Abortion and autism bills pass General Assembly ahead of Thursda - | WBTV Charlotte

Abortion and autism bills pass General Assembly ahead of Thursday's "crossover deadline"

House lawmakers passed a bill imposing restrictions on abortions as lawmakers neared the "crossover deadline" in the General Assembly House lawmakers passed a bill imposing restrictions on abortions as lawmakers neared the "crossover deadline" in the General Assembly


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A bill broadening restrictions on abortion through the federal health care law and so-called conscience protections has gained initial approval from the North Carolina House.

The bill tentatively approved Wednesday outlaws health care plans that include abortion services from future online marketplaces of private plans offered under the federal Affordable Care Act.

It also allows any medical professional to refuse to participate in an abortion and allows any business to refuse to provide contraception coverage on religious or moral grounds. Current law only refers to doctors and nurses but would now extend to pharmacists and technicians.

A provision exempting private businesses from refusing to cover contraception was removed. 

Opponents say the bill tramples women's rights.

The bill needs another vote before Thursday night to move to the Senate.

House lawmakers want to require North Carolina health insurance providers - including the plan for state employees and teachers - to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism for children of their members.

The chamber voted by a wide margin for the final bill Wednesday night that applies to children age 23 and under and would limit behavioral health treatment to $36,000 annually. The 105-7 margin came after vigorous debate on several amendments.

The bill would exempt small-employer carriers from the requirement if the new mandate raises annual premiums by more than 1 percent. A bill sponsor has said premiums went up by a few dollars a year in other states. An amendment that would have exempted more small businesses was defeated.

The measure now heads to the Senate.

A bill giving North Carolina students with disabilities a grant to attend private school secured initial approval in the state House.

The House tentatively approved Wednesday a bill that replaces a similar tax credit program with a $3,000-per-semester grant that sponsors say will broaden eligibility to poorer residents.

Backers of the bipartisan bill say the original program passed last session excluded parents who don't pay income taxes from taking advantage of the credit.

Democratic lawmakers argued $6,000 a year isn't enough for poor families when tuition costs far more, so the bill subsidizes more middle-income families. Supporters of the bill said it still offers the opportunity for parents to make the choice for themselves.

The bill requires another vote for approval before heading to the Senate.

The Senate on Wednesday passed bills repealing rules aimed at improving water quality in Jordan Lake and lifting a cap on new jetties along the coast.

Republican Sen. Rick Gunn of Burlington said his bill repealing Jordan Lake rules and commissioning a study for new ones will help improve methods for curbing pollutants. Democratic lawmakers said those rules haven't had a chance to work because the legislature has repeatedly delayed their implementation.

Republican senators favoring an end to caps and many restrictions on jetties argued many coastal communities want the structures to protect their inlets but existing law is too strict. Democrats worried about their appearance and the potential damage they cause to neighboring property.

The House rejected an effort to create a new kind of corporate structure in North Carolina that would focus on benefiting the public in addition to making a profit.

The House voted 52-60 Wednesday night against a measure called the North Carolina Benefit Corporation Act. It would allow the formation of what's known as a "B-corp," in addition to the current "S-corp" and "C-corp" formats under which corporations can be established.

Bill sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville says the new type of corporation is already permitted in other states and would allow a younger generation of entrepreneurs to promote the good of society or the environment.

But critics say the measure encourages a move away from capitalism and isn't necessary under the state's current corporate structure.

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