Bills on guns, heathcare and unions filed as legislature returns

State lawmakers returned to Raleigh on Wednesday to begin in earnest their work for the 2013 legislative session, with a slew of bills filed covering such issues as gun ownership, health insurance and unionization.

As the GOP holds firm control of both chambers, and with a new Republican governor in office, the legislature seems poised to steer state government in a rightward direction.

Before each chamber gaveled in its respective session at noon, a series of proposed legislation had been filed, although it is unclear how many of the dozens of measures will find any traction this session. Among the bills filed are:

HB17 (Gun Permits/Restaurants & Confidentiality) – A measure to allow for concealed carry of handguns in restaurants serving alcohol – when permitted by establishment owners – along with making gun-permit information confidential. This latter provision comes after a New York newspaper caused a stir by publishing the names and addresses of gun owners in its area of distribution.

HB8 (Eminent Domain) – A proposed amendment to the N.C. Constitution stating that “private property shall not be taken by eminent domain except for a public use. Just compensation shall be paid and shall be determined by a jury at the request of any party.”

HB16 (No N.C. Exchange/No Medicaid Expansion) – Crafted in response to the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” this bill would have North Carolina refuse a state-run health insurance exchange or one managed jointly between the state and federal governments. The measure would also “reject the Affordable Care Act’s optional Medicaid expansion option.” An identical bill was filed in the Senate.

HB6 (N.C. Right to Work/Secret Ballot Amendments) – The proposal would place North Carolina’s already firm “right-to-work” laws into the N.C. Constitution, potentially making unionization more difficult in the state.

HB7 (Eugenics Compensation Program) – A measure to provide $50,000 in compensation for victims of state-sponsored eugenics, or forced sterilization, which occurred in North Carolina from 1933-1974. A similar bill passed in the House last session with broad bipartisan support, but was not taken up by the Senate. As was the case with the previous version of the measure, Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam (R-Wake) are primary sponsors, which may augur well for the bill’s passage this year.

HB9 (Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits) – The bill proposes a state constitutional amendment that would limit the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore to serving two terms in those positions. Speaker Tillis, who has pledged to step down after this session, is among the measure’s primary sponsors.

HB12 (Increase Retirement Age for Judges) – The bill would raise the mandatory retirement age for North Carolina judges from 72 to 75 years old.

HB5 (Temporary Funding Extension for Group Homes) – The measure would give financial assistance to group homes providing care to residents with mental disabilities after the homes lost Medicaid funds.

SB12 (Appoint Superintendent of Public Instruction) – A proposed amendment to the N.C. Constitution making the state superintendent of public instruction appointed by the governor, rather than being elected by state voters. At its filing, Sen. Jerry Tillman (R- Randolph) is the bill’s only sponsor.

The flurry of bill filing aside, Wednesday’s legislative sessions were relatively brief and uneventful themselves. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) announced that the Senate will be going paperless on Mar. 15, meaning no more reams of paper used to print and distribute bills to lawmakers. Instead, bills will be digitally accessed.

“On behalf of all the trees we’re saving, this is a good thing,” Apodaca said.

In a more peculiar moment, Apodaca reported that someone had removed furniture from a women’s restroom on the House side of the legislative building and he asked that it not happen again.

“We are trying to get the House members to learn how to use the restroom, and if they don’t have the proper things in there, it’ll be difficult,” Apodaca joked.

Full audio of Wednesday’s session in the House and Senate is available at VoterRadio.com/legislature.

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