Pricey Harrison

Friday, April 29, 2005

Bills That I Have Signed As A Primary Sponsor

HB 26 Greensboro Sit-in Anniversary
Honors those who participated in the sit-in movement that began in the City of
Greensboro on the 45th Anniversary of the movement
HB 322 County Board of Health Membership
Authorizes certain counties to expand county boards of health to include a
restaurant owner
HB 386 Presidential Electors by District
Provides for the election of two presidential electors at large and one from
each congressional district
HB 461 Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum/Funds
Appropriates funds for the Eliot Hall Restoration Project at Palmer Memorial Institute
HB 484 Greensboro Closing-out Sale
Permits the City of Greensboro to designate someone other than the city clerk
to issue closing-out sale licenses
HB 823 Restore John H. Race Administration Building/Funds
Appropriates funds for restoration of John H. Race Administration Building
HB 933 Honor Carolyn and Dorothy McNairy
Honors life and memory of former educators, Carolyn and Dorothy McNairy
HB 974 Prairie Ridge Ecostation Capital Funds
Appropriates funds to construct a residential facility at the Prairie Ridge
Ecostation for Wildlife and Learning
HB 1106 Lobbyist/Revolving Door
Establishes waiting period before certain state officers and employees may
lobby
HB 1134 Drinking Water Reservoir Protection Act
Directs Environmental Management Commission to study water quality in
the state's drinking water reservoirs, to develop and implement a nutrient
management strategy and to report to the Environmental Review Commission
on current rule making to implement a nutrient management strategy for
impaired reservoirs
HB 1176 Property Exempt From Enforcement Actions
Increases cap on property of a judgment debtor that is free of enforcement of
claims of creditors
HB 1193 Real-time Monitoring/Reservoirs & Blue Crabs
Appropriates funds to the UNC Board of Governors for projects that provide
real-time remote monitoring of drinking water reservoirs in western and
piedmont North Carolina and provide real-time remote monitoring of waters
and enhancement of Blue Crab Fishery in northeastern North Carolina
HB 1204 International Civil Rights Museum Funds
Appropriates funds for International Civil Rights Center and Museum
HB 1384 Expand Wade Program Funds
Appropriates funds to expand wastewater discharge elimination program
HB 1387 Fund Stream Mapping
Appropriates funds to implement recommendation of Geographic Information
Coordinating Council to improve mapping and digital representation of
surface waters in North Carolina
HB 1460 Low Emission Vehicles/Funds
Establishes the North Carolina low-emission vehicles program and sets up a
clean cars program similar to California's
HB 1479 Regulate Nutrient Trading Among Dischargers
Regulates allocation of discharge limits among individual dischargers or a
cooperative group of dischargers
HB 1523 Implement Coastal Habitat Protection Plan
Implements a provision of the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan by providing
greater flexibility in the use of funds from the Riparian Buffer Restoration
Fund

Bills I Have Introduced

In my newsletter last week(and post on 4-22), I listed the bills I have introduced this session and promised to list other bills I signed as a primary sponsor. The first group below lists those that I introduced and the second group lists those that I co-sponsored. In addition, I believe it might be helpful to provide brief, descriptive information on those that I sponsored.

DHB 217 Driving From/Leaving Scene of Accident/Stephen's Law (awaiting Senate action). This bill would make it unlawful to drive away from or otherwise leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident in certain circumstances and prohibits a passenger from allowing the vehicle to be removed from the scene of the accident without a law enforcement officer's consent. This bill is meant to correct the weakness in our hit and run law, which was exposed by the tragic death of Stephen Gates, a Greensboro native.

