RALEIGH -- For better or worse, the state's legislative session is over. A new real estate tax and background checks for illegal immigrants are just some of the pieces of legislation that went through in the final minutes of the latest session. After a hotly contested debate between legislators and real estate agents, lawmakers passed a bill that will allow county governments to impose a real estate transfer tax. That tax would cost anyone selling a house hundreds of dollars that they don't currently have to pay. But voters in each county would have to approve the tax by referendum. New Hanover County Commissioner Nancy Pritchett said, "If the people say no, then it's no. And if the people say 'yes, this is something we want to do,' then we'll do it." Another hot topic legislators addressed was illegal immigration. A bill put through by Sen. Julia Boseman will require law enforcement officials to check the status of anyone arrested for a felony or DWI to make sure they are in the US legally. If they are determined to be illegal immigrants, law enforcement will contact the Department of Homeland Security. Sen. Boseman also sponsored a bill that will expand safe zones around schools and parks from 300 feet to 1,000 feet. That means if you sell drugs within those areas you can be charged with a class-E felony. Sen. Boseman said, "We want to do whatever we can to protect our kids from drugs and keep it far away. We have areas of downtown Wilmington that are caught right in between some of these districts that are known for drug sales and drug use. We're going to try to get drugs out of those areas and away from our schools." One key issue lawmakers could not agree on is how to fund road projects like the Cape Fear Skyway. Senators wanted to raise the state's vehicle registration fee. But house members wanted to take $20 million out of the general fund to pay for the portion of the projects not covered by tolls. For the time being, there's no resolution. The legislature also approved $7.5 million for the port as well as $34 million for a new lab at UNCW.
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