Dozens of bills clear House or Senate as deadline nears
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly acted on scores of bills this week while heading toward a self-imposed deadline designed to weed out policy legislation that has little support.
The House approved nearly 50 bills during a two-day work week ending Thursday. The Senate approved several more. Committees from both chambers also met frequently, as ideas unrelated to taxes and spending that don't pass at least one chamber by April 27 are essentially dead until 2019.
Bills passing the House on Thursday include those designed to encourage broadband expansion in rural areas and ensure treatment for young people with autism are covered by health insurance. Other measures extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims to sue and revive tuition waivers for seniors to take some community college courses.
"Right-to-work" constitutional question OK'd by House panel
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — House Republicans are advancing a proposed constitutional amendment to reinforce North Carolina laws prohibiting union membership and paying union dues as a requirement for employment.
A House judiciary committee Thursday narrowly approved a measure asking voters in November 2018 to decide whether similar prohibitions should be in the state Constitution.
GOP bill sponsor Rep. Justin Burr says constitutional language would further protect workers. Committee Democrats called a referendum unnecessary to affirm laws with little chance of being repealed. North Carolina is one of nearly 30 "right-to-work" states, with the laws on the books since 1947.
Burr says the state's "right-to-work" policy has contributed to a stronger economy but a state AFL-CIO official told the panel such laws contribute to driving down wages.
The bill's next stop is another House committee.
Impact fee repeals pushed back by North Carolina House panel
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Efforts by a House Republican to repeal laws granting certain local North Carolina governments authority to charge fees on new residential construction to help pay for anticipated schools and infrastructure have been partially pushed back.
Speaker Pro Tempore Sarah Stevens introduced two measures that passed a committee last week but faced stiff opposition Thursday in the House Finance Committee.
The panel voted to remove provisions from one bill that would have canceled laws for two dozen local governments to issue "impact fees," and instead directed a study on them. Stevens says recent state Supreme Court rulings warranted voiding current fees while a new statewide fee formula is considered.
The finance panel also narrowly approved Stevens' separate measure to repeal impact fees for Orange County, which she argues abused its authority.
Option to shift legal notices to government websites advances
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The latest attempt to let all North Carolina local governments post required legal notices on their websites instead of in newspapers is advancing at the General Assembly.
A Senate measure to allow cities and counties to post items online such as zoning and annexation proposals and openings for vendor contracts cleared two committees this week.
For generations, newspapers have been the source to read these announcements, with cities and counties spending millions of dollars annually. Previous bills to shift more of these notices online have stalled.
Sen. Trudy Wade of Greensboro sponsors the latest legislation. She says giving local governments the option will make people more informed. But John Bussian with the North Carolina Press Association told a committee Thursday the measure would effectively eliminate the public's right to know.
NC bill would toughen rules for parent-child reunification
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The court-appointed guardian for toddler who drowned after he was reunited with his mother says a bill would fix a small but important part of a broken social services system in North Carolina.
Pam Reed was guardian ad litem for Rylan Ott, the 23-month-old who wandered away from his Moore County home in April 2016 and drowned in a pond. He died four months after he had been returned to his mother even though no social worker had observed the two together.
The bill would require social workers to observe and document two successful visits for a judge before children and parents are reunited. Reed says the requirement would give children an extra layer of security.
A House committee approved the bill Thursday and referred it to another committee.
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