HB 496 Student Asthma Medications (passed House and Senate and signed by the governor this week). The bill requires local school boards to adopt policies permitting students diagnosed with asthma to possess and self-administer certain asthma or anaphylaxis medications. The student must demonstrate to school nurse or designee the skill level necessary to use the asthma medication, that parent or guardian provide school with a backup asthma medication, and that school keep information provided by parents or guardians in an accessible location. It further provides that no local board of education or its employees or volunteers will be liable for any omission relating to any act authorized by statute unless act constitutes gross negligence or was intentional. It also requires that the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Public Instruction, and other appropriate state agencies apply for available federal grants relating to treating, preventing, or training on children's asthma. The need for this bill was brought to my attention by a constituent, Cindy Moseley, whose children are asthmatic with severe allergies.

HB 594 ACC Hall of Champions. Appropriates $20 million for 2005-06 from General Fund to City of Greensboro to establish an Atlantic Coast Conference Hall of Champions in the city. This is a top priority of the Piedmont Triad Legislative Agenda.

HB 837 Funds for "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" School Competition. Appropriates $25,000 for 2005-06 and $25,000 for 2006-07 from General Fund to Department of Public Instruction to enable the State winner to travel to the national competition. The need for this bill was brought to my attention by a student from Northwest Guilford High School, Chase Rumley, who will be representing North Carolina in the national competition.

HB 1135 Environmental Enforcement Accountability Act. Directs the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to establish and maintain a list of chronic violators and a database of enforcement actions to further discourage violations relating to the environment. This would include a maximum civil penalty of $10,000 per occurrence. It would also prohibit the state from doing business with chronic violators.

HB 1295 New Motor Vehicles Warranties/Lemon Law. Clarifies the maximum weight of a motor vehicle that is subject to the New Motor Vehicles Warranties Act and would promote the expeditious settlement of claims when the consumer requests the manufacturer to repurchase the motor vehicle. It deletes the requirement that any vehicle refund made to the consumer be reduced by the amount attributable to the consumer's use of the vehicle after the consumer reports that the vehicle does not conform to warranty.

HB 1327 Criminal Record Checks/Psychology Practice Act. Allows the N. C. Department of Justice to conduct criminal history record checks from state and national repositories of criminal history of applicants for licensure. "Criminal history" is defined to include conviction of specified crimes, but conviction will not automatically bar licensure or reinstatement of license or result in revocation of license. Allows Board to consider convictions along with other specified factors. This legislation was requested by the North Carolina Psychology Board.

HB 1328 Pardon/Expunction of Record. Provides for the expunction of official records when a person is granted a pardon of innocence. The person involved would apply to the court in which he/she was convicted. The bill sets out the scope of the expunction order. I learned about the need for this bill in a conversation with Darryl Hunt, who still carries a first-degree murder conviction on his record despite his pardon of innocence.

HB 1510 Electioneering Communications. The bill would expand the prohibition on the use of corporate and union money (527s) in electioneering communications and related reporting requirements. Includes definition of electioneering communication to be a clearly identified candidate for state or local office from within a territory for an electorate having a total population of more 10,000 as of the most recent federal decennial census. Last year legislation was passed that would impose such requirements on legislative and statewide races. This bill simply adds local and judicial races.

HB 1511 Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. This legislation promotes the development of renewable energy in the state through implementation of a renewable energy portfolio standard. State policy would promote diversification of energy resources and private investment in renewable energy resources, including requiring the North Carolina Utilities Commission to initiate proceedings and adopt rules implementing these provisions. In addition, the Commission would track the use of electricity from renewable resources in the state and would report annually to state oversight committees on the percentage of electricity sold in the state from renewable sources. This is an effort to move away from fossil fuels. Twenty-two other states have such a requirement.

HB 1512 Coastal Hazards Disclosure. The bill provides for disclosure of coastal natural hazards to purchasers of coastal properties and is applicable to all properties designated as ocean hazard areas of environmental concern by the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC). The bill directs CRC to prepare disclosure forms and maintain current information and other relevant data for property that is subject to the Act. It applies to property sold or offered on or after July 1, 2006. While on the Coastal Resources Commission, we often heard of unwitting property owners who had no idea of the hazards associated with certain coastal property ownership, The bill simply encourages disclosing hazards when known.

