The North Carolina session came to an end early Friday morning. House Bill 559, the Outdoor Heritage Enhanced bill, went through several steps this week before it was passed late Thursday evening. After having passed the Senate on Tuesday, the House voted to not concur with the changes made to the bill. HB 559 was then sent to a conference committee, where significant improvements were made to the legislation. After several days working with conferees, and in the final hours of the legislative session, the Senate adopted the conference report with a vote of 31-11, followed by the House adopting it with a vote of 80-25. HB 559 now heads to Governor Roy Cooper (D) for his consideration. It is important you contact Governor Cooper and urge him to sign HB 559!
The final version of HB 559 expands on the Sunday Hunting provisions passed in 2015. The Outdoor Heritage Act of 2015 removed the absolute prohibition on hunting with firearms on Sunday in North Carolina. However, it only applied to hunting on private land, maintained a prohibition on hunting migratory birds, exempted counties with populations over 700,000 from being included, and did not allow hunting within 500 yards of a residence not owned by the landowner. HB 599 was introduced this year to further expand hunting opportunities in the Tar Heel State. HB 559's changes include:
- Allowing the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) to study the impact of expanding the hunting of migratory birds to include hunting on Sunday;
- Expanding hunting on Sunday to public lands;
- Removing the exemption of counties with a population over 700,000 from hunting on Sundays;
- Removing the prohibition on hunting within 500 yards of a residence on Sundays;
- Changing the standards for counties to opt-out of allowing hunting on Sundays.
One of the most significant changes to HB 559 happened during conference committee. A provision in the original legislation would have allowed counties to pass an ordinance prohibiting Sunday Hunting, which could have gone into effect as early as October 1 of this year. With the conference committee changes, HB 559 now requires any county opt-out to be approved by a public referendum. By statute, the referendum can only take place in an even-numbered year, which pushes any possible opt-out to 2018.
HB 559 represents a tremendous victory for the hunting community. While many legislators were extremely helpful in navigating this bill through the legislative process, we are especially thankful for the efforts by the bill's primary sponsors which include state Representatives Chris Millis (R-16) and John Bell (R-10). Your NRA-ILA would also like to thank state Senators John Alexander (R-15) and Bill Rabon (R-8) for their hard work on HB 559 in the Senate.
Again, it is important you contact Governor Cooper and urge him to sign HB 559!
Unfortunately, time ran out on the session before final action could be taken on House Bill 746 introduced by Representative Millis. HB 746 was an NRA-supported omnibus gun bill that includes Permitless Carry. Senate Republicans spent several hours this week trying to determine the best way to not just pass HB 746, but to make additional pro-gun reforms. While they were unable to come to a consensus, and the bill did not pass, it remains viable for next year's "Short Session." NRA has received numerous commitments from Senate Republicans, including those in key leadership positions, that they will continue to work on HB 746 to ensure its passage next year. Your NRA-ILA will be working with Senate Republicans, and continue to update you on this process, to make sure that HB 746 becomes law.