Legislators passed the first bill of the short legislative on Thursday. What was so urgent and sorely needed by our state that both sides of the aisle came together to make sure it moved quickly? Why, honoring NASCAR and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees, of course!
Another item the General Assembly took quick action on was getting rid of those meddling Moral Monday protesters. The Legislative Services Commission, a committee of eight Republicans and two Democrats that hasn't met since 1999, came together and quickly passed new rules limiting protests at the legislative building. Such groups must now reserve space ahead of time at the building's main entrance, and groups expecting over 200 people will not be granted a reservation. Additionally, anyone who "disturbs" legislators via noises, mean signs or really anything else a lawmaker considers unpleasant (the rules leave it up to their discretion) will be forced to leave the building. And just as well. I'm not sure what these protesters ever thought gave them the right to assemble there in the first place. Incidentally, there were no rules written to limit lobbyist access to the legislature.
A package of tax changes that emerged from committee will be considered next week. It contains a proposed e-cigarette tax of five cent per millimeter of vapor oil. It also puts a $100 cap on privilege license taxes that city governments charge businesses, which opponents say will create severe budget deficits in many cities and force major property tax increases to make up the difference.
In a blow to corporate welfare, a section of the bill that would've given a $25 million tax break to multi-state corporations was removed, causing Mecklenburg County's Sen. Bob Rucho, who championed the break, to angrily storm out of the committee room.
Among bills filed yesterday were two for stronger accountability for charter schools. HB1084 calls for special rules to be made for charter schools serving a 30 percent or higher population of students with disabilities HB1085 proposes the seemingly basic rule that charter school board members undergo a criminal background check, and that new charters be physically visited and evaluated by the State Board of Education within the first three years of operation.
HB1099 proposes regulations on drone usage that have been long awaited by privacy advocates and the ACLU. It would prohibit the use of drones for purposes of surveillance, except for public events and cases in which law enforcement first obtained a warrant, or are using them to prevent terrorism, of course (see: Occupy, Anonymous).
Lawmakers will return to Raleigh on Monday. After these two days of hard work passing that NASCAR bill, they totally deserve a long weekend.