House Bill 205, which I introduced with Rep. George Cleveland, would repeal the in-state tuition provision for out-of-state athletes which had been slipped into the 2005 budget. Taxpayers will be subsidizing UNC system booster clubs with $8 million in 2008 as a result of the provision, and the cost will continue to increase. The bill was approved overwhelmingly by the House and may be considered by the Senate in the short session.
House Bill 1889, which I introduced with Representatives Brubaker, Gibson, and Hill, would remove a disincentive for conservation that exists in the present use value system. Under current law, if a property owner takes a tract of land out of cultivation and turns it over to wildlife or conservation management, he or she must pay a large tax penalty. This bill creates a new category of present use value for such instances, and was approved overwhelmingly by the House at the end of session, despite opposition from the counties, Farm Bureau, and the Forestry Association. I was proud of my colleagues for recognizing this problem and supporting this bill that we have been working on for over 5 years.
Gun issues saw little momentum this session. Two important bills that passed the House appear mired in the Senate, and we were not able to make any progress on setting up a data base to avoid the type of situation that arose with the tragic Virginia Tech shooting. House Bill 1287, sponsored by Representatives Jeffus, Sutton, and me, would have allowed for sharing of information among Sheriffs’ departments when an individual has been turned down for a gun permit. House Bill 1847 would have required reporting of lost or stolen guns to reduce illegal gun trafficking. The gun lobby appears to have effectively stopped both of those important bills in the Senate. Representatives Glazier, Weiss, and I will continue to work on the data base issue for involuntary commitments to prohibit access to gun purchases. There will be grant money available as a result of federal legislation inspired by the Virginia Tech tragedy. The NRA has supported the federal bill, so we hope to avoid that opposition at the state level.
Two bad environmental bills are still alive. Senate Bill 150 would permit additional tree removal around bill boards. The bill passed the Senate, but doesn't appear to have any momentum for House action. Another troubling environmental bill, Senate Bill 599, which would allow Figure 8 Island to construction a terminal groin at the north end of the island in contravention of our 20- year-old ban on hardened structures on our beaches, also appears to have little momentum in the House.
House Bill 1587 which would have effectively prohibited local governments from offering broadband and wireless services was turned into a study bill, and should be alive in the short session. This bill was actively opposed by all consumer interests as well as those representing local governments.
There are other bills relating to the death penalty, school bullying, comprehensive sex education, gay marriage, eminent domain, and others, that will still be alive during the short session.
We anticipate continuing the newsletter during the interim, although it will be shorter and perhaps less frequent. We continue to encourage you to keep in touch with our office with your concerns and questions during the interim as well as when the Legislature is in session.Cheers,