As soon as we arrived in Raleigh last week, the sixth week of the short session, we started asking “When will we see the budget?” Since the previous Thursday, the conference committees had been meeting over 12 hours a day, and we were curious as to what the result had been. Well, what finally rolled out on Wednesday was a little surprising, but unchanged in many ways. The top line news was a 1.2% raise for all state employees, including teachers, and 1% for retirees, the first raise since 2008. Of interest to the coast was a restoration of the ferry tolls that had been taken out of the House budget earlier. There was some good and some bad, but we can only vote for or against it. The result was a Senate vote on Thursday morning of 30 – 15, and a House vote Thursday afternoon of 71 – 45. As there were 5 House Democrats joining all Republicans, it appears veto-prove. It is on the Governor’s desk, and she has 10 days to veto it.
Among other bills we considered and acted on early in the week was House Bill 199 – Metal Theft Prevention Act of 2012 It increases penalties for the theft of copper and other expensive metals. It also makes it a crime to purchase stolen metals, and increases the record-keeping of those who purchase metals of this type.
Two important bills concerning Homeowners’ Associations came to the House floor after years of committee meetings, public hearings, and hard bipartisan work. Representative Carolyn Justice presented them both, beginning with House Bill 1084 – HOAs/Planned Community Act Amends. This bill amends the Planned Community Act to improve meeting and record-keeping requirements, limit the use of proxy voting, and other positive changes. It passed unanimously 116 – 0 Wednesday and 112 – 0 Thursday. The second bill was House Bill 1105 - Modify Taxation of HOA Property. It helps to clarify how HOA property is taxed when it is considered part of the common area, but is located in a different taxing jurisdiction from the main jurisdiction of the HOA. It is of particular interest to towns such as Oak Island and Holden Beach, which contain beach clubs owned by mainland HOAs. It also passed unanimously by 114 – 0 Wednesday and 110 – 0 Thursday. Both bills now go to the Senate for their approval. Many of our county residents have worked hard on these issues, travelling to Raleigh and speaking out for several years.
Two bills of interest to the coast will be coming up this week. House Bill 819 – Coastal Management Policies deals with the sea level rise issue, among others. It came over earlier from the Senate, and the House voted to not concur with it so we could work on the language. I was appointed to the conference committee to work out the compromise, and we met Thursday. We have agreement on a bill that should pass both houses.
The other coastal bill is Senate Bill 821 – Study and Amend Fisheries Laws. Among other things, it directs several departments to study many fishing and boating issues, as well as find ways to pay for dredging of inlets. As luck would have it, there was a breakfast Thursday by the NC Inlets Association at which many coastal and inland Senators and Representatives heard their presentation on the inlet dredging issues. Sen. Rabon and I were in attendance, and we recognize the critical need for dredging maintenance.