HB 1531 Mercury Reduction and Education. The purpose of the bill is to reduce the quantity of mercury that is released into the environment, that impacts natural resources, and that harms the public health of the citizens of the state. The bill includes prohibitions and exemptions to the requirements for selling or distributing products containing mercury. Manufacturers would be required to notify retailers about these requirements and how to properly dispose of remaining inventory. It directs the Department of Administration to give priority and preference to purchasing products that contain no mercury-added compounds, prohibits schools from purchasing bulk elemental mercury compounds for use in teaching, and directs the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to develop education materials on the hazards cause by the release of mercury, and on proper disposal methods for mercury products. The state of Washington passed similar legislation last session.

Greetings From Raleigh 4-29-05

Most of the activity this week centered on the Senate's consideration of the budget and the lottery. The consensus is that the lottery will not pass the Senate floor on a stand alone vote, so the word is that the lottery will become part of the budget. Whether you are for or against the lottery, it is bad policy to put something of that magnitude into the budget without the opportunity for discussion or debate. It is questionable whether a budget containing a lottery will pass the House. The budget is also said to contain an increase in the tobacco tax (by 25 cents), an extension of the 1/2 cent sales tax, a possible phase out of the supplemental tax on the wealthiest North Carolinians, and a possible reduction in the corporate income tax. It still contains massive cuts to health and human services, but education seems to have been spared. The budget could be introduced as early as Monday.

As always, please stay in touch.

Cheers,

Pricey

Friday, April 22, 2005

Groups Meet With Legislators On Important Issues

This week numerous groups held legislative lobby days at the Legislative Building. Hundreds of advocates for long-term care for the elderly, the mentally ill, and others gathered at the Legislative Building for their biannual advocacy day. Members of the House Aging Committee also held a public hearing with the advocates. Several hundred people - including scores of children - also gathered on Halifax Mall beside the Legislative Building and the Education Building to show support for the Smart Start program. Supporters sang, marched, and lobbied legislators as part of their "Keep the Promise Day." Wednesday was "Equal Pay Day," and brought women and men from across the state to highlight the fact that women continue to earn less than men for the same jobs. The Guilford Delegation met with groups down for the Smart Start events and our public libraries' legislative lobby day.

Protecting Kids On The Internet

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has announced new resources for parents that will allow children to learn from the Internet while protecting them from online threats. To give North Carolina parents the tools they need to protect their children online, Cooper partnered with law enforcement and child safety experts including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to develop a video and resource guide for parents.
The video and guide, entitled "Internet Safety: What You Don't Know Can Hurt Your Child," are available to parents along with other resources at www.ncdoj.com under Internet Safety. The video and guide will also be available through local PTAs and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the YMCA, 4-H clubs and Boys and Girls Clubs.
Legislators are considering legislation, which would make it a felony for a predator to solicit anyone online that he or she believes to be a child, even if that person turns out to be an undercover officer posing as a child.

Message From House To Congress:Protect American Textile Products

The House approved a resolution urging a federal committee that oversees U.S. trade agreements to enact safeguards designed to protect American textile and apparel products from Chinese imports. There has been a surge in these imports since the World Trade Organization agreement allowed quotas on these products to expire Jan. 1, 2005. The resolution states that the temporary safeguards are needed because Chinese manufacturers are benefiting from artificially low prices due to "government subsidies, intellectual property piracy, tax rebates, and currency manipulation." The Bush administration last month announced it would begin monitoring textile imports more closely.

Protecting Kids From Violent Video Games

The Senate approved a bill this week that would ban the distribution or sale to children of video games and software determined to be graphically violent or sexually explicit. The bill would create certain thresholds that video games would have to exceed before they would be considered "harmful to minors" and be regulated under the proposal. Selling or disseminating these materials would be punishable by misdemeanor law. The bill passed despite argument from outside groups that the measure would be found unconstitutional.

