‘Jessica's Law' among numerous bills passed

The General Assembly worked busily Thursday, passing bill after bill in an attempt to adjourn today.

The highlights:

The House and Senate overwhelmingly approved “Jessica's Law” – a plan that would imprison some child sex offenders for at least 25 years and monitor them by satellite if they're released. The bill requires adult offenders who commit certain sex crimes against children under 13 – including rape – to be sent to prison for 25 years to life. The bill is named for Jessica Lunsford, a former Gaston County resident who was raped, and buried alive by a repeat sex offender in Florida in 2005. She was 9 years old.

The House voted to legalize online ticket scalping. Online resellers would have to guarantee the tickets they sell are legitimate and that buyers will receive them in time for the event. The bill now heads to a conference committee.

Lawmakers voted to ease the state's restrictions on boat towing.

The measure allows drivers to pull boats up to 10 feet wide on any day of the week without obtaining a special permit. Watercraft up to 9 1/2 feet wide could be pulled at night. Current state law allows boats up to 8 1/2 feet wide on the roads.

Gov. Mike Easley is considering vetoing the measure.

The Senate effectively killed an anti-bullying bill, which would have listed gay students as potential harassment targets.

The bill was controversial because it listed sexual orientation and more than a dozen other characteristics as reasons school children might be bully targets. Groups interested in socially conservative issues such as the Christian Action League and the N.C. Family Policy Council did not want the term “sexual orientation” in state law, saying that gay-rights groups would use it to leverage other rights.

The bill would have required teachers, students and volunteers to report bullying and have local school boards establish anti-bullying policies.

The House passed a bill that bars N.C. drivers from allowing children under 16 to ride in the back bed of a pickup truck without an adult. Current law bars riders under 12 and exempts smaller counties.

Lawmakers considered a bill that would allow PACs that do not work directly with candidates to receive unlimited individual contributions. At the same time, they could advertise for or against specific candidates. The measure is designed to comply with a U.S. Court of Appeals decision in an N.C. case, election officials said.

The Senate approved Gov. Mike Easley's drought response plan. Easley asked lawmakers to give governors more power to restrict usage during water shortages. The bill now goes to the House, which approved an earlier draft of the plan this week.

The House joined the Senate in unanimously approving legislation that would help keep guns away from those so mentally ill that they are considered to be a danger to themselves or others.

The bill requires court clerks to report to a national database those who have been involuntarily committed by a judge to inpatient or outpatient treatment and determined to be “a danger to self or others.”

A review by Attorney General Roy Cooper's office, prompted by the Virginia Tech shootings, found a loophole in the law. It did not require those who had been involuntarily committed from being reported to the data base, which is used to prevent gun purchases by individuals.

Lawmakers voted to create an emergency program designed to reduce the 60,000 foreclosure proceedings projected to begin this year in North Carolina.

The program requires lenders to give homeowners 45 days notice before starting foreclosure proceedings. The N.C. banking commissioner will examine the loan's terms and try to work out a deal to save the home.

The House voted unanimously to confirm David McCoy as the next state controller for North Carolina. The 200-person controller's office is considered among the most important in state government. It is responsible for keeping the state's books, handling payroll for 90,000 state employees, managing cash flow and describing the state's fiscal health to Wall Street bond raters.

McCoy has served as Gov. Mike Easley's chief budget officer since 2001.