Legislative Report

LEGISLATIVE REPORT

As expected, Governor Roy Cooper released his budget proposal for the state for the next two years earlier this week.  Overall, the 23.4 billion dollar budget for this year represents $1 billion increase over the current budget.
The House and Senate will also write their own proposals.  By the end of the legislative session, a consensus budget will be written and agreed to, but that will be closer to July.

Among the elements of Cooper’s budget proposal of interest to our membership include more funding for the Department of Environmental Quality, the state’s Clean Water Fund and the Parks Trust Fund.

The following are some of the bills the NCFA is monitoring closely at this point.
 
House Bill 3 – Eminent Domain (partner bill is Senate Bill 34)
This Eminent Domain Bill seeks to protect landowners and provide more options in the case where property is taken via eminent domain.  The bill passed the House.  It passed its first reading in the House and is currently referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations within the Senate.  The NCFA supports this bill at this point.
House Bill 10 – Eminent Domain Statutory Revisions (partner bill is Senate Bill 35)  This Eminent Domain Statutory Revisions Bill provides updates to existing public good projects to include natural gas and communications equipment.  The bill passed its first reading and has been referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations .  The NCFA supports this bill at this point.
House Bill 26 – Workers Comp/Approval of Disputed Legal Fees
This bill amends the process set forth currently in the payment of disputed legal fees by the industrial commission.  This bill has passed the House.  It passed its first reading in the Senate and has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.  The NCFA is neutral on this bill at this point.
House Bill 56 -Amend Various Environmental Laws
House Bill 56 is a generic bill that addresses that an owner of a high-hazard or an intermediate-hazard dam shall develop an Emergency Action Plan that includes the involvement of a professional engineer or person under the responsible charge of a professional engineer to ensure it protects public safety and welfare.  This bill passed its first reading.  It has been referred to the Committee on the Environment.  The NCFA is neutral on this bill at this point.  It’s worth noting that this bill could include more provisions moving forward.
House Bill 80 – Bona Fide Ownership of Timber Parcels
This bill seeks to protect forest landowners from timber being unlawfully cut and/or removed from their property by mandating that the forest landowner obtain a survey of his/her property that clearly defines the property lines of his/her property.  This bill has passed its first reading and has been referred to the committee on Judiciary III.   It did not come up on the calendar last week.  The NCFA does not support this bill in its current form and continues to work with bill sponsors to amend it so it maintains private property rights without imposing an unnecessary financial burden on the landowner.
This bill seeks to adjust the weighting attributed under the transportation investment strategy formula to the department of transportation’s division engineers, the metropolitan planning organizations, and the rural transportation planning organizations, when selecting regional impact and division need projects, as recommended by the house select committee on strategic transportation planning and long term funding solutions.  The bill seeks to allow more input from local communities within the current priority system employed by the state for infrastructure projects within the state. This bill has passed the House.  It has passed its first reading in the Senate and is now in the Committee On Rules and Operations.  The NCFA supports this bill at this point and will continue to monitor its progress.
House Bill 142 – Increase Oversight of Occupational License Boards
This bill seeks to increase oversight and streamline existing licencing boards in the state.  The State Board of Registration for Foresters is currently listed as one of the 58 boards that will remain active.  This is a positive change from the previous versions of this bill introduced in the last legislative session.  It has passed its first reading in the House.  The NCFA supports this bill now that it includes maintaining the existence of the State Board of Registration for Foresters.
House Bill 168 – Study Damage from ATV Use
This bill would authorize a study the damage caused to various types of properties from unauthorized use of all-terrain vehicles.  The bill has passed its first reading in the House and has been referred to the Committee on Transportation.  The NCFA supports this bill.
This bill to change the  property tax exclusion for solar energy by lowering the percentage from  eighty percent to sixty percent of the appraised value of a solar  energy electric system.  The NCFA is neutral on this bill at this point.
This bill would  prohibit hunting from the right-of-ways of public roads in Buncombe County.  It has passed its first reading in the House and been referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations.  The NCFA is neutral on this bill at this point.
Senate Bill 29 – ALJ Review of DPS Civil Penalties
This bill seeks to make changes act to revise the assessment of certain civil penalties by the department of public safety.  The bill includes a local option for appeals in cases such as motor vehicle and/or trucking violations.  This bill passed its first reading and has been referred to Judiciary.  If it passes that committee, it will be referred to Rules and Operations of the Senate.  The NCFA supports this bill.
Senate Bill 76  – Permit Nightime Hunting of Coyotes
This bill directs the Wildlife Resources Commission to repeal its regulation banning night hunting of coyotes in certain coastal counties. This bill has passed its first reading and is being referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations within the Senate.  The NCFA is neutral on this bill at this point.
This bill  amends certain environmental, natural resources, and  other laws. The NCFA is neutral on this bill at this point but will continue to monitor it through the legislative process.
If you have a legislative question and/or concern about any of the bills listed above, please contact Pryor Gibson at pgibson@ncforestry.org or (800) 231-7723.