Dylan LightfootStaff Writerdlightfoot@civitasmedia.com
April 26, 2013
As month three of the 2013 legislative session draws to a close, the House passes the Voter Information Verification Act and amendments to state gun laws, and prepares to vote on legislation limiting liability for volunteer health care providers, while a Senate bill easing regulations for environmental permitting makes its way through committee.
House Bill 589: ‘Voter Information Verification Act’ (VIVA)
“An act to restore confidence in government by establishing the VIVA to promote the electoral process through education and increased registration of voters and by requiring voters to provide photo identification before voting to protect the right of each registered voter to cast a secure vote with reasonable security measures that confirm voter identity as accurately as possible without restriction.”
This legislation requires “every qualified voter voting in person” to “present photo (ID) bearing any reasonable resemblance to that voter to a local election official” before voting.
There are a couple exceptions: Voters with religious objections to being photographed who file a declaration 25 days before elections are exempt, as are victims of natural disasters occurring within 60 days prior who file a declaration on a form provided by the State Board.
The bill’s list of acceptable forms of ID includes state-issued drivers licenses and ID cards, U.S. passports, and ID cards issued by employers, N.C. community colleges, University of North Carolina and its constituents, the U.S. military and government public assistance programs. Local elections officials will determine if a voter bears “reasonable resemblance” to his or her ID.
Voters at the polls without ID can cast “provisional ballots” if they later appear in person at the Board of Elections and present their ID. The Board of Elections determines final validity of provisional ballots.
Applications for absentee ballots must give the voter’s name, address, date of birth and one or more of the following: driver’s license number; state-issued ID or learner’s permit number; last four digits of voter’s social security number.
Absentee ballots must be marked “in the presence of two persons who are at least 18 years of age,” who witness the marking and sign it and give their addresses.
This act will be “effective only if the (GA) appropriates funds…to implement it.”
House Bill 937: ‘Amend Various Firearms Laws’
“An act to…provide that a person who has a valid concealed handgun permit may…have a concealed handgun in a locked compartment in a vehicle…on the premises of a community college or public or private university, and carry a handgun into an assembly where an admission fee is charged or an establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed…to clarify law on local government authority to prohibit concealed carry of firearms….”
A detailing of all amendments this bill is outside the scope of a brief update — the title alone is over 260 words long. It begins by allowing handguns in vehicles in state government parking lots, provided they are in a locked compartment in the vehicle.
Handguns are also permitted in vehicles in locked compartments on college campuses, and in single-family dwellings on campuses which provide housing for enrolled students.
Local governments are permitted to pass ordinances prohibiting concealed carry at “municipal and county recreational facilities.” These include athletic fields and facilities, and swimming pools scheduled for use with the town or county responsible for the operation of the park or facility, but not greenways, biking and walking paths or “open fields or areas where athletic events may occur.”
Rules under G.S. 14-269.3 are amended to permit valid permit holders to carry concealed weapons into establishments where alcohol is served, except where the owner of the premises posts “conspicuous notice prohibiting (concealed handguns) on the premises.
The bill provides for enhanced sentencing for use or display of a firearm during commission of a crime, and makes it unlawful for “any person to knowingly permit a child under the age of 12” to have unsupervised access to firearms.
Senate Bill 612: ‘Regulatory Reform Act of 2013’
“An act to provide regulatory relief…by clarifying the preemption of (city and county) ordinances…clarifying the laws relating to groundwater compliance boundaries…extending the terms of certain environmental permits…exempting certain properties from riparian buffer rules…and by providing the (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Rules Review Commission the authority to review existing rules.”
According to this bill, city and county ordinances shall not regulate any “field that is also regulated by a State or federal…regulation,” where “the ordinance is more stringent than the State or federal…regulation.”
The bill provides for “fast track permitting” of environmental permits for stormwater runoff and erosion and sediment control plans, allowing “issuance of…permits without a technical review” when the applicant “complies with Minimum Design Criteria” and the application is “sealed by a professional engineer.”
The Commission will control water pollution sources by establishing “compliance boundaries” for “various categories of disposal systems.” When permitted systems result in “exceedance of ground water quality standards,” it will be “remedied through clean-up, recovery, containment or other response….”
The list of materials acceptable as fill in local solid waste reduction programs is expanded to include “inert debris.”
“Absent a requirement of federal law or threat to public health,” rules for protecting riparian buffers “shall not apply” to “certain private properties in the Neuse River and Tar-Pamlico River Basins.”
Senate Bill 83: ‘Encourage Volunteer Care in Free Clinics’
“An act to encourage volunteer health care in free clinics by limiting liability of medical and health care providers…”
This legislation applies to volunteer medical or health care providers rendering services to patients at or through local health departments or nonprofit community health centers.
For volunteer health care providers to receive protection from liability, the free clinic properly notify patients that “Under N.C. law, a volunteer…provider shall not be liable for damages for injuries or death alleged to have occurred by reason of an act or omission in the…provider’s voluntary provision of…services unless it is established that the injuries or death were caused by gross negligence, wanton conduct, or intentional wrongdoing on the part of the volunteer…”