Crossover week at General Assembly wraps up in House

Class size, farmers property rights, and free speech among priorities

RALEIGH — State lawmakers wrapped up the busy crossover week at the General Assembly on Thursday afternoon, moving an array of interesting legislation forward. The state Senate was ahead of the game; finishing work with a veto override on Wednesday, while the House pushed through numerous bills right up to the deadline on Thursday.To keep the part-time legislator on track, the General Assembly adheres to a “crossover” deadline each year which requires legislation to have passed from one chamber to the other by that date in order to still be an active bill. But it is not as strict as it may seem: crossover does not apply to the state budget, and bills that do make the deadline are often stripped to include compromises later in the session. This year, class size, property rights, and free speech were just some of the issues at the forefront during the busy legislative week. N.C. House Highlights:House Bill 467: Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies is a bill that has garnered plenty of attention, and aims to limit the type and amount of compensation that can be available in agricultural nuisance lawsuits. Farming advocates, including the Chamber of Commerce and Farm Bureau, say that litigation against North Carolina farmers has gotten out of control. “It is important to have protection because this is what feeds our country,” Justin, a pig farmer from Duplin County said in a video posted by the NC Pork Council. “People are attacking the farmers, and we’re out here doing a hard day’s work to provide for our families. It’s discouraging when you have people that say ‘hey, look – let’s try to file a lawsuit against a hog farmer and try to get some money out of it.” Opponents argue that H.B. 467 stifles neighbors’ ability to sue, and that hog farms are “more than mere irritants for the people who live next to them,” Lisa Sorg wrote in a blog post on NC Policy Watch, a progressive think-tank, “they are life-altering, making it difficult to breathe and ruining the quality of life.” H.B. 467 passed both chambers this week, and was sent to the Gov. Roy Cooper for signature on Thursday. House Bill 659: Filling Vacancies/U.S. Senate would limit the authority the Governor has over appointing a replacement for a vacant U.S. Senate seat and ensure the vacating Senator’s political party is involved in the selection process. Currently, if a Senator leaves office mid-term for reasons such as death or resignation, the Governor can choose any individual as long as they are affiliated with the vacating Senator’s political party. H.B. 659 restricts the Governor from only appointing from a recommendation of three individuals put forward by the party’s executive committee.House Bill 527: Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech, which has a companion bill in the Senate, requires that state public universities maintain “the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free expression.” The bill would require that universities teach students about free speech during freshman orientation, and enforces penalties on protesters who block campus events. House Bill 13: Class Size Requirement Changes is another recognizable piece of legislation that phases in district compliance with K-3 class size requirements: district average of 20 students per class and an individual class maximum of 23 students for the 2017-18 school year. HB-13 also aims to increase accountability and transparency by requiring local superintendents to report information on student/teacher ratios, and other statistics related to K-12 class size flexibility.HB-13 passed both chambers before the crossover deadline, and was signed by Gov. Cooper the same day it was sent to his desk. House Bill 797: Changes to Current Body Warn Camera Laws endured close to two hours of debate on the House floor on Thursday morning; mostly related to general opinions on body warn cameras on police officers, before passing in a 110-6 vote. The bill allows for footage; in certain cases and under a confidentiality agreement, to be released to citizen review boards.House Bill 488: Early Rental Termination by Military Members adds additional protections for active or reserve members of the U.S. Guard to terminate housing rental agreements without penalty, if they are moving more than 50 miles to report for duty. Current protections only extend to active duty military, not members of the Guard. Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article146828989.html#storylink=cpy