State Politics

NC General Assembly wraps up eight months of lawmaking – at 4 a.m.

Bipartisan duo sing "Long Black Veil" on the Senate floor

Senators Mike Woodard (D) and Jerry Tillman (R) sing a rendition of "Long Back Veil" as the clock approaches midnight on the senate floor during the final hours of the long legislative session Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at the State Legislative B
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Senators Mike Woodard (D) and Jerry Tillman (R) sing a rendition of "Long Back Veil" as the clock approaches midnight on the senate floor during the final hours of the long legislative session Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at the State Legislative B

State legislators wrapped up their longest session in over a decade shortly after 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, finishing up work on bills ranging from construction bonds to environmental regulations.

The House and Senate moved through dozens of bills in a marathon legislative day that stretched for more than 19 hours. Lawmakers were showing signs of exhaustion by the end of the night, complaining of jet lag-like fatigue. Someone brought House members a delivery from Insomnia Cookies, a bakery near N.C. State that caters to the late-night habits of college students.

While awaiting the last bills to clear negotiations between the two chambers, some senators tossed a football. Others broke into song.

Many bills survived the final sprint and now join dozens of others awaiting Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature. But some attempts to pass controversial legislation in the session’s final days fell short.

A last-minute attempt to restrict cities, towns and counties from having certain types of ordinances failed when the House Rules Committee voted it down. Local government officials spent the bulk of the day lobbying against it, along with LGBT advocacy groups that worried local nondiscrimination laws would be struck down.

A bill to divert funds from traditional public schools to charter schools died a more quiet death, sent to a committee that won’t meet until the legislature returns next April. House leaders said they want to spend more time studying charter school funding allocations.

The legislature’s adjournment resolution means lawmakers likely won’t return to Raleigh until April 25, 2016.

“That will probably make everyone in the state happy,” joked Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican.

Didn’t stay up to catch the late-night legislating? Here’s what you missed:

UNC president search

Lawmakers approved term limits for UNC Board of Governors members Tuesday, but dropped a provision that would have required public disclosure of finalists for the UNC presidency.

The action occurred Tuesday night as the UNC presidential search committee met behind closed doors at SAS, the Cary software company. In recent days, the search for a successor to President Tom Ross has become bogged down by internal dissension on the board and complaints by legislators and faculty about a lack of transparency.

On Monday night, the House had passed an amendment from Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, to require that identity of the three final candidates be made public 10 days before the board’s vote. The amendment also would have required the board to hold at least one meeting at which finalists were discussed publicly. It passed overwhelmingly Monday.

But 24 hours later, another amendment from Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, removed the public disclosure requirements. It also passed overwhelmingly.

Read more about the bill here.

New fundraising committees

Republican lawmakers continue to add to legislation originally just intended to move up the presidential primary election. The most recent addition would allow the governor to control a Council of State campaign fund.

Last week, state senators tacked on a barely-vetted provision to allow legislative caucuses to create fundraising committees that act like political parties, accepting and distributing unlimited donations for campaigns.

The House Rules committee Tuesday added an amendment to allow the Council of State to do the same. It also clarified the language specify that funds could only be spent on individuals seeking office in that branch of government (House, Senate or Council of State).

Read more about the committees here.

Bond referendum

A proposed $2 billion bond referendum cleared the House early Wednesday morning in a final 93-20 vote.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who initially proposed the bond he calls “Connect N.C.,” is expected to sign the bill and put the question of borrowing before voters in March.

The bond includes a variety of projects for higher education, parks and other infrastructure. “We have an unprecedented responsibility to fix out crumbling infrastructure,” said Rep. Dean Arp, a Monroe Republican who presented the bill.

Read more about the bond here.

Regulatory reform

A sweeping “regulatory reform” bill is headed to McCrory after a 73-39 House vote shortly before midnight Tuesday.

It targets obsolete laws and rewrites regulations affecting the environment, business and local ordinances. It expands the “Good Samaritan” law to protect those who help in lifesaving emergencies, and it sets up an animal welfare hotline in the Attorney General’s Office.

Supporters say it will address burdensome regulations harming businesses. But many Democrats say the changes will impact the environment.

“It’s probably doing the most damage that we’ve done yet to the environment this session,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat. “There are a number of rollbacks of protections related to air and water quality that are very troubling to me.”

Read more about highlights of the bill’s final edition here.

Taylor Knopf and Jane Stancill contributed

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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