Protecting Against Identity Theft

Lawmakers introduced legislation this week, which would put several important safeguards in place to provide better protection from identity theft for consumers. The "Identity Theft Protection Act," House Bill 1248, was sponsored by Reps. Bruce Goforth (D-Buncombe), Ronnie Sutton (D-Robeson), Minority Leader Joe Kiser (R-Lincoln), and Karen Ray (R-Iredell) and co-sponsored by more than 30 members from across the state, including me.

According to the North Carolina Department of Justice, approximately 286,000 North Carolinians are victims of stolen identity each year. A typical identity theft victim spends on average $800 and 175 hours over 23 months to clean up his or her credit and erase $18,000 in fraudulent charges. The national cost of identity theft annually is $55 billion, including billions of dollars in losses to businesses.

One useful tool available to consumers under this bill would be the right to place a security "freeze" on their credit reports. This would prohibit credit reporting agencies from releasing any information about the consumer to new creditors without the consumer's approval, making it difficult for an identity thief to open an account or obtain credit in another person's name.

Other safeguards in the bill include minimizing the use of Social Security numbers as identification numbers by businesses and restricting the sale of Social Security numbers. The measure would also prohibit the printing of Social Security numbers on materials mailed to an individual unless Federal or State law requires it and would require that businesses properly dispose of personal information that might put consumers at risk for identity theft. Finally, the bill requires a business to notify an individual of any security breach that may have put their personal information in jeopardy.

A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate and has the full support of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Renewing A Driver's License On The Internet

Motorists could renew their driver's licenses on the Internet and all applicants would start getting licenses by mail in a measure approved by a House transportation panel on Wednesday. DMV offices would issue a temporary driving certificate good for 10 days. The temporary certificate would not be valid as an identification card. The 10-day period also would give DMV officials a chance to determine whether a motorist is trying to generate a false identification or steal someone's identity. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Ronnie Sutton (D-Robeson), would give drivers between ages 18 and 38 licenses good for eight-year terms, up from the current five. Drivers between ages 25 and 59 could renew on the Internet for an additional five years before having to return to a local DMV office. This would result in a maximum 13-year wait between in-person visits. The measure now goes to the House Appropriations committee.

Tuition Proposal For Immigrant Children

House Bill 1183 would allow children of illegal immigrants to compete for entry into the public universities and community colleges of our state and be eligible for in-state tuition if they have attended schools in North Carolina for at least four consecutive years before graduation and met the standards required of all applicants. In addition, the prospective student would have to apply for legal immigration status to receive the in-state tuition rate.

Supported by our former governor, Jim Hunt, the primary sponsors are Reps. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), Paul Luebke (D-Durham), John Sauls (R-Lee), and Jeff Barnhard (R-Cabarrus). I am a co-sponsor.

North Carolina is one of several states considering such legislation. Nine others have already passed it, including California, New York, Utah, Kansas, and Washington. Advocates of the legislation say the bill is a logical extension of the state's existing responsibility to educate undocumented residents through high school.

Supporters of the bill highlighted the long-term benefit of educating all students in our state and said they expect from 400 to 1,300 students would take advantage of the legislation annually, while critics say it takes resources away from legal residents and encourages illegal immigration.

Lobbying Reform

The House is preparing to take up legislation recently passed by the Senate, which would tighten restrictions on how much lobbyists can spend on legislators and executive branch officials to influence government action. The bill seeks to restrict lobbyist spending to $100 a year per individual legislator or person lobbied within state government. The measure also would eliminate a reporting loophole in which lobbyists can spend unlimited amounts on legislators for meals and entertainment and not report it to state regulators as long as specific legislation isn't discussed. The bill also would bar legislators who resign their seats from returning to the General Assembly as lobbyists within the two-year session to which they were elected.

