Easing regulations on the environment, businesses and government is once again the intent of this year’s deregulation bill in the General Assembly, which the state House approved on Thursday.
Republicans in the legislature have made a regulations bill a priority in every session since they took control in 2011, except for last year when both chambers failed to agree on one. Most of that bill and some new provisions now comprise Senate Bill 131.
Several Democrats tried to change some of the environmental provisions in the bill when it was up for debate on Wednesday, but were rebuffed by Republicans, who voted in a bloc Wednesday and Thursday. Democrats were split on the bill. The final vote was 83-28.
The Senate passed a slimmer version of the bill in March, but the House more than doubled the size of the bill to 43 pages. It will return to the Senate to concur with those changes.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Greensboro, thanked the Republican sponsors of the bill and the GOP leadership in the House for working with her to remove what she called some of the worst provisions in the proposal. However, Harrison voted against the bill.
“It’s still a net loss for the environment,” she said.
Some of the more contentious environmental provisions would:
▪ Ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to permit the state to double the amount of development near streams that can be displaced without requiring offsetting improvements elsewhere.
▪ Allow sand dredged from shoals offshore from the capes to be used in beach renourishment even if it doesn’t meet state requirements making sure it is compatible.
The bill also deals with the regulation of general contractor’s licenses, eliminating some counties from vehicle emission standards because they have improved, and the disposal of dead reptiles.