How long should legislative sessions last?

By Brent Jackson - Contributing columnist

Good afternoon,

I hope everyone had a fun and safe 4th of July weekend. Last Friday, an effective and efficient 2016 legislative session came to a conclusion. We thank everyone for their diligent work and commitment to our great State during the session. Now that we are in the interim, I wanted to notify everyone that we will be sending out a newsletter every other week as well as including a legislative recap section that will highlight significant legislative we passed during the session.

2016 Legislation Recap

N.C. Farm Act of 2016

Over the past few years, it has been my pleasure to work with my colleagues in establishing the tradition of an annual Farm Act. The Farm Act is a multi-provision bill that seeks to address issues facing the agriculture industry and to help the industry grow. This year, we had around 20 provisions, and the bill’s main focus was on technical changes for various state agencies, common sense regulation reform, a few energy topics, and a provision that deals with automatically renewing contracts. Below, I will outline what we did for the state agencies and with regulation reform, and will go over the energy topics and automatically renewing contracts piece in the next newsletter.

Departmental Changes

In the 2008 federal Farm Bill, schools were given the authority to set a local preference for food procurement if their state allowed. We changed the law to allow LEAs to set a preference for locally grown food over out-of-state food for their Farm to School Program.

Given the damage that wild hogs can cause, we authorized the Wild Life Resources Commission (WLRC) to participate in a federal program that lets officers cull wild hogs from a helicopter as a means of population control.

We heard there was an issue with elected soil and conservation district supervisors not receiving the same training as appointed ones, so we required the same training for both.

Currently, rendering plants are inspected by a commission that has market participants as members. In order to protect intellectual property and prevent a conflict of interest, we moved the inspection duty to the Meat and Poultry Division at the Department of Agriculture.

We made several changes to Department of Agriculture’s rule making authority that they needed to allow various divisions to function more efficiently. We also transferred the enforcement statutes for the bedding inspection program that moved from the old DENR to the Department of Agriculture last year.

Regulation Reform

Last year, we passed a bill raising the building permit cost threshold from $5,000 to $15,000. However, some local governments were still requiring building permits, or their local equivalent, for jobs under $15,000. We clarified that these jobs are exempt in this bill.

We included a provision to allow well water lines and well electrical wiring to be placed in the same ditch, as opposed to having to dig two separate ditches.

We tweaked agriculture’s exemption from the Sediment Control Act by specifying that horticulture falls under the definition of agriculture.

We also added language to allow HCG, which is a common drug used for cattle, to be injected for veterinary use. Before, it could only be administered in pill form, which is not easily done in the field.

Question of the Week

Last week, I asked your opinion on whether you felt law enforcement agencies should, upon proper guidelines, have access to location services of a wireless device after receiving a warrant only if it is declared that person is in a state of emergency. Most everyone agreed with this piece of legislation, if it is not abused and peoples’ rights to privacy are not broken.

This week, I would like your viewpoint on legislative session length. Right now, our legislative session lasts as long as both the House and Senate stay. There is no fixed time that the General Assembly has to work, but they work until they accomplish what was required and needed for the next fiscal year for our state. Session is adjourned by the passage of an adjournment resolution that is voted on and passed by each chamber. Do you feel that this is a good policy to govern how long legislative sessions last? Do you feel it should be year-round? Or do you feel that it should last a set amount of days? I look forward to hearing everyone’s opinions on this matter.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can assist you in any way possible.

By Brent Jackson

Contributing columnist
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