Thursday’s action in the legislature

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Associated Press
SMOKING BAN: Lawmakers and health advocates are renewing their push to ban smoking in nearly all restaurants and bars, public places and indoor work sites. They held a news conference to talk up the measure, saying workers and patrons deserve to have a smoke-free environment and that the changes would help reduce tobacco-related health care costs. The full House rejected broad smoking bans in 2005 and 2007. Cigarette companies and other groups remain opposed to the restrictions. Lorillard Tobacco Co. lobbyist Michael Shannon said the bill “fails to acknowledge that the state has recognized that cigarettes are a legal product” and that restaurants should be allowed to choose whether to be smoke-free.
BACK TAXES: New Rep. Darrell McCormick, R-Yadkin, said he’s working to resolve allegations he owes more than $88,000 in back taxes to the federal and state government. McCormick said he self-reported his tax problems last year before his general election race with Democrat Ric Marshall in the 92nd House District. He said the tax issues revolve around much money generated from his commercial real estate business should be reported as individual income on his personal tax returns.
NO DOUGH OPTION: New Treasurer Janet Cowell backed legislation that would add her job to top statewide positions that could opt for taxpayer-financed campaign funding. She and bill sponsor Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, admitted approving the cost of public financing for another statewide office was unlikely at a time budget shortfalls could reach $2 billion in the year ending in June, and a further $3 billion next year. Then again, the next elections for Council of State offices are nearly four years away, Berger said.
EUGENICS COMPENSATION: The state would give $20,000 to victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program of the mid-20th century in legislation filed in the House. The eugenics program sterilized about 7,600 people between 1929 and 1975 who were considered to be mentally handicapped or genetically inferior. A House legislative panel studying the matter recommended the reparations last month. The bill would set aside more than $18 million to carry out the compensation program. Another bill would provide counseling to survivors.
Wednesday’s scorecard :Introduced in the House:
ó H8, to make it a felony crime to furnish a prison inmate with a mobile phone. Sponsor: Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland.
ó H9, to ban text messaging on mobile phones while driving. Sponsor: Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland.
ó H23, to double the penalty to $500 for a first violation of child labor laws, and penalize each further violation with a fine of up to $1,000. Several sponsors.
Introduced in the Senate:
ó S12, to make it unlawful for motorists to use cell phones while driving to both make calls and text messaging. Sponsor: Sen. Charlie Dannelly, D-Mecklenburg.
ó S14, to strip the Labor Department of its powers, money and duties to regulate workplace safety conditions and hand them over to a newly created Employment Safety and Security Commission in the Commerce Department. Bill sponsor Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, ran against and lost to current Labor Secretary Cherie Berry in 2000.
ó S15, would cut off the daily stipend paid to lawmakers after 135 days in legislative sessions in odd-numbered years, and after 60 days in even-numbered years. Sponsor: Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.
ó S19, to ban text messaging on mobile phones while driving. Sponsor: Sen. Steve Goss, D-Watauga.
ó S17, to spend $44 million to pay public schoolteachers fully for pro-rated bonuses they received for the 2007-08 school year due to a lack of funds. Sponsor: Sen. Steve Goss, D-Watauga.
Around the statehouse:ó The Legislative Building was signficantly quieter compared to Wednesday’s opening-day session. The House and Senate held short daily floor meetings that were completed by 11:30 a.m.
On the agenda:ó The House and Senate don’t return to the Legislature until Monday, when they’ll hold their traditional evening sessions. The General Assembly usually doesn’t meet on Fridays.
Overheard:”Getting to know each other is a critical part of doing our work. Getting organized carefully (with) the right people the right places is a critical part of our work. So I think so to indicate otherwise is to reflect not a good understanding of the legislative process.”
ó House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, attempting to respond to criticism in years past that little work is accomplished the first few weeks after opening the session. Hackney said upcoming state government briefings also will help lawmakers prepare for this year’s session.
By Gary D. Robertson and Emery P. Dalesio.