- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina General Assembly did some heavy lifting this week giving final approval to significant legislation that overhauls Medicaid, expands economic development incentives and moves the 2016 primaries up to March. A $2 billion bond package is also close to complete.

But as the eight-month session moved toward adjournment next week, legislators took up a host of bills Thursday that some lawmakers and advocacy groups want to see acted upon before everyone goes home until next spring:

FETAL TISSUE

The Senate voted 41-3 to make it a felony to sell the remains of aborted fetuses and other aborted material.

The bill first surfaced Wednesday, with Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, urging its passage in light of videos released in July showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue for research.



The group that produced the videos said they prove Planned Parenthood is profiting from fetal tissue sales, which is illegal under federal law. North Carolina state law specifically doesn’t ban the sale of these remains but Barefoot said a prohibition is needed.

Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, voted against the bill. She said the bill could impede scientific research - the bill appears to discourage any transfer of aborted remains, such as by donation. Planned Parenthood in North Carolina says it does not perform transfers of any kind.

Van Duyn focused most of her comments on another item that would make permanent a provision in this year’s budget that would bar state funds aimed at family planning and pregnancy prevention programs to groups that perform abortions.

The bill next returns to the House.

SANCTUARY CITIES

Senators gave tentative approval to a measure that in part would prevent local governments from having policies that critics say create “sanctuary cities” for immigrants who are in the country unlawfully.

The bill bars cities and counties from ordinances or procedures to limit the enforcement of federal immigration law or prohibit police from asking the immigration status of people.

Some cities - Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro - have passed immigration-related policies, which bill proponents say they want addressed in the measure. Sanctuary city supporters say such policies improve relationships between law enforcement and immigrants.

The measure was given initial approval 32-11. A second Senate vote is coming next week.

STALKING BY GPS

The General Assembly finalized legislation to make it a crime in most cases for someone to use GPS devices to track others against their will. The devices would be added to the state law addressing cyberstalking, which is already a misdemeanor.

There would be exceptions, such as for law enforcement officers performing official duties, parents using a GPS device to keep track of their child and sometimes for private detectives.

The measure now heads to Gov. Pat McCrory.

LOCAL OPTION TAXES

Counties would be given more revenue options to generate proceeds for education in an amended Senate measure given tentative House approval.

Consumers in all 100 counties pay a combined sales tax of at least 6.75 percent - with 2 percentage points going to local governments. Six counties have the authority to raise the combined rate to 7.5 percent, with the other counties capped at 7.25 percent.

The bill, part of a broader tax cleanup bill, gives all counties the ability to raise their local sales tax portion - if county voters approve - by a half-percentage point, up from the current quarter-percentage point. The counties would still be unable to exceed their caps.

DEER FARMING DELETED

A farm bill from the Senate was narrowed by the House to delete a provision that would have transferred oversight of deer farming from the Wildlife Resources Commission to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The contentious provision had hunters and conservation groups worried it would harm the state’s natural resources and bring chronic wasting disease to wild North Carolina herds. The bill otherwise got tentative approval on the House floor.

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