Last week in the North Carolina House of Representatives we worked into the night in budget conference meetings with the Senate, we debated and passed a controversial gun bill, and we passed an energy bill almost unanimously.
As expected, the Senate did NOT concur with the budget bill, Senate Bill 257, as we sent it back over to them. This vote was on Monday night. Conferees were appointed in each chamber immediately, and I was appointed as a House conferee on the Transportation budget. We began meeting early Tuesday morning with the Senate Transportation Appropriations chairs, who are the Senate conferees. As the conference committees met and resolved the differences between the House and Senate budgets, they met with the full Appropriations chairs late in the week to present their results. It is hoped that a final budget can be completed this week, if all issues can be resolved.
On Wednesday House Bill 746 – Omnibus Gun Changes was debated and passed the House on a split vote. While I support bills to loosen overly restrictive gun laws, I was concerned about the provision that allows 18 year olds to carry concealed without a concealed carry permit. The Sheriff’s Association took no position on the bill, but many law enforcement officials opposed it. I discussed it with our sheriff and decided that a vote against this particular bill at this time was the right thing to do. I did not speak against it, and it passed by a vote of 65 – 54. The follow-up vote on third reading Thursday was similar, 64-51. A particular provision to allow carrying on campuses had been removed, as had several other provisions. I had been concerned about that provision also, hoping that if it stayed in that the boards of trustees would be able to decide what groups, such as faculty or staff, should be allowed to carry. I was just as glad that it was taken out, but still concerned about the 18 year old provision.
Also Wednesday we passed House bill 589 – Competitive Energy Solution For North Carolina. This bill protects energy consumers and rate-payers while also establishing market-based principles. So it is good for both companies that produce the energy and users of energy, which is often a hard balance to achieve. It should also make North Carolina more competitive in attracting new industry and jobs. I voted for it and it passed almost unanimously 108 – 11.
We had visitors from back home during the week. The Cape Fear chapter of SEANC (State Employees Association of N.C.) visited Wednesday, as well as Chairman Frank Williams of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners. I had another special guest on Thursday, author Kevin Duffus, who researches and writes the history of the coast. He presented me with a copy of his latest book, The Story of Cape Fear and Bald Head Island. I had met Kevin on one of my visits with my brother in Belhaven and came to admire his work and dedication to our history, going back to the time of the Native Americans, European explorers and settlers.
We expect to have a final consensus budget this week, and move some of the bills that have been waiting during the budget process.