Week four of the short session started relatively calmly, but by Tuesday and Wednesday we had taken up several controversial bills, had many committee meetings, and visited with many groups that came to Raleigh to discuss various issues.
Tuesday saw the final vote on Senate Bill 582 – Authorize Indian Gaming/Revenue. As expected, it passed with a similar vote as last week, 68 – 49. I again joined a bipartisan group voting against it, due to the expansion to 2 more possible casinos west of Interstate 26.
Next on Tuesday’s agenda was the much-discussed eugenics bill, House Bill 947 – Eugenics Compensation Program. This bill will pay $50,000 each to living victims of the North Carolina Eugenics Program which took place from the 1920s to 1974. Young people were sterilized by the decree of the Eugenics Board, frequently at the request of a family member, but without their own approval in most cases. They were usually labeled as “feebleminded” or promiscuous. This was part of a theory of population control, cut across racial lines, and affected low income families the most. There have been about 150 victims verified so far, but there could be as many as 1500 still living. This bill took much discussion and passed 86 – 31. It is now in the Senate.
Also on Tuesday was our first House Transportation Committee meeting of the short session. This is the standing committee that I chair along with Representative Grey Mills. With me presiding, we handled ten bills fairly quickly, and now have over ten more coming up this week, which could be our last meeting of the session. Besides several special license plate bills, we approved a bill to make the construction of highways more efficient as it relates to environmental issues between DOT and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Wednesday schedule was filled with meetings with groups from back home. The Brunswick County Association of Realtors had about 30 in my meeting with them. Board of Education Chair Shirley Babson, Superintendent Dr. Pruden, and an outstanding group of educators and arts education officials visited. We discussed arts education in schools and Senate Bill 795 – Excellent Public Schools Act.
Wednesday and Thursday sessions saw many bills added to the calendar and dozens of votes on issues of local interest around the state and technical amendments to previous laws. This week will see some more controversial bills coming to the House floor, as well as the budget back from the Senate for us to concur or agree to.
Speaking of the transportation committees, I have served on the House Transportation Committee, this session as Co-chair, and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation as Vice Chair. My co-chair on the former committee and the co-chairs of the latter one are leaving the House next term. I have learned a lot about transportation and feel like I have at least an Associate degree in the subject. However, I feel the need to acquire more knowledge. Mentioning this to a research staff member, one of our experts, it was suggested that I go to “summer school” and let them supply me with more reading on transportation over the summer. So, I guess you can say I’ll be working on my Master’s degree.