Raleigh recap: bills approved on boat fees, pre-K and union contracts
Boat owners could pay higher fees to help raise funds for dredging projects
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Boat owners across North Carolina would face higher fees to pay for coastal dredging projects thanks to legislation that received a preliminary OK from the state Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown of Jacksonville says the measure attempts to address dwindling federal funds for removing sand from shallow navigational channels. It passed 35-13 Thursday.
The bill would raise titling fees and vessel numbering fees for most watercraft and large boats. The current $15 annual numbering fee, for example, would increase to $25 or $50, depending on the vessel's length. The titling fee would be $30, up from $20.
Millions of dollars in proceeds would enter a special fund to provide matching money for dredging projects. A final Senate vote is expected next week before the bill goes to the House.
A bill narrowing eligibility for North Carolina's pre-K program is one step closer to passage.
The House gave tentative approval to the Republican measure Thursday in a 62-46 vote. The bill lowers eligibility to the federal poverty rate, which is about $19,500 for a family of three. The eligibility mark is currently about twice that rate.
Bill sponsor Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle says the change won't reduce the number of slots available, but roughly halves income eligibility to 31,000 children.
Democrats argue the bill shirks the state's duty to educate the less fortunate.
A state appeals court ruled last year that the state can't turn away eligible children but didn't order it to accept all applicants. The bill requires one final vote before going to the Senate.
A bill outlawing any contract that makes union hiring a requirement has passed the House.
The proposal was approved Thursday over the objections of Democrats who said it violates the National Labor Relations Act.
Republican Rep. Tom Murry of Morrisville said the proposal is meant to prevent unfair business practices.
Democratic Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville said federal law says employment conditions are a matter for the parties in a deal to decide for themselves, not the government. He said the bill would guarantees a costly court challenge, which has happened in other states that have passed similar laws.
North Carolina already has laws forbidding employers from making union membership mandatory. The bill now goes to the Senate.
North Carolina installment loan companies could charge higher interest rates on most borrowers and new late fees in legislation tentatively approved by the state Senate.
The chamber voted 39-9 Thursday for legislation sought by the consumer finance industry. Leaders say the industry hasn't had interest rate and loan amount caps changed in 30 years and need help to improve profits.
The bill also contains protections for young military members seeking the loans. The chamber defeated an amendment that would have barred all armed forces members from getting the loans.
Bill supporters say the industry provides a needed form of credit to working people. Opponents said the interest rates remain too high and benefits big corporations that do business in the state.
A final Senate vote is expected next week.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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