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Local legislators get to work introducing bills in General Assembly

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As the legislative session chugs along, local lawmakers have filed or are sponsoring more than a dozen bills that range from health care and domestic violence statutes the concealed carry and immigration.

A few local bills address requests from Stanly County, while another provides millions in funding to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.

The Post spoke to local lawmakers to discuss bills they’ve already filed or are sponsoring, as well as bills they plan to file within the coming weeks.

Rep. Wayne Sasser, R-67

To date, Sasser, a Republican, has filed two bills, but is working on a handful of others. Both bills he’s filed are local economic development bills that apply to the town of Norwood in Stanly County. One would remove the cap on satellite annexations for the town, while another calls for a waiver on additional connections to a bond-funded water line in anticipation of a large development in Norwood.

The biggest bill he’s yet to file, one he anticipates will be controversial, will be a redraft of House Bill 534, which died before making it through the House during the 2019-20 legislative session. That bill aimed to protect independent pharmacies from losing money due to the little negotiation power they have over pharmacy benefit managers — the controversial middlemen that manage prescription drug benefits for health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans and large employers. A U.S. Supreme Court unanimous ruling from December now allows states to more aggressively regulate and protect against abusive payment practices from pharmacy benefit managers.

Sasser is the general assembly’s only pharmacist.

Before the bill died, it would’ve applied to only 30% of insurance claims in the state due to the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 that prevents state pharmacy laws from overriding federal law. But with the recent Supreme Court ruling, a modified bill could help up to 80% of the state’s claims, with the only exception being Medicare Part D drug plans.

One bill he plans to file would allow organ donors to sign up for organ donation on a permanent basis rather than each time they have to renew something at their local DMV. Another would allow patients to visit pharmacists rather than clinics or doctor’s offices to receive long-acting injections such as birth control, psychotic medication and substance abuse disorder medication. Patients, however, would have to have received their first injection at a clinic or doctor’s office to ensure against any potential reactions, he added.

“It’s about the patient and making things more available and convenient,” he said.

Sasser plans to file a bill that would require doctors and pharmacists to ensure certain prescriptions, such as narcotics and opiates, have a “morphine equivalency” of no more than 50. This bill would require doctors and pharmacists to write those patients prescriptions for naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, due to the high percentage of deaths due to opioids.

Another bill Sasser said he’s had fun working on would only apply to a small group of people. He calls it the “saw mill bill,” which eliminates the current stipulation that requires those building a home to only use lumber and logs that have grown on land that the person owns.

Sen. Carl Ford, R-33

Ford has filed two bills to date. Senate Bill 5 — which includes Sens. Jim Burgin, R-12, and Vickie Sawyer, R-34, as primary sponsors — would require those who install and service portable fire extinguishers and fire suppression systems to have licenses and permits to do so. Ford said the bill is intended to provide more oversight to prevent people who may not be licensed from telling a restaurant they can inspect fire equipment.

Ford has also filed a blank local bill that would apply to his district. He explained that senators are able to file blank local bills at the beginning of the session to save time if they choose an issue to address in that bill later in the session.

Ford said he plans to file a handful of other bills, but he’s not someone who likes to let the cat out of the bag. One he did specify, however, involves an amendment to the state budget bill in case a budget doesn’t pass. That amendment is related to more funding that’s set to expire for “Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy,” a program affiliated with the National Guard, which allows young men who get into trouble to enroll into the academy instead of facing time.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-76

Warren, a Republican, has filed or is the primary sponsor on a slew of bills.

Two are related to legal immigration status. House Bill 28 clarifies the meaning of “reside legally” in notary public statutes to include a U.S. citizen, an immigrant lawfully admitted for permanent residence or a nonimmigrant who entered the U.S. with permission for work. HB 29, of which Warren is a primary sponsor, would require all state agencies and their licensing boards to verify the immigration status of applicants seeking public benefits by using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s systematic verification for entitlements, or SAVE, program.

“This just makes sure taxpaying citizens are getting the full advantage of programs that they’re being taxed for,” Warren said.

House Bill 33 is an act that would broaden various domestic violence statutes to any persons who live together. The current law only specifies opposite-sex relationships. If passed, the bill would become effective in December, which Warren said is because different categories of law take effect at different times of the year.

House bill 45 would appropriate $2.5 million from the 2021-22 budget and $2 million from the 2022-23 budget for the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer. The bill specifies the museum’s effort to renovate and expand the Power House facility, which is the second oldest structure there and once provided electricity to the Southern Railway’s largest repair facility and the town of Spencer.

Two of Warren’s local bills include House Bill 35, which allows 14 counties to choose to publish public notices on their websites rather than in newspapers, along with House Bill 23, which allows the town of Spencer to regulate utility vehicles on their roads.

Warren is also assisting Rep. George Cleveland, R-14, on HB 46, which would strengthen protections for people who file human resource reports at governmental agencies. It would grant immunity to those who report in good faith and includes a provision to deter people from making fictitious claims.

House Bill 48 would allow emergency medical services personnel after completing specialized training to carry a weapon concealed when they’re working with a SWAT team in dangerous situations.

“These are the people we trust with our lives when we’re in a life-threatening situation,” he said. “So we should trust them with a gun.”

Another bill related to conceal carry is House Bill 49, which allows those who have concealed carry permits to be exempt from another firearms safety and training course upon applying for permit renewals under certain conditions.

Warren said he still plans to file more bills, including one that expands the Salisbury-based ApSeed program to five other counties. The expansion, he said, is even more important amidst remote learning due to the pandemic. The ApSeed program helps prepare children for preschool and kindergarten.

Another is related to the N.C. Managing Environmental Waste Act of 2019, which he was unable to push through during the last legislative session. That bill was intended to lower the state’s reliance on single-use plastics by incentivizing counties and municipalities to provide plastic recycling services.

Rep. Julia Howard, R-77, has not filed any legislation yet for this session. However, she chairs the House Finance committee, which reviews the state’s available revenue before it’s appropriated. Howard previously told the Post she will reattempt a debt settlement bill that was ultimately rejected for a vote on the Senate floor. That bill proposed changes to a current law that states it’s a criminal offense for debt adjusting and debt settlement.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246. 

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