Legislators finally placed an end to the eight-month legislative session on Aug. 3 after approving the state budget and pushing through some final pieces of legislation.
In all, more than 500 bills may become law from this session. The final number depends on how many Governor Mike Easley will veto. He has 30 days from the end of the session to decide about the nearly 200 bills still on his desk. Any bill Easley does not act on in that time frame will be automatically enacted into law.
Of those bills, only a handful concern higher education in North Carolina, and those primarily focus on procedural changes to programs currently in existence. A few bills do create new programs or initiatives with the state’s higher education systems.
Here are the relevant bills that have been enacted into law (as of press time), along with brief descriptions:
UNC Smoke Free (S862) – This bill regulates smoking in buildings owned by the University of North Carolina and its health systems. The bill will allow the system to include smoking residential areas or rooms, based on student demand.
Modify Community College Lateral Entry Process (H583) – This bill modifies the lateral entry teaching program, which allows students with a bachelor’s degree to obtain certification through the community college system. It removes a requirement that a student wait five years after getting a bachelor’s degree and a requirement that the student must be employed by a school district. This should make it easier to obtain certification and should spur additional community college programs.
UNC/Agriculture Extension Employee Status (H847) – The act clarifies that employees of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service are exempt from the State Personnel Act and requires the North Carolina State Board of Trustees to set employment policies for the extension services.
Meetings of Community College Trustees (H581) – Under this new law, a majority of board members can call for a meeting of the board of trustees. Previously, only the chairman of the board or the institution’s chief administrative officer could call a meeting.
UNC Board of Governors/Dual Office Holding (S884) – This bill allows spouses of members of the UNC Board of Governors, an institution’s board of trustees, or members of the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges to be state employees or officers. There had been a prohibition against spouses serving as officers of the state or state employees.
North Carolina Arboretum Police (S630) – Passed in July, this bill requires the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Arboretum, in Asheville, to create a campus police force.
UNC PACE (President’s Advisory Committee on Efficiency and Effectiveness) Recommendations (H749) – This bill puts into law many of the recommendations made by President Erskine Bowles’ special committee that was charged with making the UNC system more efficient. Recommendations increased the limit for small construction projects (which don’t need to go through an architect) from $300,000 to $500,000, repealed several reports that the system was required to make annually, and made other changes. These changes were also reflected in UNC’s budget, which was approved by the General Assembly.