Week 13: Voter ID Passes House
After more than three years of public discussion around the issue of voter identification, a bipartisan majority in the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill that moves North Carolina to a photo ID voting structure. The vote is the result of a 10-month process that included multiple public hearings, hours of testimony by experts and members of the public, and an in-depth analysis of voter ID systems in numerous other states.
House Bill 589, the “Voter Information Verification Act,” passed the House on its second reading with a vote of 81-36 – a bipartisan vote on one of the key pieces of legislation for the Republican House majority. The bill is a product of months of work by bill sponsors and leadership of the House Elections Committee: Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan), Rep. Tom Murry (R-Wake), Rep. Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) and Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).
The bill is a sweeping effort to improve North Carolina’s voting process by requiring citizens to show photo identification when voting and will be fully implemented by 2016. The measure utilizes the 2014 elections as a bridge to identify which voters may be without an accepted form of photo ID and establishes a program to help citizens acquire a free photo identification card through the Department of Motor Vehicles. For citizens without photo ID’s, non-operator photo ID cards will be issued at no cost to the voter through the DMV.
Beyond the photo identification requirement, the bill takes steps to ensure the integrity of provisional and absentee ballots. It also directs the State Board of Elections to study the use of modern technology in voting, paving the way for further efficiency through digital efforts in the future.
Improving NC Healthcare
Last week the NC House of Representatives passed a number of bills contributing to better medical care for North Carolinians.
House Bill 704, introduced by Representatives Mark Brody, Bob Steinburg, and Jim Fulghum, will help rural areas receive the best medical consultations available. The bill, entitled Study and Encourage the Use of Telemedicine, directs the Health and Human Services Department to study how video teleconferencing in medical emergencies could improve patient outcomes in remote hospitals.
House Bill 605, introduced by Representatives Nelson Dollar, Justin Burr, Pat Hurley, and Jean Farmer-Butterfield, also passed the House this week. It establishes a Subcommittee on Aging to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services to study the state’s delivery of services to the elderly
School Safety: Protecting Our Students
Last Thursday, the House unanimously passed House Bill 452, the “2013 School Safety Act,” a bipartisan piece of legislation that I introduced along with Representatives Bryan Holloway, Rick Glazier, and Marvin Lucas.
This bill takes several steps aimed at improving the safety of North Carolina schools, including providing diagrams and master keys of each school to law enforcement to help them respond to incidents more efficiently. It also appropriates matching grants for local school districts to spend on school police officers, psychologists, and installing panic alarms systems and anonymous tip lines. Lastly, it directs schools to incorporate more crisis planning and drills.
Local Governments/Vacant Housing Receivership
High Point is coming closer to a solution for dealing with substandard housing that can be found in some neighborhoods around the city. House Bill 227, sponsored by myself, Rep. Hardister (Guilford), Rep. Brandon (Guilford), and Rep. Collins (Franklin, Nash), is an act authorizing counties and cities to establish receiverships for abandoned properties. If the bill is approved, dilapidated properties that have been abandoned by owners would be transferred to a receiver who would remodel the property for housing. The receiver then would be able to sell the updated property to recover their investment and make a profit. High Point Mayor Bernita Sims has informed me she likes the bill.