Healthcare law and measures to address Sweepstakes gambling, spice drugs, mephedrone and charter schools
Christian Action League
The North Carolina General Assembly under the new management of Republican majorities in both chambers has quickly forged ahead with their agenda. Even in the first and second days of session, good legislation was heard and introduced.
On Thursday, a House Judiciary Committee took up House Bill 2 – Protect Health Care Freedom, legislation that would limit provisions of Obamacare. The measure seeks to block the “individual mandate” for North Carolinians that requires all Americans to purchase health care coverage by 2014 or face monetary penalties. It also requires the North Carolina Attorney General to enforce the provisions of HB 2 and join 26 other states nationwide to challenge the constitutionality of the new healthcare law.
During two hours of debate, Democrats argued fiercely against the measure saying more time was needed to examine its ramifications and to hold public hearings. Several democrats who spoke in opposition questioned the timing of the bill and contended lawmakers needed to focus on the $3.7 billion budget deficit and job creation. Other opposing remarks included concerns HB 2 might be unconstitutional and end up costing the state to defend.
But Rep. Tim Moore, (R-Cleveland) said most North Carolinians were strongly opposed to the individual mandate and North Carolina lawmakers should take swift action seeking to exempt them from it. “We are aware of what the business of the people needs to be, and we have made it clear that we are going to get that business done…If something is not done about this overly intrusive federal legislation, its going to cost us more money than we could ever imagine.” Moore added that efforts by democrats to stall the measure were “nothing but smoke and mirrors.”
House Majority Leader, Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, a primary sponsor of the legislation fended off each argument against HB 2 saying the bill wouldn’t likely cost the state anything and that the individual mandate is nothing like requirements that drivers have auto insurance or seniors enroll in medicare.
Stam said, Medicare was required only if you work, but the individual mandate of Obamacare was required “if you breathe.”
The legislation passed 23-16 and is expected to be taken up on the House floor as early as next week.
More Good Legislation Filed
Although still unheard, more good legislation was filed by the second day of the legislative session.
Sen. Don Vaughn (D-Guilford) filed a bill to further strengthen legislation that passed last year banning video gambling sweepstakes across the state. SB 3 – Broaden Sweepstakes Law seeks to close loopholes the industry has been so adept in exploiting and eliminate much of the confusion created when Guilford County Judge John Craig ruled in November that the state had the right to limit video-based games that mimic gambling, but also said one subsection of the ban was too broad and infringed on free speech. Since Judge Craig was unwilling to place a stay on his decision upon request of the North Carolina Attorney General’s office, law enforcement has been ambivalent about enforcing the ban.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, noted that the legislation that passed last year was focused on banning certain video games designed for gambling, but the strength of Vaughn’s bill is that it seeks to ban any “machine or device” to conduct or promote sweepstakes gambling. “The genius of the measure in my estimation,” said Creech, “is that it falls back on the same principle we’ve used to ban slot machines in this state.” “It’s a broader, and what I believe, will be a much more effective approach to lopping off the head of this ugly monster.”
Also introduced were two measures in the Senate S 9 – Make Synthetic Cannabinoids Illegal, sponsored by Sen. Brown (R-Onslow) and S 4 – Make Synthetic Cannabinoids Illegal, sponsored by Senators Vaughn (D-Guilford) and Purcell (D-Anson) that would make what has been referred to as K2 or Spice Drugs illegal in North Carolina. Legislation was also introduced, H 12 – Make Synthetic Cannabinoids Illegal, on the House side for the same by Representatives Cleveland (R-Onslow), Horn (R-Union), and McElraft (R-Carteret).
Included with the legislation to ban synthetic cannabinoids was also legislation to ban mephedrone, adding it to the list of controlled substances in the Tar Heel state. HB 13 – Ban Mephedrone was put forward by Representatives Cleveland (R-Onslow), Brown (R-Davidson), and Ingle (R-Alamance). A companion measure for the same in the Senate was filed as S 7 – Ban Mephedrone by Senator Brown.
The Christian Action League has been calling for a ban of these dangerous drugs since November of last year. See: Ban Needed in NC on Spice Drugs and Mephedrone.
Lastly, Senator Stevens (R-Wake) filed legislation, S 8 – No Cap on Number of Charter Schools. North Carolina currently has a cap on the number of charter schools that it can have. There are only 100 publicly funded charter schools and this legislation would lift that cap.