increasingly worsening conditions.

The bill, HB1220, is narrowly written to apply only to these kinds of patients, and House members went out of their way to say it was not a medical marijuana bill. The hemp oil is extremely low in THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“The M-word doesn’t even appear in the bill,” sponsor Rep. Pat McElraft, a Republican from Emerald Isle, said.

Rep. Marilyn Avila, a Republican from Raleigh who is a retired chemist, said she opposes medial marijuana legislation, but supported this bill because it is limited to a specific condition for a substance produced in qualified laboratories, isn’t in pill form, and is supervised by specialists.

Even Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican minister from Concord, stood up to say he supported the bill.

“I’m one of the most hard-nosed, hard-headed conservatives in the place,” Pittman said. “If I can support it, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t.”

All but two representatives did. Casting votes against it were two first-term Republicans: Rep. Carl Ford of China Grove and Rep. Dana Bumgardner of Gastonia.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Environmental regs bill passes House

A list of updates, fixes and mostly minor changes to state environmental regulations passed the House on Thursday and now heads to the Senate, which has passed its own, more far-reaching proposal.

Environmentalists prefer the House version, which was written into Senate Bill 38. But it was a compromise of sometimes conflicting agendas among the representatives.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Greensboro, praised Republican Reps. Ruth Samuelson of Charlotte and Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville for coming up with a bill that improved on the Senate’s and avoided loosening environmental safeguards too significantly. But she joined 11 Democrats in voting against it, saying it still had troubling provisions.

The main changes to the environmental bill Thursday:

• Removed a provision that would have replaced all current members of the Marine Fisheries Commission.

• Removed a section that would have eased regulation of dairy cattle waste lagoons. Technical questions prompted its removal.

• Restored a requirement that the State Energy Office conduct energy audits of each state agency, but only every two years instead of the current annual audit.

• Requires property owners to disclose to potential buyers any mineral, oil or gas rights prior to an offer of purchase. Current law requires it at the time of the offer. This would affect all real estate sales, not just homeowners.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Unemployment Board changes ahead

The House on Thursday went along with Senate changes to a bill addressing a power struggle between the General Assembly and the governor over who appoints members of an unemployment benefits appeals board.

The legislature created the Board of Review in a 2011 law, but Gov. Pat McCrory didn’t appoint its three members until December. A legislative committee this year recommended the General Assembly make two of the appointments, which the governor opposed.

The new bill, House Bill 1069, leaves the appointments with the governor, unless he doesn’t make them in a timely manner, and staggers the four-year terms. That results in a current member having to leave at the end of this month, another a year from now and the third two years from now.

The governor can re-appoint any of the current members, but the House and Senate will have to confirm the nominations. The governor can also make appointments when the legislature is not in session, also subject to confirmation.

Rep. Paul “Skip’ Stam, a Republican from Apex, argued against the Senate bill, saying it violated the constitutional separation of powers by putting judicial officials out of office before their terms expired. Stam noted that the House last year knocked down a Senate effort to sweep incumbent political appointees off of state commissions for that reason.

“Apparently, the Senate didn’t like who the governor appointed, therefore they want to get rid of some of them before their appointments are over,” Stam said.

The House voted 69-46 to concur with the Senate. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Chambers agree on fast-tracking charters

The House Education Committee approved a Senate bill that would allow for-profit charter schools to multiply rapidly in North Carolina. The bill creates an expedited review process for charter schools that have a successful track record and want to expand in the state.

Applications for 2015-2016 have yet to be reviewed by the Charter School Advisory Board, which bill co-sponsor Sen. Jerry Tillman said is functioning “with some growing pains.” The board has endorsed 16 of 71 applications from organizations who fund for-profit charter schools such as National Heritage Academies and Charter Schools USA.

Tillman said for-profit charter schools have the right to expand as much as nonprofit charter schools do, as long as they provide quality education.

Staff writer Katy Canada

Common Core bill gets a substitute

The House committee wasn’t as receptive to the Senate’s Common Core. The Senate’s bill calls for studying standards nationwide and choosing the best for North Carolina. House members said that left some wiggle room to keep some parts of Common Core in the state’s public school curriculum. So the members instead approved a substitute that mirrors the House bill that repeals all Common Core standards and replaces them with North Carolina-specific standards.

Tillman, the sponsor of the Senate’s Common Core bill, said after the meeting that the House bill places limitations on the new standards commission.

“They’re tying the hands of the standards commission and saying they can’t do this and can’t do that,” Tillman said.

Larry Hall, who represents Durham County, said entirely eliminating Common Core standards creates doubt about what teachers can and can’t teach.

The committee voted in favor of the House’s substitute 25-17, with no debate of the Senate bill. The bill substitute is on track for the House floor next, followed by the Senate, where Tillman said he would not recommend its passage.

Staff writer Katy Canada

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