NC lawmakers finishes year with voter ID, abortion

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 10:34 AM

North Carolina legislators spent Thursday in their annual mad dash to get long-discussed or never-seen proposals through the required votes before adjourning their session for the year.

The Senate gave final approval to a measure giving the state Department of Health and Human Services the authority to regulate abortion clinics with the same standards as outpatient surgical centers. Supporters said the tougher standards would make the procedure safer for women, while opponents said they're aimed at restricting the ability of women to decide by forcing clinics to close.

The House and Senate approved a Republican-backed measure that would require voters to present government-issued photo IDs at the polls and shortens early voting by a week. The measure also ends same-day voter registration and eliminates a popular high school civics program that registers thousands of students to vote in advance of their 18th birthday.

Both the abortion and voting measures go next to Gov. Pat McCrory.

An example of the end-of-session scramble was a collection of dozens of changes to rulemaking procedures, local government regulations, and assorted environmental and health requirements.

The House and Senate tentatively approved a version of the regulations rewrite bill negotiated between the House and Senate. Final votes were expected early Friday.

Stuffed into the legislation was a Senate-backed provision that rolls back safeguards adopted in 2007, when environmental groups and community activists were worried large landfills in eastern North Carolina would become homes for out-of-state refuse. Proposed landfills would no longer need to be a mile from state game lands. Garbage trucks would no longer need to be leak-proof, but leak resistant.

The merits of the landfill changes were never considered by the House, but should have been, said Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson.

"The bill is gonna pass," McGrady said. "It's been greased. It's an awful process."

The bill also would respond to the three carbon-monoxide deaths in a Boone motel this year by ordering hotels and motels to install battery-powered detectors by October until building codes can be updated to mandate hard-wired detectors.

Charlotte-area lawmakers tried to replace legislation adopted last week after a lawsuit and confusion that opponents had predicted came true. Legislators stripped Charlotte of the airport it has run for more than 70 years, only to have the move blocked by a judge hours later in response to a city lawsuit and to have the airport's longtime director ousted.

The state House tentatively voted to restore Charlotte Douglas International Airport to the city's ownership but leave day-to-day operations to a new commission including representatives from five surrounding counties.

Lawmakers said the fight over the country's sixth-busiest airport is an effort to please US Airways so that it will keep Charlotte as its largest flight hub after merging with American Airlines.

The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Raleigh for their 2014 session next May, unless they are called back into session in response to a McCrory veto.