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2009 Legislative Wrap-up

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Legislative Wrap-up for 2010

The Short Session
Christian Action League

RALEIGH — It may be called the short session, but there was no shortage of issues being batted about in the General Assembly in 2010 and certainly no shortage of opportunities for the Christian Action League to educate lawmakers, mobilize the faith community and ensure the biblical worldview was effectively represented in the state legislature.

While countering the push from the gambling industry for legalization, regulation and taxation of video gambling, the CAL succeeded in getting a ban on video sweepstakes gaming by lobbying lawmakers with daily briefings and creating various pressures from their constituents. CAL also labored to keep privatization of liquor sales out of the state and worked side by side with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, the North Carolina Local ABC Boards, and various legislative study committees to help formulate the historic ABC Modernization Bill.

As in the past, the Legislature’s leadership kept the Defense of Marriage Act and a bill to create a “Choose Life” specialty plate locked up in committee, and lawmakers passed up an opportunity to keep Sunday hunting at bay. Nonetheless, legislators heard from the CAL on these and numerous other issues, many of which are explained below.

 

Family

 

Senate Bills 272 and 1156/House Bills 361 and 2070 — Defense of Marriage Act. These bills would have allowed voters to decide whether to add an amendment to the state’s Constitution to reaffirm the definition of marriage as between “one man and one woman” and strengthen North Carolina against legal attacks from same-sex marriage advocates. Polls show nearly 3 out of 4 North Carolinians would vote for the amendment if given the opportunity. Bills (S 272 and H 361) were filed in both chambers in early 2009 with strong bipartisan support and, as in the past, several thousand people showed up in Raleigh in March to ask lawmakers to pass the proposal. But also as in the past, House and Senate leaders ignored the will of the people and refused to allow the measure to be considered. Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba) and a number of other sponsors introduced the same bill (H 2070) again in May 2010 in the House, while Sen. Jim Forrester (R-Gaston) led the push in the Senate (S 1156). But again, the leadership in both chambers kept the legislation from being heard, leaving North Carolina as the only state in the Southeast without this critical legal protection for marriage.

 

House Bill 1463 — Expand Access/ Confidential Intermediaries. This bill, which dealt with who can access adoption information, broke a promise to birth mothers and will likely make abortion more appealing for some. Blurring the line between closed and open adoptions, it allows siblings and half siblings of adult adoptees and other family members of deceased biological parents and deceased adoptees to have their identifying information released, even if they never consented. Unfortunately, H 1463 passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor on July 20.

Gay Rights

Same-Sex Adoption Case heads to State Supreme Court — The Christian Action League and a number of other public policy organizations filed an Amicus Brief this spring in Boseman v. Jarrell, a custody dispute between State Senator Julia Boseman and her former lesbian partner, Melissa Jarrell, over whether Boseman should have custodial rights to Jarrell’s biological son. The case before the State Supreme Court will likely determine whether same-sex couples can legally adopt children in North Carolina. The brief asked the Court to rule that adoptions by unmarried cohabitants are not legal under N.C. adoption statutes and to end the practice established by the Court of Appeals of allowing unrelated third parties to obtain custodial rights over minor children merely because the child’s parent has allowed the third party to establish a relationship with the child. The brief advised the Court that the evidence shows same-sex parenting has a deleterious effect on children. Childrearing studies have consistently shown that children are more likely to thrive emotionally, mentally, and physically in a home with married parents of differing sexes. CAL is hopeful the Supreme Court will void the adoption in this case and clarify once and for all that second-parent adoptions are not legal in North Carolina.

Church

 

Sunday Hunting — After nearly a century and a half of keeping the Lord’s Day free from hunting, the Wildlife Resources Commission gave its blessing to Sunday bow hunting and falconry in early 2009 and, despite letters of protest to the WRC and a bill (H-1930 – Disapprove Rule Change/Sunday Hunting) introduced by Reps. Tim Spear (D-Chowan) and Dewey Hill (D-Columbus), the Legislature failed to intervene to repeal the rules change to allow for hunting on this sacred day. The House did pass H 1696 – Watauga/Sunday Bow Hunting Exemption, a local bill that would have allowed Watauga County to hold a referendum on the matter and potentially opt out of the new rule. But H 1696 died in the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee – ending any chance the people would have a voice in Sunday hunting regulations. Although the rules change limited Sunday hunting, the bow hunting and falconry provisions will, no doubt, open the door to additional forms of hunting on the Lord’s Day.

