Contentious bills await compromise

Posted by Craig Jarvis on July 7, 2014 

While state Senate and House negotiators try to work out a compromise on the budget this week, most House members will stay at home. The Senate will take up pending legislation.

But representatives from both chambers could also try to hash out differences in seven bills that have been assigned to conference committees. Some are major, some are minor; but all are in danger of falling into the trash bin of the short session unless agreements can be worked out soon.

Besides the budget, here are the bills assigned to conferences after one of the chambers voted not to concur:

•  Senate Bill 648 started out last year as an “ag-gag” type bill aimed at stopping undercover investigations of businesses, like those that unveil animal cruelty at agricultural operations. That bill didn’t make it out of committee. This year the Senate turned it into the comprehensive N.C. Consumer Protection Act of 2014 and billed it as the fourth wave of regulatory reform since the GOP took over.

But the House had other ideas – lots of them. The House created three of its own regulations bills – dealing with the environment, health and safety, and businesses – but the Senate pointedly dumped them (one was ordered held in the clerk’s office and the other two deposited in an inactive committee).

The House, for its part, whittled SB 648 down to a mere two, uncontroversial provisions and sent it back to the Senate. The Senate responded, “I don’t think so.”

•  House Bill 189: The Senate took a child-support and custody bill from last year and added the plan by Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Cary Republican, to update the state’s business court – a provision that has appeared in several bills this session – along with another provision that has also made multiple appearances: creating a three-judge panel to hear constitutional challenges to the state’s laws.

•  House Bill 1048: The House took one of its own bills from last year on National Guard issues and made it about qualifications for the position of Adjutant General. The Senate tweaked the bill and sent it back to the House, which rejected it.

•  Senate Bill 614: The House took a Senate bill from last year on workers’ compensation policies and turned it into a bill that would allow the state Military Affairs Commission to withhold from the public its meetings and records involving the federal government’s process in determining military base realignments or closures.

•  Senate Bill 793: A Senate bill on charter schools, which grew substantially in size in the House, ran into turbulence over a provision to keep some employee records closed that are now open in public schools. The governor said he would veto the bill if that provision remained in the bill. The House passed it anyway, but a key sponsor backtracked soon after.

•  Senate Bill 812 and House Bill 1061: Differences between the two chambers over Common Core curriculum still have to be hashed out.

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