Weekly Legislative Update. January 29 – 31, 2019

This week, the massive House bill that would overhaul the state education system received its first subcommittee hearing. The meeting was largely to hear input from citizens and no official action was taken. The bill is scheduled to be heard again in subcommittee next Tuesday. Also, a related bill seeking to recreate last year’s data warehouse has yet to be scheduled for committee.

One bill moving along quickly, however, is S.228. This bill would create a powerful mini-government within the Tri-County Technical College for the purpose of driving economic development. This new entity – called an “enterprise authority” – would have the power to issue revenue bonds on behalf of the college, collect fees for undefined purposes, and possibly even exercise eminent domain. It passed the Senate last week and has been fast-tracked to the House floor, where it will likely be voted on next week.

Another controversial bill that advanced through subcommittee is S.3355, which would essentially outlaw the use of cellphones while driving. However, what is and is not considered acceptable use under this bill is tricky, so it’s easy to foresee enforcement difficulties and unintended consequences.  Still, not every bill is making progress. S.290 would allow for curbside pickup of beer and wine, much like people do with their groceries. Unfortunately, lawmakers overlooked the benefits of consumer convenience and carried it over, indicating it needs further regulation before passage.

Next week, an important bill to watch is H.3446, which would expand the power of legislative ethics committees. The bill in its original form would have allowed any standing legislative committee to subpoena private individuals or entities. It has since been amended, strictly giving ethics committees the power to subpoena financial institutions (which could still involve private individuals’ information).

For a more comprehensive look at the upcoming week, read our weekly calendar published each and every Monday.

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