Legislative Roundup

NC House approves bill regulating drones

From staff reportsJune 25, 2014 

Gadget Show

A drone flies at the International Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, in Las Vegas.

JAE C. HONG — AP

— The state’s first legislation regulating unmanned drone aircraft cleared the House without discussion in a unanimous vote on Wednesday, and now heads to the Senate.

North Carolina is first in flight, sponsor Rep. John Torbett, a Republican from Stanley, told his colleagues – why shouldn’t it be first in unmanned flight?

House Bill 1099 cleared a House judiciary committee earlier in the day, despite concerns that it didn’t resolve questions about what constitutes “surveillance” as opposed to “observation” as a drone flies over private property.

The bill prohibits anyone from conducting surveillance of a person, dwelling or private property without the owner’s consent, or making aerial photographs without that consent. It allows for newsgathering, and doesn’t apply to events to which the general public is invited.

It allows law enforcement to use drones to counter high risk of terrorist attack, imminent danger of life or serious damage to property. Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Passing bills back and forth

The House on Wednesday passed a pair of regulation-overhaul bills that met with considerable opposition among Republicans.

GOP House members complained that the bills included provisions that had already been sent to the Senate in other legislation, or that they hadn’t been fully discussed in committee, or that they imposed new mandates rather than reduced regulations.

The two-bill approach, along with an environmental regulations bill that passed the House earlier this month, was an attempt to satisfy complaints raised when many of the provisions were crammed into a single bill. In response, House leaders divided the bills into health and safety, and government and business.

The result, reshaped by amendments on Wednesday, was a collection of issues important to a number of legislators, including some that have bogged down in the Senate as the 2014 session runs out of time. Still, the two regulations bills passed mostly along party lines Wednesday, with some Democratic support.

“I’m just wondering where we’re going with this constant back and forth with the Senate,” Rep. John Blust, a Republican from Greensboro, said. “We pass bills, the Senate doesn’t take them up for whatever reason. I just wonder about the rationale and the utility of re-sending bills a second and who knows how many times back over to that other body. We have to recognize they are a co-equal party with us.”

A good bit of time was spent arguing over an amendment that would require insurance companies treat chemotherapy drugs taken orally the same as intravenous cancer drugs. It was an issue that has been debated before this year, and drew support for its help to cancer patients and opposition for its mandate on insurance company charges.

“It’s mandate after mandate after mandate, which is going to cost you and me money,” said Rep. Craig Horn, a Weddington Republican.

Rep. Mike Stone, a Republican from Sanford, said extending insurance coverage for oral cancer drugs as “a gift we can give.” The amendment was offered by Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Dunn, and was approved.

The bills cover a wide range of issues, from insurance coverage for autism treatment, restricting youths’ access to commercial tanning beds, preventing local governments from dictating design standards for residences.

Other provisions include: setting up a behavioral analyst licensing system to work with autistic children, giving motels that serve preheated food a break from having to have restaurant licenses, and calculating dosages for animal euthanasia.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Patent troll bill returns

A bill that came from the Senate as a far-reaching lawsuits bill – which, among other things, proposed to provide protection to companies from product liability lawsuits for anything they make that has received government approval – was reduced to a much less controversial piece of legislation in the House on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 648 now only sets guidelines for the attorney general when contracting with private lawyers in class-action lawsuits. It also includes provisions outlawing patent abuse.

Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Fayetteville, praised House committees for whittling it down.

Rep. Tom Murry, a Republican from Apex, added the “patent troll” provision, even though it is already in a bill that has passed the House and is sitting in the Senate.

“The Senate is not moving fast enough on that bill,” Murry said.

The House bill passed 111-2. Staff writer Craig Jarvis

Senate amends coal ash bill

The N.C. Senate gave final, bipartisan approval Wednesday to a 15-year plan to close Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds in the state, sending the measure to the House.

The unanimous vote included several changes to the bill, including more explicit standards for closing Duke’s 33 ponds in response to environmental advocates’ complaints.

One of the amendments added Wednesday addresses groundwater contamination, which has been found around ash ponds at all 14 of Duke’s coal-fired power plants.

The change says the point at which contamination is deemed a violation of state standards, called the compliance boundary, would no longer be the source’s property boundary. It means Duke couldn’t buy land bordering its power plants to avoid violations.

Other amendments insert specifications for closing ash ponds, such as the density of liners for ash ponds converted to landfills and caps over ash that will stay in ponds.

The House’s version is in the environment committee Thursday.

Bruce Henderson, Charlotte Observer

Insurance added to moped bill

A Senate committee added a provision requiring moped drivers to buy liability insurance to House Bill 1145 and then approved it.

The House had removed that provision from the bill before sending it to the Senate. The bill also requires moped drivers to register the vehicles with the Division of Motor Vehicles by July 1, 2015.

Under the bill, moped owners would pay a $15 registration fee (the same as motorcyclists) and they would have to prove that their moped was designed and manufactured for highway use by providing a certificate of origin.

Bill sponsor Rep. Phil Shephard, a Republican from Jacksonville, said it would help identify mopeds that are involved in accidents and crimes. Opponents say it targets low-income drivers who rely on mopeds to get to and from work.

Tim Lucas, with the North Carolina Rate Bureau, which makes rate requests for auto insurers in the state, said premiums for moped owners would cost about $65 annually for experienced drivers with no traffic offenses. Rates would be higher for inexperienced drivers or those with traffic offenses.

The bill’s next stop is the full Senate. If approved it goes back to the House for concurrence on the change.

Staff writer Katy Canada

Hemp oil treatment closer

House Bill 1220, which legalizes the use of hemp oil as a treatment for intractable epilepsy, passed the Senate Rules committee and now heads to the Senate floor. It has passed the House.

Bill sponsor Rep. Pat McElraft, a Republican from Emerald Isle, said children who suffer 100 to 200 seizures each week and have relied on highly toxic psychotrophic drugs could benefit from the hemp extract.

Staff writer Katy Canada

Back to school on standards

As expected, the state Senate on Wednesday rejected the House version of the Common Core bill.

“We’ve got some mechanic work we need to do on this automobile,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Republican from Archdale.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

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