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Committees pass bills on speed limits, background checks and building codes

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A bill requiring background checks for anyone receiving welfare checks has passed a Senate committee in Raleigh A bill requiring background checks for anyone receiving welfare checks has passed a Senate committee in Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Some North Carolina House members have decided to move Senate legislation ahead that would allow speed limits on some state highways to race up to 75 mph.

A House committee voted Tuesday for the bill allowing the Department of Transportation to set speed limits higher than the current 70 mph cap for some interstates and other highways if traffic and engineering allows it. The bill doesn't identify which roads could change, but committee members discussed rural stretches of Interstate 40 in eastern North Carolina as a possibility.

The bill already has passed the Senate and its next stop is the House floor.

The measure passed the committee despite some members saying they are worried higher speed limits will mean more highway accidents.

A bill rolling back energy-efficiency standards for commercial builders passed a Senate committee.

The Senate Commerce Committee endorsed a bill that backers say will spur construction by eliminating the 2012 codes in favor of 2009 standards. The 2009 standards are 30-percent lower than today's energy-use benchmarks.

Critics argued the bill would jeopardize long-term energy savings in favor of limited short-term benefits. Democratic lawmakers asked Republican sponsors to make a compromise that would keep the 2012 standards in some instances.

The lobbyist for general contractors in the Carolinas said there's some division within the group but that anything done to minimize costs will help construction.

The bill has already passed the House and now heads to the Senate floor.

A bill requiring state workers to check the criminal history of welfare and food stamp recipients passed a Senate panel.

A Senate judiciary committee unanimously endorsed the bill Tuesday, sending it on to another panel. The bill requires social services employees to see whether applicants or returning beneficiaries are fleeing from the law or violating parole.

A previous version required employees to immediately report red flags to local law enforcement, but the latest iteration requires social services to adopt rules for sharing that information first. The change arose out of concerns about complying with federal law.

Legislative staffers say the federal government already requires states to deny benefits to people with violations that are targeted by the bill. Critics have said the bill unfairly profiles welfare recipients.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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