Budget negotiations to reconcile differences between the Senate and House budgets remained deadlocked as of Friday.
We are approaching the expiration date for the remaining 1.3 temporary sales tax to expire on June 30, 2007. The Senate voted to eliminate this temporary tax, keeping a pledge to tax payers that the tax would be temporary. The House budget keeps the remaining balance of the tax in place. You can expect lots of discussion in the news as the deadline approaches.
In this week’s newsletter, I want to give each of you a sampling of the different legislation that was debated last week in each of the committees I serve:
This legislation passed in the House 117 — 1. It strengthens the ability of a person to donate his or her organs through the application process at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Currently when a donor indicates that he or she is an organ donor on his or her driver’s license, a family member must still give permission to take organs despite the donor’s express intent. The new law establishes that the organs are to be donated based upon the express intent of the donor on his or her driver’s license.
The bill could have unintended consequences. After the bill was passed in the House, Mr. Blaylock and his son, operators of Blaylock’s Funeral Home in Warrenton, alerted me to problems with the bill’s expansion to include tissue donation. They persuasively argued that without informed consent, many people would donate tissue, failing to understand that such a donation could preclude having an open-casket funeral because the removal of tissue makes it more difficult to prepare human remains for a public viewing.
Representative Wray and I spoke with the bill’s primary sponsor, Representative Dale Folwell, who agreed to work with funeral directors across the state in reviewing this section of the legislation even though it had overwhelmingly passed the House. Representative Folwell agreed that the DMV was not prepared to provide the informed consent needed for tissue donation, so the inclusion of tissue donations through the DMV was removed from the bill.
The bill passed the Health Care Committee unanimously and has been referred to the Judiciary II Committee. I anticipate that the bill will clear the Judiciary II Committee and will be enacted into law.
This legislation moves the date a child must turn 5 in order to enter kindergarten from October 16, to August 31. North Carolina has one of the latest dates of any state to enter kindergarten.
A significant number of children who fall behind in the early grades are children who have entered the public school system before they are cognitively ready to do so. The primary sponsor of this bill, Representative Folwell, shared with the committee his encounter with a child who had entered kindergarten before he was cognitively ready to do so. The teacher asked the child to draw a picture of a person. After the child completed the picture, the child was asked where the person’s arms were. The child responded that he forgot them and drew arms for the stick person. He was then asked where the mouth was. Again, the child responded that he forgot the mouth. After drawing the mouth, he placed his head on the desk expressing his sense of failure. (I’m paraphrasing the story to the best of my recollection.)
The bill was endorsed by all major educational organizations, including school boards across the state. The bill unanimously passed out of the Education/Public Instruction Committee, and on Thursday of last week it passed out of the Senate in a 44 — 0 vote and now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
Senator Jacumin introduced this legislation to strengthen efforts to stop roadside littering. His bill would have allowed citizens to report, by affidavit, a littering violation, resulting in a citation being issued to the person accused of littering.
Some committee members strongly objected to this approach. Senator Jacumin decided to substitute his original bill with a new bill that established a commission to study and make proposals for legislation aimed at reducing roadside litter.
As some of you may recall, I have introduced a bill with will enable a person to receive 10 cents for each container picked up on the roadside and turned in to a redemption center for recycling purposes. This bill is in the Commerce Committee and has yet to be heard. My proposed bill has enjoyed widespread support from citizens all across the state; however, there is powerful opposition from retailers, bottling companies, and drink manufacturers.
This opposition was felt when I proposed an amendment to include a provision in Senator Jacumin’s new bill to study whether a refundable deposit would have a significant impact on roadside littering. The committee had a lively debate as to whether the issue should be studied. Based upon comments in opposition to the amendment made by committee members, I concluded that if the amendment was put to a vote, it would have lost 7 — 6.
The bill, without my amendment, passed out of committee with four members still opposing any study of the littering problem in North Carolina. The bill has now been referred to the Rules Committee where it is likely to remain unless an agreement can be reached as to whether to include a study of refundable deposits.
It appears that this week will be another busy one in the General Assembly. As always, I do welcome your input and hope that you will share your comments, concerns, and opinions. Serving as your Senator is a privilege, and I thank you for giving me this opportunity.
Have a wonderful week!