Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly we saw increased activity once again. It was the seventh full week of the 2019 long session. Filing of bills increased, as did committee meetings and floor votes in the House and Senate.
We are up to approximately 600 bills filed in the House and Senate combined. The deadline for filing local bills is approaching March 28th, but statewide bills can be filed until April 16th. Budget meetings continued each morning at 8:30, and soon we will separate from the joint meetings with the Senate appropriations committees and begin putting together the House budget. We hope to vote the full budget out of the House in May.
The biggest bill considered in the House last week was the school construction bond bill, House Bill 241 – Education Bond Act of 2019. This bill puts a bond issue on the ballot for voters to decide in the March primary election. It passed the House Wednesday by a vote of 109 – 6, and now must go to the Senate for a vote and be signed by the Governor. This could take a few weeks.
If the bond bill passes these hurdles and a positive vote of the people in March, it will provide $1.9 billion for school construction and renovation for local school districts, as well as some funds for the NC Community College system and the state university system. While $200 million is set aside for the community colleges and $200 million for the universities, this means $1.5 billion will go to local school districts across the state. I personally would have liked more for the 58 community colleges and less for the 17 universities, but I still voted for the bill. Every school district will get some funds, including low wealth districts. Brunswick County Schools are not considered low wealth, but we will get $10 million of these funds to assist the county in school construction. It is normally a responsibility of the counties in North Carolina to build schools, but this will jump start the counties in meeting this ongoing need.
It is not guaranteed that the Senate and the Governor will agree with the plan in the House bill, but we can encourage them to act on it soon.
We have most of our committee meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and our floor votes on Wednesday and Thursday. At least once last week I had to present a bill in one committee and then run to vote in another committee of which I am a member. I expect this activity to continue and increase in the coming weeks in April, May, and June. The good news is that we are usually done on Thursday in time for me to drive back to Brunswick County by dinner time. Then I am frequently able to meet with individuals and groups across the county on issues of interest to them on Friday and Saturday. Getting around the county is interesting to me and helps me stay energized.