Last Monday, which was Memorial Day, was a day off from House and Senate sessions in Raleigh. However, many of us in the House drove up Monday evening to be ready for the House Appropriations Committee budget meeting at 9:00 Tuesday morning. After weeks of meetings in sub-committees, the full House budget was ready for presentation to Appropriations. After the presentations by all the sub-committee chairs, the budget was open for amendments and debate. We handled 28amendments, debating each one over several hours. Then, after a final debate on the budget bill, House Bill 950, we passed it out of committee at 2:00 p.m. This was an improvement over 2011, when we took almost 8 hours and 100 amendments.
Tuesday’s session, which began at 4:00 p.m., included two of the annexation bills that passed their second reading the past Thursday. On third reading, House Bill 5 – Local De-annexations passed 66 – 50 as expected and House Bill 925 – Annexation Reform 2 passed 72 – 45. HB 5 is not subject to the Governor’s veto, but HB 925 is.
Also on Tuesday, an important regulatory reform bill came to the House floor. House Bill 952 – State Air Toxics Program Reforms prohibits double regulation on industries by not requiring state regulations on air toxins covered by federal regulations. It passed 70 – 46 with a bi-partisan vote.
The budget, House Bill 950, was the only bill on the calendar Wednesday. It was enough. The session lasted from 1:00 – 11:00 p.m. with an hour and a half dinner break. Over twenty amendments were considered and mostly defeated along party lines. The budget finally passed 73 – 46 on both the second and third readings and was sent to the Senate. The strong bi-partisan House vote count being over three-fifths (72) may discourage a veto by the Governor.
On Thursday, an interesting bill concerning the casino gambling operated by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation was considered and hotly debated in the House. Senate Bill 582 – Authorize Indian Gaming/Revenue would allow live dealers at gambling tables. It would also allow two more casino locations west of Interstate 26 on what are called “Tribal lands.” While I wish our Cherokee citizens well with the benefits they bring to their community with the gambling revenues, I was uncomfortable with the expansion allowed in the bill. It passed 66 – 49, but I joined 36 other Republicans and 12 Democrats in voting against it. Many of my colleagues debated the issue of sovereignty of the Cherokees, the state of North Carolina, and the federal government on matters like this. It’s also a moral and social issue with many of us. We fear the effects of addictive behavior on families. As they say, it’s complicated.