A second Senate committee approved a thick regulatory overhaul bill on Wednesday without opposition.
The kitchen-sink Senate Bill 734 streamlines regulations or diminishes safeguards – depending on your point of view – and also eliminates duplicate and obsolete requirements.
Lawmakers had a few questions about the dozens of provisions in the bill. Only two lawmakers expressed outright opposition to any of them: Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Republican from Monroe, didn’t think community colleges should be making and selling beer, which one provision allows.
Sen. Warren Daniel, a Republican from Morganton, didn’t like a section that increases the penalties for illegally using a handicapped-parking space, which now range from $100 to $250 and would increase to $300 to $500.
There was no public comment at either committee meeting, but environmental advocates have several concerns:
Air quality monitoring – This provision would require the state environmental regulatory agency to discontinue using ambient air-quality monitors that are not required by federal law by September.
Self-reporting – Would-be polluters who report potential threats to the state could escape fines and penalties.
Air quality permits – A provision says challenges to air quality permits filed by citizens, such as environmental groups, don’t automatically put the permit on hold as it does now.
Wetlands – The section increases the size of isolated wetlands that can be regulated by the state. Environmentalists say that effectively eliminates all protections. Bill sponsors say only 2 percent of the wetlands are under state control, and the rest are regulated by the federal government and therefore not affected by the bill. It would also reduce the ratio by which developers must pay to restore another wetland in the same river basin from 2-to-1 to 1-to-1.
Following approval in the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, and Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, the bill next goes to the full Senate, and then to the House.