As the battle over ObamaCare and the budget continues, the debates over charter schools, terminal groins, and environmental regulations are just warming up. Also on the agenda for this week is a bill placing term limits on the speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate and a separate measure requiring voters to present valid ID when they cast ballots.
Health care and spending
Last week the Republicans made it clear they are not giving up on two bills the governor rejected. A second vote to override Perdue’s veto of House Bill 2, Protect Healthcare Freedom, could be taken as early as next week, although Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, has the right to schedule it at any time before the 2011 session ends.
Perdue’s veto of Senate Bill 13, the Balanced Budget Act of 2011, was overridden in the Senate last week. The House did not override the veto, as Republicans lack a three-fifths majority by four votes. However, Tillis said Republicans will move to reconsider all override votes, hoping by the time the second vote comes around they can change four of the Democrats’ minds or that four Democrats might be absent for one or more days of the session.
House Committee on Education is scheduled to vote Tuesday on Senate Bill 8, No Cap on Charter Schools. The bill removes the state’s cap on charter schools, now set at 100, increases charter school funding to levels closer to traditional public school funding, and establishes a Charter School Commission that would operate somewhat independently of the State Board of Education.
The bill already has passed the Senate and has to make it through one more House committee and the full House before it heads to the governor’s office, where it may be vetoed.
Senate Bill 110, Permit Terminal Groins, is up for its third reading on the Senate floor Monday night. The bill would repeal the state’s 25-year ban on coastal erosion control structures, similar to jetties, called groins. Debate is brewing over who would pay for the multimillion-dollar structures and their maintenance, which could cost $2 million a year per structure. There also is disagreement about whether the structures could cause worse erosion on neighboring beaches.
The state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard law requires utilities to derive a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. If a utility cannot generate enough of its own renewable energy, it can meet the requirement in part by increasing energy efficiency or by purchasing power or credits from another renewable energy facility.
Senate Bill 75, Promote Electricity Demand Reduction, offers utility companies a fifth option for fulfilling this requirement — reducing consumer demand. Utilities would have to convince their customers to install two-way communications devices that would that would measure real-time electricity use and would give both the utility and the customer access to the controls. The Senate Commerce Committee will take up the bill Tuesday.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources will hear Senate Bill 308, State Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Tuesday. The bill provides that the state’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions shall be no more stringent than any federal regulation.
Together with Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, is sponsoring a bill that would limit his own time in office. House Bill 61, Speaker/ Pro Tem Term Limits, states that no one may serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives or President Pro Tempore of the Senate for more than two sessions. House Judiciary Subcommittee A will hear the bill Wednesday.
Supporters of the bill say it would prevent fraud and protect the integrity of elections. Opponents fear it could depress turnout and might disenfranchise some voters. The House Elections Committee will hold a meeting soliciting public input Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Sara Burrows is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.