North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday signed into law a bill that is a hodge-podge of nearly 60 changes to regulations, which its backers hailed as this session's "regulatory reform" and environmentalists criticized as weakening protections.
"This new law eliminates unnecessary regulations and laws and streamlines the rulemaking process," Gov. Pat McCrory's office quoted the governor as saying in a news release. "Taxpayers will save money because this law will help reduce frivolous challenges that delay projects, improving the quality of life for North Carolinians."
The bill was the end product of much slicing and dicing as the House and Senate rejected each other's original proposals. Most of the controversial, far-reaching provisions were eventually eliminated.
Still, the House passed the bill on a 64-27 vote of bipartisan support and opposition: Nine Democrats voted for it and six Republicans opposed. Some said they opposed a provision that allows community colleges to teach students how to brew beer, and sell it. The Senate passed it on a 35-1 vote (Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Asheville, opposed).
The new law gives a break to a massive egg farm near a national wildlife refuge in northeastern North Carolina by redefining the definition of water pollution and make it retroactive. Rose Acre Farms in Hyde County said any airborne pollution it discharges shouldn't be regulated under the federal Clean Water Act, even if the airborne material ends up in a river.
Senate Bill 734 also gives more protection to rare plants, including Venus flytraps, which only grow natively in the country in a few counties in the North Carolina.
McCrory also signed into law a statute that makes it a felony to give a prisoner a cellphone and increases penalties for those who assault or threaten government officials related to their duties. These provisions stemmed from a case where authorities say a local prosecutor was targeted by kidnappers.
The Associated Press contributed to this article