Long night for NC lawmakers in push to end session this week

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina lawmakers went back to work Monday, trying to hammer out enough differences between themselves and even with Gov. Pat McCrory so they can end this year’s legislative session sometime this week.

Both the Senate and House held floor debates well into the evening to debate and vote on several bills.

Here’s a look at what happened on the march toward adjournment, possibly Tuesday or Wednesday:

FETAL TISSUE

Legislators agreed to make it illegal to sell the remains of aborted fetuses in the state.

The state House gave final approval to the measure 79-29, less than a week after the idea surfaced in a Senate committee and got that chamber’s approval.

The legislation now heading to McCrory’s desk is a response to videos by a group showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they provide aborted fetal organs for research. Planned Parenthood says the videos were edited and misleading. Planned Parenthood in North Carolina says it has never donated fetal tissue, let alone sold it. Selling fetal tissue would violate federal law.

A provision also would permanently ban giving state funds aimed at family planning, pregnancy prevention, or other similar programs to groups that perform abortions. Planned Parenthood programs aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies in Fayetteville and Wilmington receive $135,000.

AUTISM COVERAGE

A bill requiring health insurance plans to cover treatments for people diagnosed with autism disorders finally went to the House floor and got approved by a wide margin after being stuck in a House committee for three months.

The measure does allow insurers to halt coverage at age 18 and set a coverage ceiling of $40,000 per year. A floor amendment tweaked the Senate bill, which had been negotiated by several advocacy groups and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. So it’s unclear if those groups now remain on board. That measure now must return to the Senate.

ASPHALT PLANTS

The House Rules Committee on Monday night rejected a measure that would have blocked the state permitting of new asphalt plants within 2 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan said the bill was a response to a pair of proposed plants in Ashe and Watauga counties, which he represents. He said emissions coming from the operations could harm air quality and the economic benefits the Parkway to western North Carolina.

Two speakers spoke against the bill, including the operators of a Watauga County quarry that wants to expand to include asphalt production.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

In a close vote, the Senate agreed to count more categories of local public school district funds among those that must be shared with charter schools on a per-pupil basis.

Districts already must move funds from their “local current expense fund” to a charter school when a district student transfers to the school. The bill also says per-pupil portions of supplemental tax revenues generated for school district operations must be transferred to a charter school even if the school is outside the supplement tax district.

One amendment that was defeated would have prevented charter schools from receiving a portion of certain costs associated with federal child nutrition programs. The bill was approved 25-19 and now returns to the House.

LIGHT RAIL

The House gave final approval to a tax cleanup bill, but not before passing an amendment to remove a provision in the state budget law approved earlier this month that had capped state funding on light rail transit projects at $500,000. The provision appeared to have put a Durham-Chapel Hill rail project in jeopardy. The bill now returns to the Senate.

UNC PRESIDENT

An approved amendment from Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, to a bill placing tighter term limits on University of North Carolina Board of Governors members would require the board to make more public its current search for a system president.

The amendment would require that the names of the three finalists and their credentials be made public at least two weeks before the board selects a president. There would have to be at least one public board meeting to discuss the finalists, and the candidate would need the votes of a majority of board members to get the job.

A search committee is currently considering a successor to President Tom Ross.

The bill still needs additional House and Senate votes to get final General Assembly approval.

 

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