Legislators Deal With Voting Bills
State lawmakers were wrapping up final details Friday and making plans for a rare Saturday session in preparation for a monthlong recess.
They will return July 17 to consider redistricting.
Rep. Jamie Boles said that the House was in session past midnight Thursday, with plans to deal with a series of bills ranging from sweeping election changes to a municipal annexation law.
Both legislative chambers approved a law requiring voters to show photo identification in order to vote. However, the bill is opposed by Democrats, and Gov. Beverly Perdue is expected to veto the measure, putting her again at odds with the Republican majority in both houses.
“We’ve sent the voter ID bill to the governor,” Boles said Friday morning. “We’re just waiting for her to sign or veto.”
Sen. Harris Blake predicted that the Senate would meet until just past midnight Friday in order to comply with two-day voting requirements on a few remaining bills and also to cover ceremonial procedures preparatory for a recess.
The House returned for a 2 p.m. session Friday.
Boles said that a number of Democrats would be absent Friday because of a major party fundraising event, and the two parties had reached “a gentleman’s agreement” not to take any controversial votes during that period.
The voter identification bill is one in a series of election-related measures introduced by Republicans, who control both legislative houses for the first time in more than a century.
The House was scheduled to tackle Senate Bill 47 Friday. This bill is a comprehensive measure encompassing a series of voting changes that the House approved as separate bills.
As a combined bill, SB 47 may not attract such widespread approval in the House and thus it may be more difficult for the GOP to garner a sufficient number of votes to override a veto.
“I don’t support all the provisions,” Boles said of the Senate bill revamping several House bills. “Not everybody’s happy with everything. There are some accountability issues.”
Blake was among several co-sponsors of the original Senate bill, titled when introduced as an act “to restore partisan judicial elections.” It was later enlarged and renamed an act “to amend election administration laws, campaign laws and other changes.”
SB 47, opposed by the Democrats, reduces the early voting period by one week, bans Sunday voting, eliminates same-day registration, eliminates straight-ticket voting and returns judicial races to partisan status.
The bill would also make it a crime to compensate people working on voter registration drives and would allow unlimited corporate donations to political parties to finance party operations. It has also drawn strong criticism by the state NAACP.
Blake said bills addressing issues related to the drilling for natural gas have passed both houses.
The companion bills were introduced after it was determined that a trove of natural gas lies beneath Moore, Lee and Chatham counties. The Moore County area is in the northern tip.
The two bills are not identical, but Blake said they work well together, dealing with job and energy opportunities as well as calling for a study of the horizontal drilling method of extracting natural gas, a controversial method known as “fracking.” The bill provides an appropriation of $100,000 to pay for the study, which is included in the state budget.
“We needed that House bill to go with our (Senate) bill,” Blake said. “I’m really pleased that we got both bills passed.”
Blake said the Senate bill that passed is not the same bipartisan measure that he co-sponsored but said he was satisfied that it covers the issues of concern.
In addition to the study of “fracking,” he said the two bills cover procedures for payment of royalties by companies to property owners, a form of protection for property owners.
“Fracking” is opposed by environmentalists who charge that it endangers the water table, although some scientists say that it is the only way to extract natural gas trapped within rock formations, such as those lying underneath the ground in areas of North Carolina.
Although attention has focused largely on controversial issues drawing sharp partisan division, Boles said most bills have passed with bipartisan support, several on unanimous votes.
Among the bills of interest across the state is the annexation reform bill, which has been amended from its original form and is expected to secure the governor’s signature. During the late-night Thursday session, the House combined the de-annexation of eight or nine municipalities into one bill as part of an overall reform bill.
Of local interest is a bill that rewrites the estate and probate law. This bill, all 104 pages of it, would bring North Carolina in line with similar laws in other states.
Boles said the estate and probate changes have been sought by just about everyone in the legislature.
“That’s not anything controversial,” he said.
Overall, Boles said this has been an interesting session, especially from the standpoint of a Republican serving in the majority party for the first time.
One major difference, Boles said, is that he knows more about what’s going on than he did when Democrats were in control.
“We’ve also killed some very bad bills,” he said in an observation about both parties.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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