Hundreds of ideas die a quiet death in the legislature. A few die on stage.
The legislature on Thursday hits a deadline – called crossover – for most bills to either pass either the House or Senate to remain alive for the rest of the two-year session. Most of the 1,500 bills filed never got a hearing. And in an unusual sight at the legislature, some bills made it to the voting stage only to get shot down in committee or on the floor.
It’s mostly Republican-sponsored bills that get committee hearings in the GOP-controlled legislature. Bill sponsors negotiate with committee chairmen on when to bring up bills for debates and votes. By the time a bill comes up for a hearing, sponsors typically know they have enough votes get it passed.
Sometimes they miscalculate.
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“What you’re seeing is the will of the committee in these votes,” House Speaker Tim Moore said.
A bill that would have increased penalties on protesters who block traffic or damage businesses was rejected in a 6-5 House committee vote this week, despite sponsors’ arguments that the state should crack down on what the bill called “economic terrorism.”
Legislators in more than a dozen states filed bills this year to limit protesting. In North Carolina, House Bill 249 is probably dead for two years but another bill targeting protesters is still alive. The House on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would protect drivers from civil liability if they injure a protester who is blocking a street or highway, as long as a driver is “exercising due care.”
A House bill that would have had unlicensed drivers’ vehicles towed away from traffic stops died in a committee under the weight of questions about due process.
A bill that would have added an officer chosen by the N.C. Police Benevolent Association to a state commission on officer training standards was voted down on the House floor after a lot of questions about whether the association is a union.
Rep. Chris Malone, a Wake Forest Republican, said he knew the vote on his bill repealing laws on Sunday hunting was going to be close, but he thought it had enough support to clear the House Wildlife Resources Committee.
“I thought we were good,” he said.
Malone wanted the state Wildlife Resources Commission to set rules for Sunday hunting. The current law prevents hunting on Sunday with guns near churches or homes during church hours. Some Republicans said they didn’t trust the commission to set the rules. The House panel rejected the bill.
Malone said he has ideas for reviving the idea in some form, but wouldn’t say what they were.
The House and Senate are plowing through dozens of bills as the deadline approaches, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end for those that don’t make it.
Time-honored ways for beating crossover are to take a bill that has been approved in one chamber, gut it and fill it with the contents of another bill, or to add a fee or appropriation to a bill. Bills that concern money don’t have to meet the deadline.
Bills can find new life in other ways. Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Mecklenburg County Republican, wants penalties for people who drive slowly in the left lane of a highway. His bill failed in a Senate committee, where members questioned whether people who abide by the speed limit will get penalized while speeders go free.
But a bill approved by a House committee would fine drivers who impede the flow of traffic in the left lane. Tarte said he took note of the issues raised in the Senate committee and worked with House members to address them in their bill.
“That’s just good use of the committee structure,” Tarte said.
The House bill doesn’t have to make it out of the chamber before Thursday because it includes $50,000 for the Division of Motor Vehicles to teach people about the law.