Politics & Government

Disputed bill on waterway buffers clears Senate

The state Senate passed a lengthy bill dealing with environmental issues and a range of local government matters late Monday. A majority of the discussion surrounded an amendment focused on the type and size of vegetative buffers along North Carolina’s streams and rivers.

House Bill 44 cleared the Republican-controlled Senate in a 32 to 16 vote that was mostly along party lines.

Sen. Trudy Wade, a Greensboro Republican, introduced what she called a technical amendment to the bill that sought to rewrite a number of regulatory changes that apply to shoreline vegetative buffers. The buffers are necessary to reduce pollution that flows into North Carolina waterways.

The bill would change a state ban on removing vegetation to instead allow development on land to within 50 feet of streams and rivers. Wade proposed that there be a mandatory 30-foot buffer and that the scientifically best vegetation be used to catch pollutants and keep the water clean.

Republicans supporting the amendment said that sometimes the vegetation that is naturally there isn’t considered the best for catching pollutants. She added that the additional 20-foot buffer after the first 30 feet be left up to local government regulation.

Sen. Josh Stein said that Wade’s amendment was far from a technical amendment, calling it a “radical” rewrite.

“This is a terrible idea and a terrible way to make policy, and it’s happening in a technical rewrite in the third reading of the bill. This would be a disaster to clean water in North Carolina,” Stein said before the amendment passed.

Wade’s amendment passed 29 to 19. The bill now heads to a conference committee.

Separately, the Senate also took up a bill requiring insurance for drivers of mopeds in North Carolina.

It passed a major hurdle in a 39-9 vote, with an objection to a third reading by Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham who wanted to know exactly what level of insurance would be necessary to insure a moped in a motor vehicle crash.

The objection keeps the bill alive for more discussion.

Sen. Tom Apodaca, who introduced House Bill 148 on the floor, said that mopeds do not have to be titled, but they should be registered and insured.

Sen. Stan Bingham was one of two Republicans who objected. He said he was concerned for those who drive mopeds because they have too many DUIs. He added that many drive mopeds because they are “lower on the food chain.”

Sen. Joyce Waddell, a Democrat, was also concerned for those who may not be able to afford the insurance.

Apodaca said that those who drive mopeds and cause a crash must be insured so the expense does not fall solely on automobile drivers.