The Latest: Farm nuisance restrictions gets initial House OK

June 13, 2018 - 6:58 pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on the North Carolina legislature debating bills on dozen of topics as the session begins to wind down (all times local):

6:55 p.m.

The North Carolina House has approved special protections for agribusiness from lawsuits filed by neighbors who complain their property is devalued by nuisances generated by new farm operations.

The farm protection legislation received initial approval Wednesday from the chamber after several changes that block virtually all nuisance lawsuits against farms. Another vote is required Thursday before it returns to the Senate, which passed a different version.

House members refused to remove language that protects even farm operations that operate with negligence from being held accountable. That proposal failed when Speaker Tim Moore cast the deciding vote.

Lawmakers in the country's No. 2 hog-growing state have jumped to protect the politically influential pork industry after a federal jury in April punished Smithfield Foods with a nearly $51 million verdict. Smithfield is owned by Hong Kong-headquartered WH Group, which reported profits of nearly $1.1 billion last year.

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3:10 p.m.

Legislation to give city leaders of one North Carolina municipality the ability to review privately footage from a police officer's body-worn camera appears dead after members from both parties opposed it in committee.

The sponsor of the House bill — which would only apply to the Asheville City Council — withdrew the measure Wednesday when it became clear it would be defeated.

A 2016 statewide law allows the family of someone who is the subject of camera footage to view the video. Other members of the public may ask a judge to release it.

Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said giving authority to review footage privately means the council wouldn't be caught off guard. Leaked camera footage in March showed an Asheville police officer choking a pedestrian. The officer has been charged.

Committee members said the proposal would begin to unravel a law designed to treat all situations the same statewide.

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11:45 a.m.

North Carolina legislators are moving bills rapidly through the halls of the General Assembly as Republicans aim to close the two-year session by the end of the month.

Both the House and Senate GOP leaders have said they want to approve their favored bills that could be subject to Gov. Roy Cooper's veto by Friday. That would give time after to attempt to override vetoes and to debate proposed constitutional amendments, such as photo identification to vote.

A dozen committees scheduled meetings Wednesday, with floor debate expected into the evening. The Senate debated and voted for "technical corrections" to the new budget law that attempts to edit language opponents otherwise fear could doom a Durham-Orange light-rail project.

Bills addressing opioids, prison security and health insurance plans are on tap for debate.

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