Under the Dome

Senate’s regulatory overhaul heads to House

With a few final tweaks, Senate Republicans gave final approval to a regulations-reduction bill Thursday and sent it to the House to consider.

The vote was 31-17 along party lines. With one minor technical exception, Republicans rebuffed attempts by Democrats to save some current regulations.

As in recent years, the Senate has reshuffled bills that streamline or eliminate regulations, regardless of what the House does. In this case, the Senate took House Bill 765 — an unrelated, one-page bill about trucks hauling gravel — and turned it into a rewrite of current regulations in more than 50 pages.

So it’s not known what the reception will be in the House, which has been working on its own regulation reduction bills. Many of the provisions in this bill didn’t pass last session because senators and representatives couldn’t agree on them. Other provisions have already passed one chamber or the other in different forms.

The bill would effect administrative procedure, awards of attorneys’ fees in some civil actions, business cases, and a range of environmental regulations. It would allow companies that pollute to avoid some penalties if they voluntarily disclose violations, and it would reduce the number of air quality monitors in the state.

The legislation didn’t pop up until Monday, and quickly ran into opposition from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Senators rewrote parts of the bill to satisfy the agency’s concerns.

Bill sponsors say it will help businesses, improve government efficiency and protect private property rights. They downplay concerns that less regulation also means less protection for the environment.

But the Sierra Club made that point and in a statement released after the vote tied it to the upcoming holiday weekend, a time when people enjoy the state’s natural resources.

“It appears that the state Senate has marked the Fourth of July by passing a polluter freedom bill,” Sierra Club spokesman Dustin Chicurel-Bayard said. “But it’s the people of North Carolina and our communities that need protection, not polluters.”