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Government Relations Update

Posted | by Angie D. Harris Angie D. Harris

Voter ID

Last week the House approved a bill that would require North Carolina residents to show identification at every election held after January 2016. The bill known as Voter Information Verification Act or "VIVA" passed 81-36. Acceptable forms of IDs include: various state-issued IDs, public university IDs (private university IDs would not qualify) and state employee IDs . For voters over 70, the photo ID that was valid at the time they were 70 would be accepted. The bill allows for a free photo ID for anyone who needs an ID. This is estimated to cost the state less than $1 million to provide. It is also estimated the state would have to spend another $2.5 million on educating voters about the new requirement. VIVA is now awaiting a hearing in the Senate.

Renewable Energy

A bill that would repeal North Carolina's renewable energy requirements was rejected by the House Public Utilities and Energy Committee on Wednesday, April 24. Rep. Mike Hager is the primary sponsor of HB 298: Affordable and Reliable Energy Act. Rep. Hager is the chairman of the House Public Utilities and Energy Committee. The committee heard from solar development firms, environmental groups and Prestage Farms speaking in opposition to the bill. The final vote count was 18-13, with three top GOP leaders Rep. Ruth Samuelson, Rep. Nelson Dollar, and Rep. Tim Moore voting against the bill.

Regulatory Reform

The Senate Commerce committee passed SB 612: Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 last week. The proposed legislation includes a number of rollbacks to environmental rules and regulations. In this bill, cities and counties would have to repeal any rules stricter than state or federal law. In addition, the following environmental oversight boards and agencies must repeal or rewrite any state rule stricter than federal regulation on any given matter: Mining and Energy Commission, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Environmental Management Commission, the Commission for Public Health, the Pesticide Board and the Coastal Resources, Marine Fisheries, Wildlife Resources and Sedimentation Control Commission. SB 612 would also do away with riparian buffers on private property throughout the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins. The proposed legislation would permit demolition crews, including those working on old power plants, to dispose of materials on site rather than transporting them to a landfill. The bill is now on to the Senate floor for approval.

Boards and Commissions

SB 10: Government Reorganization and Efficiency Act has been in conference committee for over a month with the House and Senate trying to reach an agreement. SB 10 resurfaced last Thursday in what appeared to be a compromise between the chambers until the Governor raised concerns that two of his pending Special Superior Court judges appointments would be affected. The compromise bill would dismiss immediately or soon all current members of the Environmental Management commission, Industrial Commission and Lottery Commission and direct the governor and legislative leaders to appoint new members. In addition, the bill would reduce the size of the Utilities Commission from seven to five members in 2015. In response to the Governor's office, the House unanimously voted to reject the bill while the Senate voted and passed the final bill. The measure is not dead however. The same conference committee could draft a new report on the bill or the two chambers could appoint new conferees. The fate of SB 10 is unclear.

This post is not intended to give, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. No action should be taken in reliance upon the information contained in this post without obtaining the advice of an attorney. If you have questions concerning this post, please contact Angie D. Harris, Director of Media and Government Relations at adharris@wardandsmith.com or 919.277.9163.

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