Weekly Legislative Highlights
Special Report - March 11, 2011
This week legislators confronted the second gubernatorial veto of the 2011-2012 session and took action on key pieces of legislation including removing the charter school cap, banning dangerous substances, and proposing term limits for legislative leadership positions.
Veto Drama on HB 2
In a surprising procedural move during Thursday’s session, House Republicans revived HB 2Protect Health Care Freedom, securing enough votes to allow the bill to be reconsidered at some later date. The bill seeks to limit the impact of the recently passed federal health care legislation and was vetoed by Governor Perdue on March 5. House Republicans had previously attempted to override her veto on Wednesday, March 9, but fell short of the needed three-fifths majority vote.
On Thursday, after several Democratic lawmakers left early for the weekend, Republicans had the needed number of votes to approve the motion for reconsideration and, should they have held the vote, to overturn the Governor’s veto. However, in a show of sportsmanship, Republicans refrained from holding the vote when Democratic members were absent, and Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the motion for reconsideration.
After all the fancy parliamentary footwork, it remains to be seen whether the House will be able to produce the needed number of votes to successfully override the veto later in the session.
Charter School Hears More Committee Debate
On March 7, key Democratic leaders held a press conference and proposed HB 247Enhance Charter School Accountability. The bill is being presented as alternative legislation to SB 8No Cap on Charter Schools.
The following day, SB 8 was heard in the House Education Committee, where members adopted a new version of the bill, which made quite a number of changes to the Senate passed bill in an attempt to gain greater bipartisan support for the measure. The most significant changes include:
- Removing the overall cap, but limiting the annual number of charter schools eligible for approval to 50.
- Setting a minimum enrollment of 50 students per school.
- Clarifying language regarding the funding of charters by making it clear that traditional public schools will not have to share any monies they receive from federal funds or private donations.
No vote was taken on the bill during Tuesday’s meeting, but Committee Chairman James Langdon (R-Johnston) announced that he intended to vote on the bill at the committee’s next meeting, Tuesday, March 15.
Drug Ban Bill Approved by House
In the House Judiciary Sub-Committee B on March 9, committee members considered two bills that seek to permanently ban a variety of dangerous substances that despite having similar effects as illegal drugs are currently legal in North Carolina.
Committee members voted to combine the two bills (formerly SB 7 and SB 9) into one bill, SB 7Add Controlled Substances. The new combined version of the bill received a favorable report in committee and was heard on the House floor on March 10. As expected, the bill passed easily, with a bipartisan vote of 110-1. Because the measure was amended by the House, it now goes back to the Senate for concurrence. If approved by the Senate, it will go to the Governor for her signature.
Term Limits Considered
Although current leadership have been vocal in their support of such a change in the past, the measure is largely seen as a reaction to former Senator Marc Basnight (D-Dare) who, before resigning back in January, held the position of Senate President Pro Tem for a record 18 years.
Also this week, a House committee considered a bill, HB 61Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits, which would seek to place term limits on the two most powerful positions in the legislature: the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tem. The bill would limit both individuals in either position to serving no more than two terms.
Perdue Vetoes Healthcare Opt-Out - March 7, 2011
Charter School Bill Passes Senate - February 25, 2011
Senate Committee Approves Drug Bans - February 4, 2011
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