 

Right to Life

House Bill 168 — “Choose Life” Specialty Plate. Some 25 states have approved “Choose Life” specialty plates, so “Why not N.C.?” That was the question asked by an estimated 200 pro-life supporters who gathered in Raleigh in late May to protest the lack of movement on House Bill 168, which would have allowed additional fees paid by motorists to help support pregnancy care centers across the state. Although North Carolina allows specialty plates to promote more than 130 other passions ranging from “Save the Sea Turtles” to “Shag Dancing”, the House leadership gave the bill a serial referral and then never allowed it to be discussed in any committee. The House bill had 33 co-sponsors and a similar Senate version (S 210), which also stalled, had 17.

S 595/H 1114 — Living Will Indication on Drivers License. This legislation, supported by the CAL, would have required that licenses include a “living will designation” identify those who have a living will on file in the Secretary of State’s Advance Healthcare Directive Registry. The House passed H 1114, but it went nowhere in the Senate. S 595 passed the Senate but stalled in the House. Finally, the text of the measure was gutted and supplanted with a measure completely unrelated that dealt with Pedestrian Safety Improvements.

Gambling

 

House Bill 80 — Ban Electronic Sweepstakes. It seems to be “Game Over” for the video poker/video sweepstakes industry in North Carolina starting Dec. 1, thanks to this measure which passed the Senate 42-1 and the House 86-27. The Legislature banned video poker in 2006. Nonetheless, two cloudy court rulings and the gambling industry’s expertise in exploiting loopholes in the 2006 video poker prohibition, led to the opening of hundreds of “sweepstakes” parlors across the state and had a number of lawmakers filing bills to legalize, tax, and regulate the games or link them with the state lottery (H 1537, H 2030 – Video Gaming Entertainment Act and S 1407 – Lottery Commission Regulate Video Gaming). Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) and Reps. Melanie Goodwin (D-Richmond) and Ray Rapp (D-Buncombe), however, worked to craft a measure that would keep video gambling illegal without interfering with retail sweepstakes promotions or other harmless arcade games. The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly and after more than two hours of debate on the House floor, it won approval with strong support. It was a huge victory for the CAL, especially in light of the battle waged by the wealthy video poker industry. Gov. Bev Perdue signed the bill into law July 20.

Alcohol

 

House Bill 1717 — Modernization of the ABC System. While earlier modernization legislation (S 839/H 768) would have opened the door to partial privatization of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control System, H 1717, which passed July 8 and was signed by the Governor on July 21, should strengthen ABC by holding local ABC Boards more accountable and lending transparency to the processes surrounding this risk-laden commodity. The CAL was involved in this legislation from its inception, speaking before study committees, appealing to the Governor by letter, helping to organize health advocates’ efforts and educating lawmakers. In addition to increasing ethics standards and standardizing budget processes for local boards, the bill set priorities for the system and raised the voter threshold for approving local ABC stores from 500 to 1,000. It also put in place procedures for removal of wayward board members or employees and remedies for financially failing boards.

 

Senate Bill 897 — The Appropriations Act of 2010 — included a provision to allow on-premise liquor tasting events at North Carolina-based distilleries. The House took the liquor sampling portion out of its version of the budget bill, but the Joint Conferees of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources put it back. Because it was added back in a Joint Conference Subcommittee, there was no opportunity for amendments. The CAL strongly believes that alcohol is no ordinary commodity and measures of alcohol policy should be considered only as ‘stand alone’ bills and never tacked on to a budget bill where they get lost among budgetary issues and can’t be effectively addressed, debated, or voted on. This political strategy is most common when lawmakers are determined to keep a controversial alcohol proposal out of the reach of any opponents.

No to Bud Light Amphitheater — Raleigh officials brokered a $1.5 million deal with Anheuser-Busch, which would have named the City’s new 5,000-seat amphitheater after Bud Light beer. But a state law preventing public facilities from being named after alcoholic beverages forced the City Council to have to ask the North Carolina ABC Commission to grant an exemption for their proposed deal to make it a reality. The CAL responded quickly to media requests on the issue, expressing its concerns that such a name would exacerbate already problematic underage drinking and would allow alcohol marketers even greater access to children than they already have. Following testimony from the CAL and others concerned about the public’s health, the ABC Commission ruled it would not make an exemption, sending Raleigh officials back to the drawing board for amphitheater naming rights.

Alcohol Referenda — More than a dozen communities held votes to determine whether to allow or expand alcohol sales. Liquor-by-the-drink was approved in the vast majority of them, with the exception of Bertie County, which defeated mixed drinks by 13 votes, and Pikeville, where the margin of defeat was slightly larger on liquor-by-the-drink, an ABC store, as well as beer and wine sales. Areas welcoming or expanding alcohol sales included Clay County, Stokesdale, Washington County, Newport, East Bend, Grover, Newland, Waxhaw, Indian Trail, Wingate, Valdese, Burnsville, King’s Mountain and Chatham County. The Eastern Band of Cherokees also approved alcohol sales at Harrah’s Casino.