The N.C. General Assembly may not be reconvening until May, but policymakers are still hard at work on the biggest issues affecting the state. Here’s what you missed this week:
Proposed gun control legislation may change state policies on firearms
North Carolina may join a small group of states that allow a judge to temporarily confiscate firearms from individuals the court finds to be a potential threat to the public.
Drafted by Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, the law would create a system for gun violence restraining orders. This system allows law enforcement, teachers, co-workers and acquaintances with information regarding a potential gun violence threat to ask the court to issue a restraining order on the individual’s firearms.
Some states, like California, Oregon and Washington, have similar laws, but none allow anyone aside from law enforcement, family members, household members and domestic partners to file a petition, unlike Morey’s legislation.
Under Morey’s proposed legislation, firearms would be taken away from the individual for up to 10 days if the judge agrees with the petitioner. Before the weapons can be returned, a hearing is held for the person to defend against the petition. If the judge still deems the individual to be a threat, they would be unable to purchase any firearms and all their guns would remain confiscated for a year.
N.C. legislators hope to reach a compromise on Silent Sam
Democrats in the General Assembly hope to compromise with Silent Sam’s presence — which has conjured strong opinions from many UNC students, faculty and staff — by moving it to a less prominent location on campus.
A potential bill sponsored by N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, hopes to find a legal way to relocate the statue. While not attempting to remove it altogether, Insko and several other Democrats want to move it somewhere inside — like the Ackland Art Museum or Wilson Library — to preserve the history it represents and allow the public to have access.
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper suggested over the summer that the University move the statue, but Chancellor Carol Folt and the Board of Trustees refused, citing a 2015 law that prevents such a movement.
Insko, with the help of N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, and N.C. Sen. Valerie Foushee, D-Orange, plans to sponsor the bill in May when the legislature reconvenes.
General Assembly leaders may issue pipeline fund subpoena
Republican leadership in the General Assembly is heavily criticizing Cooper and his administration for their lack of answers about a roughly $58 million fund that has connections to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Republicans may issue subpoenas in response.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would begin in West Virginia and travel through Virginia and into North Carolina, will likely be in effect by 2019 and will provide a new source of natural gas to its surrounding communities.
In a joint press release, the chairpeople of the House Rules Committee and the Senate Rules Committee said the public deserves answers, and their representatives will do everything they can to uncover the truth about the fund.
“Gov. Cooper’s refusal to answer simple questions surrounding the $57.8 million he obtained from energy companies building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline just before granting them a key permit to advance it is deeply disturbing and frankly unacceptable,” the statement said.
The so-called “slush fund” was intended to be used as grant money for environmental damage mitigation, economic development and renewable energy projects in the areas affected by the pipeline.
Republican legislators quickly passed legislation to deposit the funds into the state treasury and direct them instead to schools along the pipeline’s route.
“The easiest way to get us to stop asking these questions is to answer them,” the statement said. “By continuing to dodge them, the governor is only dragging this out.”
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