The North Carolina General Assembly completed Thursday its marathon week of committee and floor debate that allowed topics in about 200 more bills to stay alive for consideration during this two-year session.
Up against their parliamentary “crossover” deadline, the Senate adjourned at mid-morning after signing off on 10 bills, hours after the House decided to keep working through midnight late Wednesday. The chamber moved along another 20 pieces of legislation before adjourning at 2:30 a.m. On Wednesday alone, 87 bills cleared either the House or Senate.
The self-imposed deadline during every odd-numbered year attempts to separate the best ideas in the eyes of lawmakers from the rest of the pack. Those that cleared one chamber by Thursday survive. With broad exceptions, measures left over are essentially dead until the next session in 2017.
Here’s a look at what legislation met or missed the deadline, as well as what Gov. Pat McCrory thinks and the road ahead:
In the final hours, the House passed bills restricting dangerous exotic animals, making insurance companies treat chiropractors like primary care providers as to patient co-pays and authorizing more types of medical professionals to monitor prisoner injections at executions. The Senate agreed to place more controls upon state agency contract and temporary work and give law enforcement officers the option to keep their identifying information hidden from public inspection.
Over the last week, at least one chamber also passed bills that extended the abortion waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours; banned powdered alcohol; mandated state-regulated health insurers pay for autism treatment coverage; chipped away at the long-time ban on Sunday hunting with guns; and eased requirements on environmental reviews for projects that used public money or lands.
Bills subject to crossover that were defeated include measures that would have allowed motorcyclists at least 21 years old not to wear helmets and to prevent local education boards from suing county commissions in school funding decisions. A bill addressing decision-making by insurance companies on which prescription drugs they’ll cover got pulled early Thursday when the bill sponsor suggested it may not pass on the floor.
The deadline’s passage also tolls the end of prospects for hundreds of ideas that never had much of a chance or that the other chamber made clear it wouldn’t consider. Among them are the creation of an independent redistricting process and ratification of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Bills among the 1,650 filled by the Senate and House this year that propose actual spending or adjust taxes or fees aren’t subject to the deadline. That exception often provides an out for controversial or complicated measures to avoid the deadline.
A House bill that would have expanded the rights of gun owners was amended in the rules committee Wednesday night to add a $20,000 appropriation, thus sending the bill to the budget committee for review early next week.
The Republicans’ annual “regulatory reform” bill also avoided crossover when an approved House floor amendment repealed local property tax breaks for solar energy operations. A final floor vote is scheduled next week.
What’s the governor’s take?
Since the bills acted upon this week passed only one chamber, McCrory has less pressure upon him now to take an immediate stand on measures or let the legislative process work out.
“We’re still reviewing the details of probably over 200 bills,” he told reporters at a bill signing ceremony Thursday for legislation finalized last week. “I’ll probably be commenting on some of the bills up in the coming weeks.”
The governor said his administration has been providing “strong feedback on individual bills.” A primary sponsor of the abortion wait-period bill said last week she deleted a provision barring some public medical school workers from performing abortions after administration officials expressed concerns.
When the legislature reconvenes next week, the House is expected to work on the finishing touches to its two-year budget proposal, which the chamber’s Republican leaders want to pass before May 15. The Senate wants to focus on crafting a new economic incentives and tax package, Senate leader Phil Berger said. The goal remains to complete the year’s work in early summer.
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