Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly we voted on new district maps for the NC House and Senate, we passed an environmental package, including the GenX provisions, and we adjourned the August special session.
In an early afternoon session last Monday, the 28th , the House received the latest version of the new House district maps ordered by the courts, House bill 927 – 2017 House Redistricting Plan. Our districts in Brunswick and New Hanover were not affected. However, Columbus County was split, partly paired with Pender County and partly with Robeson County. Many districts in the metropolitan counties such as Wake and Mecklenberg, and districts in the northeastern parts of the state were changed significantly to comply with the court order. It passed 65 – 47 on a mainly party line vote.
The House Redistricting Committee had a long meeting on Tuesday to consider the Senate district maps which the Senate had passed and sent to us in the House. Therefore, our next session was on Wednesday to consider their maps. Senate Bill 691 – 2017 Senate Floor Redistricting Plan 4th Ed. had a relatively short debate and passed the House 68 – 47, again on a mainly party line vote.
Since the Governor does not get to review and veto the maps, they became law and were sent straight to the court one day ahead of the deadline. If the court agrees, these maps will be used for the 2018 elections, since a special election this year was not ordered by the court.
Some of the most interesting debate was Thursday on House Bill 56 – Amend Environmental laws. With 20 provisions, only three received most of the attention. These were the GenX water provisions, the plastic bag ban repeal, and a landfill monopoly provision.
The GenX provisions appropriate funds to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and UNCW to test, monitor, and find solutions to the chemical issues that are coming to light currently. CFPUA is directed to coordinate with Brunswick and Pender Counties. It also specifies DEQ to issue a Notice of Violation to Chemours on a tight timetable. I spoke on this provision and assured our citizens that this is a first step.
Repeal of the plastic bag ban in three northern coastal counties is overdue. It was a personal provision by former Senator Basnight and has never worked as intended. There are more bags in the environment there now than before the ban. It is also unconstitutional.
Some counties are requiring users to use their landfills and charging exorbitant fees, not allowing them to cross outside the county. This frees up these restrictions and opens up the free market on this. I am told Brunswick County is not doing this and will not be affected.
This bill also establishes the Coastal Storm Water Mitigation Fund. We believe this will enable us to receive federal funds or other fund sources to help with storm damage on our beaches. This important bill passed 61 – 44 in the House and 29 – 10 in the Senate and goes to the Governor. We will see if he vetoes these common sense provisions.
We adjourned on Thursday to return on October 4 th for another short special session.