Lawmakers at the N.C. General Assembly have adjourned for the year, ending the longest session since 2001. An almost all-night session included passage of bills related to immigration, environmental regulations and technical corrections to thousands of pages of legislation passed during the last eight months.
Before the day started, Senate rules chairman Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville) told a committee room to “stay tuned” and that “we could see all kinds of things between now and later.”
Immigration Bill Sparks Tense Debate
The fiercest debate of the day, and some of the sharpest words of the eight-month session, came as lawmakers considered an immigration bill.
The bill would ban so-called sanctuaries for people living in the country illegally. Under the measure, local governments wouldn’t be allowed to keep police from asking about someone’s immigration status. Another provision of the bill would deem registration cards from consulates as invalid.
Republican lawmakers argued it would keep North Carolinians, and their jobs, safe.
“You can be as kind and considerate as you want. But eventually they’ll overrun you, and you won’t have the life that you have now,” said Republican George Cleveland (R-Onslow). “We don’t need the mentality from other parts of the world in our state.”
Democratic lawmakers called the bill shameful and bigoted. Rep. Charles Graham (D-Robeson), an American Indian, said he felt hurt.
“None of you would be here had my ancestors not accepted you,” he said. “We could've chopped your heads off. We could've scalped you. We could've put you back on the waters and sent you where you came from. We opened our arms to you.”
The bill now heads to the governor.
Bill To Limit Local Government Power Fails
In less than 24 hours, lawmakers introduced and defeated a controversial measure that would’ve taken power away from cities, towns and counties.
House Bill 279 dealt with the qualifications of sex-education and counselors when it was filed back in March. But when a substitute bill emerged from conference committee Monday night it included several provisions that weren’t found in the original measure.
The measures removed powers from local governments by banning local ordinances that increase minimum wage, protect fair employment practices and provide affordable housing.
Lawmakers have called those mandates an overreach of state government authority, while critics argued it would weaken protections for minorities.
Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, argued the bill could’ve overturned existing ordinances that protect LGBT communities from discrimination.
“It’s targeted at the municipalities that have stepped up and done the right thing where the NC General Assembly has refused to,” Sgro said.
Meanwhile, Republicans like bill sponsor representative Paul Stam argued the bill would’ve led to greater uniformity across the state.
Lawmakers voted on a regulatory reform bill that includes several environmental provisions.
“It’s clean, it’s green and it’s not extreme,” said Republican representative Pat McElraft.
Not everyone agreed with that sentiment. Some environmentalists called it an improved bill, but still damaging. They say it would relax the requirements for controlling pollution and could destroy intermittent streams.
Meanwhile, lawmakers also gave final approval to a $2 billion transportation bond referendum. Most of the money would go to projects for the UNC system and community colleges across the state. This legislation heads to Governor Pat McCrory, and it’s almost certain to receive his signature.
McCrory has pushed for the multi-billion dollar construction and infrastructure proposal for months. Voters will have the final say next year in a referendum.