Last week began in Raleigh with beautiful weather and high hopes that our work for the short session would soon be done. By the end of the week the weather was getting hotter and so were many tempers in the General Assembly. Having finished the budget, many bills that either House or Senate members wanted very badly to pass were in committees in one house or the other. We met each other in the halls rushing between committee meetings to present bills for ourselves or for a Senator. Some of my colleagues had two or three meetings at the same time.
A bill I mentioned last week, Senate Bill 821 – Study and Amend Fisheries Laws, came to the House floor for a vote on Tuesday. I was honored to present it for sponsors Senators Brown, Rabon and Goolsby. It addresses the issue of how to pay for inlet dredging, the taking of menhaden, as well as directs studies of other fisheries issues. It passed by a vote of 110 – 5 in the House, went back to the Senate where they concurred by 48 – 0, and it went to the Governor’s desk on Thursday.
Property insurance rates are an issue about which many of us on the coast are frustrated. I get many calls from Brunswick County residents about the issue every month. Last year, the House and Senate leaders set up the Property Insurance Rate Making Committee, a joint committee of five Senators and five Representatives to study this issue. I was one of the five House members. After several meetings, we had five major recommendations, four of which were included in Senate Bill 836 - Improve Property Insurance Rate Making. It provides more public input, gives the Insurance Commissioner flexibility to set lower rates than the industry asks for, provides for a separate wind and hail policy, and sets up a study of the fairness of the coastal insurance territories. It came to the House floor Wednesday and passed 114 – 1. Having already passed the Senate 46 – 0, it was sent to the Governor for her signature Thursday.
There were dozens of local and statewide bills coming through at a blinding pace. One of the local bills was for Ocean Isle Beach. It passed unanimously in both houses and has become law. We also had a budget adjustment bill, Senate Bill 187 that took out the increased ferry tolls.
The budget was on the Governor’s desk all week. There were rumors she wouldn’t veto it and rumors that she would. By Friday we found out that it was vetoed. Unfortunately, if we aren’t able to override her veto we go back to the original 2011 – 2013 budget. Several major things will happen:
- the teachers, state employees, and retirees won’t get the raises we put in;
- $255 million in additional state funds won’t go to K – 12 education;
- the state’s Medicaid program won’t get $93 million rescue funds and will run out of money;
- the gas tax will not be cut;
- increased ferry tolls will be back;
- and more than 20 other programs will be negatively impacted, including economic development.
So, now we will be going back for a veto override vote on Monday. There are other vetoes to override, since the Governor has now vetoed the energy bill that addresses shale gas extraction rules, also known as the “fracking” bill. If all goes well, we may be finished with the session by late Tuesday. If not, I could miss participating in the July 4th parade in Southport for the first time. I am planning to make it, one way or another. You and your family have a Happy Fourth of July!