General Assembly adjourns
The House and Senate held their last sessions of the legislative Short Session on Friday, and the bodies are now adjourned until later this year.
I would like to thank the citizens of House District 118 for the opportunity to serve them. For everyone who has contacted me this session to discuss policy and to request help with state government, thank you for providing invaluable input.
Fellow House members and I on the House floor on Friday.
Legislature overrides Farm Act veto
The House and Senate voted this week to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 711 — NC Farm Act of 2018.
Frivolous lawsuits against farms of all sizes are putting farmers and their families at risk. The Farm Act simply defines very clearly the types of nuisance suits that may be brought against farms in North Carolina.
People have been buying property around hog farms that were established well before they bought the property, then suing the farmers for nuisance – sometimes from many miles away. That’s just not fair. The farm was there first, and the Farm Act limits these suits to properties that lie within one half-mile of an operation, and to within one year after a farm is started or a farm makes major changes.
Attorneys in other states, particularly in Iowa, have brought numerous suits against farming operations. In North Carolina, attorneys are showing up at the front doors of people who have lived near farms their entire lives and saying, effectively, “If you sign this piece of paper, I’ll win you millions of dollars in court.”
We are bombarded with fake news about farming operations. We are told by the media and special interest groups that farmers have no regard for people who live nearby.
An example of fake news about farming operations has been the media’s and special interest groups’ portrayals of the recent Smithfield Foods lawsuit. In court, the judge in the case did not allow photos. A plaintiff in the case said a hog farming operation was spraying her home with manure from eight feet away, but an aerial photo of the area plainly showed the farming operation was a mile-and-a-half away.
There is false information everywhere meant to build a narrative that puts money in the pockets of out-of-state attorneys. How else could a farming operation a mile-and-a-half from a home be portrayed in court and in the media as being eight feet away from a home?
Despite deeply erroneous and slanted characterizations of lawsuits, the Farm Act does not affect any pending lawsuits in any way.
The target today is hog farms. Once a handful of parasitic attorneys have juiced that industry for as much money in frivolous court damages as they can, chicken operations, cattle operations and others will be next.
Agriculture is our state’s number one industry. As of 2017, there were 47,800 farms in our state operating on 8.1 million acres with a total annual economic output of more than $80 billion. I will not stand idly by as attorneys try to skim off the backs of hardworking farmers and literally take food off of people’s tables.
Legal practices seeking to win frivolous nuisance suits are playing the media and special interest groups like fiddles. The media and special interest groups then turn and play the people of our state like fiddles as they seek advertising dollars and donations.
Reports in the media and from special interest groups are simply not true. If you want to see for yourself, I would encourage you to visit some farming operations in North Carolina.
Agritourism is an up-and-coming industry across our state, and personally witnessing the dedication of farmers to their trade may be a good excuse to visit a farm.
North Carolinians have a right to participate in agricultural activities without a pervasive, real fear that their assets will be taken by frivolous, unjustified lawsuits. People who are truly negatively impacted by agricultural activity would still have recourse in court with the passage of Senate Bill 711.
Most people eat three times a day, and the food they eat does not originate at Ingles – that food is grown and harvested on a farm. Senate Bill 711 strikes a balance between farmers and property owners who live nearby, and, therefore, I voted to override the governor’s veto of the bill.
The bill is now law.
(L-R) Rep. Rena Turner (R — Iredell), Rep. Beverly Boswell (R — Dare), Rep. Debra Conrad (R — Forsyth) and I at the Rally for Ag in Raleigh on Monday.
Legislature puts constitutional amendments on ballot
North Carolina voters will have an opportunity to vote on several constitutional amendments this November.
Constitutional amendment bills were passed by the House and Senate by a three-fifths majority this week. In accordance with our state constitution, the governor cannot veto them.
- House Bill 1092 Const. Amendment – Require Photo ID to Vote
- Would amend the Constitution of North Carolina to require that every person offering to vote in person present photo ID before voting in the manner prescribed by law
- Senate Bill 75 Const. Amd. – Max. Income Tax Rate of 7%
- Would lower the maximum income tax rate for families and businesses allowed by the state constitution from 10% to 7%
- Senate Bill 814 Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment
- Would not change the process for regular judicial elections, but only reforms the process for filling vacancies in the state courts system
- Establishes a Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission and local merit selection committees appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Governor, and the General Assembly
- None of the three branches appointing authorities could be granted a majority of appointments to the commissions
- Senate Bill 677 Protect Right to Hunt and Fish
- Proposes a state constitutional amendment to voters providing that the people of North Carolina have a right to use traditional methods to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to certain limitations promoting wildlife conservation and resource management