Special Report - April 8, 2011
It was a busy week at the General Assembly, as legislators took action on a number of major initiatives and faced long, and often contentious, debate, both in committee and on the floor.
Charter School Bill Advances
This week, SB 8No Cap on Number of Charter Schools, reemerged, after weeks of discussions in attempts to reach a compromise that would secure bipartisan support of the bill. The measure earned two days of consideration on Wednesday and Thursday morning before the House Finance Committee.
While a new version of the bill, which incorporated the concessions made over the past few weeks, was presented for the committee’s consideration, the debate still proved highly partisan, as several members voiced concerns that the bill was still not doing enough to ensure diversity and provide transportation and food service to students.
After two days of hearings, the committee voted to pass the bill through for consideration by the full House, adding the measure to Thursday’s calendar. The bill passed second reading 69-48. While SB 8 will be before the House for final approval again on Monday evening, the Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) announced that debate on the measure would be limited to thirty minutes.
The measure is expected to pass third reading. After approval from the House, it will go back to the Senate for concurrence.
Unborn Victims of Violence Heads to Floor
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary II Committee took up HB 215Unborn Victim of Violence/Ethen’s Law, which is named for the unborn child of Jenna Nielsen, who was murdered when she was eight-months pregnant in 2007. The bill would provide legal protection and recourse for acts of violence to unborn children, who are injured or die as a result of crimes committed against their pregnant mothers, and would put North Carolina in compliance with the federal Unborn Victims law, which, in North Carolina, only applies to federal lands.
Several family members of the victims were present at the committee hearing, and committee members heard powerful testimony from Kevin Blaine, the father of Jenna Nielson and grandfather of Ethen; Effie Steele, who lost her daughter Ebony Robinson and unborn grandson Elijah to an act of violence; and Julie Greer, who suffered the loss of her unborn daughter Candy after being hit head-on by a drunk driver in 1986.
Bills, Bills, Everywhere
With the time to file new bills in the House reaching its deadline this week, the House calendar had a list of over 200 bills to be read in and introduced in Thursday’s session. A complete list Thursday’s introduced bills can be found here. Among those bills, were several key introductions on the pro-family front, including HB 854Woman’s Right to Know; HB 777Defense of Marriage, and HB 683Born Alive Infant Protection Act.
Also among the recently filed bills were HB 577Medical Cannabis Act and HB 601Reduce Bloodborne Disease Infection. HB 577 would legalize the production, sale, and use of marijuana for the use of medical purposes, while HB 601 would legalize the use, possession, delivery, and manufacture of needles used to inject controlled substances, effectively wiping out North Carolina’s existing drug paraphernalia law. For a full summary of both bills, see our story here.
Leadership Term Limits Squeaks By
Also on Thursday, HB 61Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits was on the calendar for its final vote. As inferred by the title, the bill puts restrictions on the number of terms that can be served by leadership of each respective chamber, prohibiting any legislator from serving more than two, two-year terms as Speaker of the House or President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
Because the bill would alter the State Constitution (subject to public approval), the measure requires a three-fifths majority vote or 72 votes in the House. In the surprise of the day, the measure passed on third reading 72-46, but only because one vote, cast by Representative Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson) accidentally voted for the measure. By state law, a legislator is allowed to change their vote after the fact, but only if doing so would not affect the final outcome.
The measure now heads to the Senate.
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