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Slow Start Or Warming Up? What's Up With NC's General Assembly?

NC General Assembly
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Morning Edition Host Marshall Terry and reporter Tom Bullock talk about the pace of the General Assembly so far.

On Monday, North Carolina’s General Assembly will begin another week of work.

The long session was gaveled in last month – but so far lawmakers have yet to cast a single vote on a single bill.

So are they off to a slow start? Or just getting warmed up?

Marshall Terry: So December saw a flurry of special sessions and controversial bills, but since then there’s not been much.

Tom Bullock: If you want to know how slow it was think of the pages – not legislation but the high school students who volunteer for a week at the General Assembly.

Here’s how they were thanked on the North Carolina House floor last week.

"Pages have been here with us all week and we’ve had very little for them to see and do but hopefully you’ve learned something and you can tell your friends and they can come back."

TB: But that doesn’t mean work isn’t being done.

Thirty-eight bills have been introduced in the House. That’s more than were introduced by this point in the last two sessions. It’s a bit slower in the Senate, where 30 bills have been submitted. But that’s double the number introduced by now in 2015.

MT:  What are some of the interesting bills in the mix?

NC General Assembly
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TB: One would add information on how to act when you’re pulled over by police to drivers training programs.

Another would let restaurants run outdoor grills. Current law requires fume hoods be used over all commercial grills.

Others would change the rules on eminent domain and make it possible for the state to force the sale of property only for public purpose, and not as a tool for private development.

And yes, there is a bill that would unconditionally repeal HB 2, introduced by Democratic senators including Joyce Waddell and Jeff Jackson of Mecklenburg County.  

But that measure would need Republicans on board to even make it to committee, let alone be passed.

And though Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger has said that it’s possible for some arrangements to be made – he also said it would take compromise on both sides to get the deal done.

MT:  So when will we see the first votes on bills cast?

TB: It looks like this week actually.

It’s a bill that would shrink the size of the UNC Board of Governors from 32 voting members to 24. This would be phased in over three years and the thinking is the board is just too large and unwieldy.

UNC System President Margaret Spellings has said she supports the legislation and that it would make the board more efficient at making decisions.

That bill is expected in a house education committee on Tuesday and could be voted on by the full House on Wednesday.

Copyright 2017 WFAE

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.