North Carolina House, Senate to take up bills involving firearms, hogs, undergraduate degrees

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The House and Senate convene Monday and are expected to take up important bills.

The House and Senate convene Monday and are expected to take up important bills.

One of them, House Bill 476, would limit compensation to those filing "nuisance" lawsuits against agricultural or forestry operations.

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The House quickly approved the bill in a second reading on Thursday. The House is taking up the bill for a final reading Monday, then it could move to the Senate.

The bill is facing some controversy by environmentalists and those who say it benefits a specific industry.

The legislation could impact residents living near hog farms who say practices of pork producers are leading to chronic illnesses and sickening stenches.

The state allows animal waste to be spread on open fields. Some say that leads to groundwater contamination.

More than 500 residents living near hog farms owned by Murphy-Brown LLC, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, filed a lawsuit against the company in 2013.

Some say the legislation would shield that company.

Meanwhile, another bill - Senate Bill 315 - which directs the University of North Carolina to implement the undergraduate degree completion improvement plan, is expected to also be taken up Monday.

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The plan is meant to improve graduation rates for undergraduates and reduce student debt. It would include specific targets for completion rates.

And House Bill 239 would reduce the number of judges on the Court of Appeals to 12 judges. If passed, it would become effective immediately.

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Another bill involves students learning about firearms in high school.

House Bill 612 authorizes a local board to education to offer a comprehensive firearm education elective course. The high school course would be developed by the state board of education. It would incorporate history, math and science related to firearms and firearm safety. But it wouldn't allow the use or presence of live ammunition.

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If passed, it would take effect for the next school year.

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