Two former governors, Democrat Jim Hunt and Republican Jim Martin, are pushing reforms of North Carolina's lobbying rules and have said that disclosure, not a ban on gifts to legislators, is the best way to discourage influence peddling.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, sponsored the Senate bill. Reps. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, Deborah Ross, D-Wake, and Grier Martin, D-Wake introduced a similar bill, House Bill 6, in the House. These two bills, in addition to House Bill 1106 - which I co-sponsored, and would require lawmakers, Council of State members, and eleven state department heads to wait one year after leaving their positions before becoming lobbyists - are now before the House Judiciary I Committee.

Lottery

The newly created Senate committee on the lottery held its first meeting on Wednesday. The meeting occurred two weeks after the House passed a lottery bill in a historic 61-59 vote. The committee chairman, Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said the bill probably would be altered from its current form. Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg has said that any change to the bill in the Senate could break the fragile House coalition that passed it the first time. Senator Rand said the committee likely will meet again next week and added that he doesn't expect a vote until next month. Rumors abound that the lottery may come back to the House with a tobacco tax added, or quite possibly, may become part of the budget proposal.

Budget Update

House and Senate budget writers continue to focus on ways to meet the state's growing needs while facing an expected $1.2 to $1.5 billion budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

Our state expenses continue to grow due to the more than 100,000 new people who move to North Carolina each year, which will increase the student population, health care costs, improvements and new construction on roads and highways, and other vital state programs. For example, our K-12 schools, universities, and community colleges expect an increase in enrollment of more than 35,000 new students next year at an additional cost of more than $200 million. The number of low-income citizens also increases each year. Thus Medicaid, which provides health care for qualified citizens, could need an additional $210 million next year.

Budget-writers for education laid out some painful reductions in a draft-spending proposal for the public schools, universities, and community colleges. The draft assumes no new taxes or extending ones that are about to expire. The education reductions proposed in committee would require UNC system campuses to eliminate 348 filled positions and another 407 vacancies as part of $30.5 million in reductions. In the public schools, legislators recommended nearly $94 million in reductions in part by cutting spending for teacher assistants for the third grade and by hiring a seventh-grade teacher for every 22 students instead of the current 21. At the community colleges, tuition would rise by 4 percent.

Members of the Appropriations Committees are currently looking for efficiencies, but many difficult choices lie ahead. I remain committed to adequately funding education, health and human services, transportation, public safety, and efforts to further strengthen our economy and create jobs.

Greetings From Raleigh

This busy week saw the deadline for introducing public bills pass in the House as the total number of bills reached 1,558. We expect several dozen more dealing with finance and appropriations issues before the deadline for those passes on May 11. While members introduced and debated many bills, topics that dominated our thoughts included the budget, the lottery proposal, lobbying reforms, and a proposal to allow children of illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at our state-supported universities.

Yesterday was special for me because House Bill 496, "Student Asthma Medications", which I introduced several weeks ago, was passed by the Senate (after being passed by the House a few weeks ago) and will go to Governor Easley for his signature. The policy that this bill mandates - allowing students to carry and self-medicate life-saving medicine - will be effective with the 2005-2006 school year. I am grateful to Ms. Cindy Moseley for her assistance in getting this legislation adopted. She is a Greensboro resident and a constituent whose two young children will now have ready access to their medications while in public school.

Following is a list of bills I have introduced this session. In addition to these, I have signed on as a primary sponsor and/or co-sponsor on dozens of other bills. In my next newsletter, I will list those.

HB 217 Driving From/Leaving Scene of Accident (awaiting Senate consideration)
HB 496 Student Asthma Medications (passed House and Senate)
HB 594 ACC Hall of Champions Funds
HB 837 Funds for "We the People" School Competition
HB 1135 Environmental Enforcement Accountability Act
HB 1295 New Motor Vehicles Warranties/Lemon Law
HB 1327 Criminal Record Checks/Psychology Practice Act
HB 1328 Pardon/Expunction of Record
HB 1510 Electioneering Communications
HB 1511 Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard
HB 1512 Coastal Hazards Disclosure
HB 1531 Mercury Reduction and Education

As always, I would like to hear from you if you have comments or concerns.

Cheers,

Pricey