Under the Dome

Controversial commissions bill dramatically rewritten in House committee


The controversial Senate bill sweeping out members of key state commissions has been substantially rewritten in the House, where a committee on Wednesday morning approved the new version.

Sen. Tom Apodaca, the bill's prime sponsor, was invited to address the committee, and he made it clear he wasn't happy.

"This is not a good way to start the session," he said.

The bill, approved with a few Republicans voting against it, now goes to the full House and, presumably, to a conference committee.

Gone is the provision that would eliminate the state’s special superior court judges, who are appointed by the governor and hear cases throughout the state.

Some Republican senators said the judges weren’t working hard enough, but a statistical review of their workload didn’t back up that contention.

Also rewritten is the provision that would remake the state Coastal Resources Commission and two other environmental boards. This version of the bill would restore some of the scientific expertise currently required of members, along with the requirement that members live in North Carolina and either reside or own property along the coast.

It would also permit four current members to continue serving until the middle of next year. Instead of reducing the commission from 15 to 11 members, it would set the commission at 13 members, nine appointed by the governor and four by the General Assembly.

The proposal would also restore the prohibition on conflict-of-interest by restricting commissioners’ income from development and real estate, and would clarify ethics requirements.

Those changes address much of the criticism aimed at the Senate version of the bill. This version was approved in the House Commerce and Job Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Murry, a Republican from Cary.

Some new provisions are also added on. One would clear out the current members of the state parole commission and give the governor authority to appoint replacements. It would allow members of the new fracking board to hold other public office in addition to the board.

It would allow the governor and not the chief justice of the state Supreme Court to appoint the chief administrative law judge, and it would streamline various occupational licensing boards and consider the creation of a single statewide licensing board.

Finally, it would restructure the State Personnel Commission, giving the General Assembly four appointments and the governor five. Currently, the governor has seven and the legislature two.

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