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Gun-rights bill passes General Assembly

Legislation that expands the public places where people with permits to carry concealed handguns can bring their weapons, toughens the penalties for some gun crimes, closes a loophole in the handgun permit system, and strengthens federal background checks passed the House and Senate on Tuesday night.

Missing from the compromise bill worked out between the two chambers was the Senate’s controversial provision that would have repealed the current law that requires county sheriffs to conduct background checks and issue handgun purchase permits.

The votes were largely along party lines. The House voted 73-41, and the Senate 32-14.

Tillis backing Senate's rewrite of House gun bill

Looks like House Speaker Thom Tillis supports the House gun bill that the Senate rewrote. In a tweet over the weekend, Tillis directed followers to a National Rifle Association website that urges members to contact legislators to support HB937.

“Those like me who want HB937 passed: Check out this link from the NRA and help us get it done,” Tillis’ tweet said.

The bill originated in the House but only expanded places where guns could be carried in public. The Senate got hold of it and made a major change: eliminating the current background checks on pistol purchases conducted by county sheriffs, and rely on the federal database checks.

The N.C. Sheriffs Association opposes that provision. The NRA says it opposes a compromise that has been floated that would allow handguns to be transferred through licensed gun dealers, but require permits for private transfers at gun shows or other sales conducted not through licensed dealers.

The bill is in a conference committee to work out what its House sponsor described as technical changes. It wasn’t clear until now how the House leadership felt about the rewrite.

Wall St. Journal follows NYT with a love letter to NC GOP

The recent New York Times editorial lambasting North Carolina’s hard turn to the right met with apparent indifference in the General Assembly, where Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca said he cared more about what the Wall Street Journal thought. As if in response, the Journal’s editorial page came through with a piece on Friday praising Senate President Pro Tem’s Phil Berger’s tax plan.

“The burning heart of liberal activism and indignation this summer can be found, of all places, in the charming capital city of the Tar Heel State,” the Journal’s Stephen Moore writes.

Moore turns to the old “agitators” label for the “Moral Monday” protesters (avoiding the governor’s pitfall of also calling them “outsiders”), and concludes they’re mad about everything – especially the prospect of the GOP cutting back funding for some of the “left-wing groups sponsoring these rallies.”

Moore’s piece concludes that the Senate Republicans’ tax overhaul will spur growth and create jobs. What it means, politically, down the road in a swing state is an open question, he concedes.

“But as longtime Republican strategist Marc Rotterman told me last week, there is a potentially fatal flaw to the whole ‘Moral Monday’ strategy: ‘The core problem is the protesters are denouncing policies like tax cuts and welfare reforms that may be unpopular with the New York Times, but are very popular with mainstream North Carolinians.’” Moore writes. “That is the big bet the state's Republicans are making -- and come November 2014, we'll see if it pays off.”

Here’s the full article.

Uncertainty, clinic closings, lawsuits have followed abortion bills in other states

North Carolina would join a growing number of states imposing more stringent restrictions on abortion clinics if it enacts one of two bills still pending in the final days of the legislative session.

No one really knows what either of the bills would do if one became law since both require regulations that haven’t yet been written. But similar bills are increasingly showing up in other states, and are forcing some clinics to close or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on upgrades.

Read the whole story here.

Governor could ignore local bar in appointing judges, under bill

The governor could appoint whoever he wants to fill district court judge vacancies, under a bill the House tentatively approved Wednesday.

Currently, the governor must choose from a list of three nominees the local bar presents. This bill, SB321, would allow but not require the governor to choose from five nominees.

The House passed the bill 70-40, mostly along party lines with a majority of Republicans favoring the bill. Some Republicans voted against it and some Democrats voted in favor of it. Third and final reading is expected Thursday, and then the bill returns to the Senate.

Another closed prison goes for $1

With the state’s prison population declining and some of its prisons closing, the state occasionally sells the land for a nominal buck.

The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday gave the green light to selling the closed Gates Correctional Center in the northeast part of the state to Gates County for $1. The county wants to use it for emergency services functions.

Sen. Josh Stein, a Democrat from Raleigh, didn’t let the issue pass without commenting about recent opposition to the deal selling the Dorothea Dix property in Raleigh for less than market value. Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican from Spruce Pine, had complained about the Dix deal even while sponsoring a bill in 2011 selling a closed prison in his mountains district to a community college for $1.

Hise, a member of the Rules Committee, also voted for the Gates deal, which was placed on the Senate calendar for later Wednesday.

Sweeping regulatory reform legislation taking shape

Some sort of regulatory reform could emerge from the General Assembly in its waning days, but right now the details are a fast-moving target.

On Wednesday, a new version unexpectedly materialized in the Senate Rules Committee, adding more than two dozen new sections to a bill that the House had put together.

Both bills – SB112 and HB74 – address a grab-bag of regulatory issues, from environmental to workplace and more. Since HB74 is so extensive and committee members didn’t have copies of it until the meeting, the bill will return to Rules on Thursday and likely voted on.

House resolution reaffirms constitutional gun rights

While the session’s most substantive gun bill is undergoing surgery to work out differences between the House and Senate, representatives passed a resolution Wednesday declaring their support for the Second Amendment.

After some argument back and forth between Republicans and Democrats, who criticized the resolution as meaningless, the House voted 73-35 to approve HR63 by Rep. Michael Speciale, a Republican from New Bern.

The resolution is an expression of support for the right to bear arms and opposition to “any infringement by the federal government.” It was approved in a committee earlier Wednesday.

Ob-gyn organizations come out against abortion bills

Two organizations of ob-gyn doctors on Wednesday came out in opposition of two abortion-related bill: the legislation adding restrictions to abortion clinics and the proposal to require students be taught that abortion is a risk factor for premature births.

The state section of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the N.C. Obstetrical and Gynecological Society issued the joint statement.

Senators, representatives will work on gun bill differences

So far the House is not embracing the Senate’s major re-write of its bill expanding the public places where firearms can be taken. On Tuesday, the House voted not to concur in the latest version of the bill and sent it to a conference committee.

Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, a Republican from Charlotte, characterized the differences as largely technical and said she thought they will be resolved. She noted that the House version of the bill had 13 provisions and it came back from the Senate with 28 provisions.

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