Week two of the short session began a lot like week one ended. Monday’s session was short, with many bills being read in (First Reading). Tuesday was similar, with a resolution honoring a former Alamance County member and community activist, which required several speeches. However, Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with committee meetings and constituent meetings. I had Education and Environment committees. Several groups from Brunswick County and the Cape Fear area came up to meet with their representatives, including the homebuilders, midwives, and other organizations. I had about 10 meetings Tuesday, which is still short of our record 12 in one day.
Wednesday, we had a resolution honoring Veterans, with many Veterans in attendance. There were many speeches on the House floor, and I am sure the Senate was the same. Many pointed out that the freedom to make laws for the people would not exist without the sacrifice of our military service men and women. We were reminded to thank them every day for their sacrifices of life, limb, and family time to protect our American way of life we take for granted.
Thursday was the day that the annexation bills came to the House floor, having already passed the Senate. House Bill 5 – Local Annexations came up first. It includes 9 cities and towns, including Southport and Wilmington. It uses the power of the legislature to set city boundaries to cancel the annexations described in the bill, and prevents another attempt to annex the areas for twelve years. After a long debate it passed 67 – 49, and will be back for the final vote Tuesday. We expect no votes to change, so passage should be guaranteed. I was happy to see District 3 Commissioner-Elect Pat Sykes, who came up to watch the annexation proceedings along with the anti-forced-annexation group known as the “Red – shirts.”
House Bill 925 – Annexation Reform 2 establishes a different method for towns and cities to annex. After our House Bill 845 last year established a 60% petition procedure for property owners to turn down an annexation attempt, a single judge ruled it unconstitutional. Several cities, urged by the League of Municipalities, sued to get this ruling and won. They argued that the procedure should include a vote of the registered voters, not the petition. (Last year, the League had agreed to the petition, then turned around and encouraged the cities to sue to upset it. Southport was not one of the towns that sued.) Well, in House Bill 925; they got what they asked for. The denial of a forced annexation attempt will be by a vote, with a simple majority over 50% prevailing. After much debate, forecasts of doom and gloom, but also reminders that only 3 other states allow forced annexations, it passed 70 – 44. Again, we expect final passage Tuesday of this week.
Another bill important to our teachers was House Bill 966 – Repeal Prohibition on Teacher Prepayment. It corrects a change made last year that, in simple terms, would have kept teachers from getting a check in August. It passed unanimously by 116 – 0.
This week, we will see the entire budget on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. in the Appropriations Committee. It should be an all-day meeting. Last year, we handled over 100 amendments in the budget meeting. If we finish Tuesday, it should be on the House floor very quickly this week.