NCGA Week in Review: July 1st – 3rd

July 3, 2013

Pardon Our Dust

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While the state House held skeleton sessions this week, the state Senate stayed busy, passing several dozen pieces of legislation through their chamber, including a few major bills, before recessing for the Independence Day weekend. The House plans to reconvene after the holiday weekend for a substantive session on Monday, July 8th. The Senate will hold skeleton sessions on Sunday and Monday, before convening for a substantive session Tuesday, July 9th.

On Wednesday morning the Senate gave approval to the latest edition of House Bill 998, the Tax Reduction Act. The latest edition, which was released on Monday, was described by President Pro Tempore Phil Berger to be more of a compromise with the House, than the Senate’s previous edition of the plan. One amendment was rolled into the legislation before the final approval, which expanded the one-year cap on North Carolina’s gas tax to two years.
HB 998 will now go to the House for concurrence before heading to the Governor’s desk. Without the House formally meeting this week, however, it is unclear how the House leaders will react to the latest edition. If the House decides to make changes to the bill as it stands now, it is likely that HB 998 will go into conference, so that House and Senate leaders can hammer out their differences on the tax plan.
After several tweaks, House Bill 94, Amend Environmental Laws 2013, passed the Senate chamber on Wednesday morning. A major part of the legislation will allow companies to withhold the exact chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process if they are considered to be confidential or a trade secret. Senators approved the legislation 35-11 after an amendment passed that would allow for the Mining and Energy Commission to develop rules for a public online registry that will display information about the fluid chemicals that drillers pump into the ground during the hydraulic fracturing process. Senator Brent Jackson, the primary sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, stated that this bill will allow for the public to see the actual ingredients used in the hydraulic fracturing process, but will protect the “recipe” that companies use during the process if it is confidential or a trade secret.
Other sections of the legislation would make changes to numerous environmental and natural resource laws, including laws on air quality permits, groundwater quality standards, erosion control penalties, and private drinking water wells. The bill would also direct the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to study the continued need for vehicle emissions inspections in North Carolina.
On Tuesday evening, Senators added a rewrite of parts of North Carolina’s abortion laws to House Bill 695, originally a bill focused on prohibiting the use of foreign law in the state’s family courts.
The new version of the bill, Family, Faith, Freedom Protection Act, adds several provisions dealing with abortion laws.
          Allows any health care provider to refuse to participate in an abortion procedure on the objection of moral, ethical, or religious grounds. Current law only provides this protection to doctors and nurses.
          Outlaws abortion coverage in plans that will be offered through the Exchange under the Affordable Care Act. The bill also prohibits local government health insurance plans to provide coverage greater than what is provided in the state employee plan. This section will not apply to an abortion performed in the result of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is endangered.
          Prohibits sex-selective abortions.
          Requires a physician to be physically present during the entire abortion procedure, to ensure safety and prompt medical attention from any complications that may arise during the procedure.
          Requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards of ambulatory surgical centers.
Opponents of the newly proposed legislation say the language has not been properly vetted by the public, as the bill became public in committee on Tuesday evening, and was immediately brought to the floor for consideration right after the committee meeting. Opponents also say the legislation will restrict the health care rights of women. Proponents of the legislation say that it does not prohibit a woman’s right to choice, but rather guarantees better safety and medical standards during an abortion procedure.
Please contact the Raleigh McGuireWoods Consulting team if you have any questions or comments:
Harry Kaplan, Senior Vice-President
Jeff Barnhart, Senior Vice-President
Franklin Freeman, Senior Vice-President
John Merritt, Senior Vice-President
Johnny Tillett, Senior Vice-President
Rita Harris, Vice-President


Bo Heath, Vice-President
Kerri Burke, Assistant Vice-President
Sarah Wolfe, Research Assistant
Katy Feinberg, Strategic Communications