Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – January 15, 2018

Rep. Frank Iler

Last week at the North Carolina General Assembly we passed a major clean water bill in the House of Representatives, we had several oversight committees, including Transportation, and I opened the first local District Office in memory by a State Representative in Brunswick County.

On Wednesday of last week, the General Assembly, both House and Senate, convened at noon for a short special session.  We approved some of the Governor’s appointments and Speaker’s appointments, and passed House Bill 189 – Short-Term Response to Emerging Contaminants. 

House Bill 189 is the bill I outlined last week that requires the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the School of Govt. at UNC – Chapel Hill to report back to the House Select Committee on NC River Water Quality on several issues by April 1st.  It also added appropriations totaling over $2 million for equipment and personnel to specifically analyze river water quality faster and more accurately. The bill passed the House by a vote of 116-0 Wednesday night, but has not yet been taken up by the Senate. If the Senate passes it, we expect the Governor will sign it immediately.

This is a good first step in a process that will be ongoing to help solve issues that have accumulated over decades with our rivers, and the lack of monitoring and enforcement we have experienced.  Expect more action in the short session beginning in May from the River Quality Committee, including Senior Chairman Ted Davis and Chairs Holly Grange and Frank Iler.

Thursday morning was the meeting of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee, of which I am a Chairman.  Senator Jim Davis was chairing and we took up a range of reports from NCDOT.  Included were the DOT medical review program, streamlining of pre-construction activities, funding of railroad safety projects, and consolidation of regional transit systems.  This is always an informative meeting and vital to us as we budget for DOT during our sessions.

The good news is that I can spend more time in the district.  Even better news is that last week I was able to open a District Office on Main Street in Shallotte.  I am very accessible to meet with people in the district, and since I live in Oak Island we hope having the office in Shallotte will encourage citizens to contact me and our volunteers on both sides of the district.  Beginning office hours are Tuesday and Thursday, 10:00 – 2:00, Saturday 10:00 – 1:00, and otherwise by appointment.  It is located at 4745 Main Street, Shallotte (next to the purple church). Citizens can request a meeting there with me, check their voter registration, register to vote, and get other information on what we are doing in the legislature. The hours may be expanded, and we will be putting out more information to raise awareness of the office.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – January 8, 2018

Last week at the North Carolina General Assembly was unusual for what was happening both inside and outside the legislative buildings.  Although I had only one meeting to attend, it seemed to take two days on the calendar.
 
On Wednesday the weather reports were warning of a serious snow and ice event for eastern North Carolina, so I left early to get to Raleigh ahead of the storm. Our meeting scheduled for 9:30 on Thursday was NOT cancelled, unlike some other meetings and events.  The January meeting of the House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality was too important to be delayed, and all but two members got into Raleigh to attend.  Senior Chair Ted Davis was correct not to cancel it, as the House and Senate need to take action on this subject at the one or two day session beginning on the 10th.
 
Representative Davis and our committee staff have come up with a bill, which was presented and discussed at the meeting Thursday.  The committee then unanimously passed it so it can be considered by the full House. It does not yet have a bill number, as it will be filed this week as our session begins.  However, the bill text appears on the committee website at www.ncleg.net.
 
The title of the bill is “Short Term Response to Emerging Contaminants.”  It does five things as short term measures to begin a process to address the contamination of our rivers:

  • Directs the Dept. of Health and Human Services to consult with the Science Advisory Board in the development of health goals for the contaminants.  This is a board set up by the Secretaries of DHHS and DEQ and made up of health professionals.
  • Directs the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to study their permitting process and report back to us by April 1.
  • Directs DEQ to share water quality data with neighboring states.
  • Directs DEQ to review their reporting and notice requirements for dischargers and report back to us by April 1
  • Directs the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill to study the civil liability of water utilities and report back to us by April 1

 
The bill will be taken to the floor for a vote this week. We will be in session beginning Wednesday.  An appropriation may be added during that process.  As I have said, DEQ has a budget of $228 million this year, and no one has seriously addressed an amount that may be required to do the job, since the job apparently is not getting done for $228 million.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – Dec. 18, 2017

The last three weeks it has seemed as if we are in session in Raleigh, with committees meeting every few days.  Since Thanksgiving, I have had meetings on transportation, education, river water quality, and other environmental issues.

The last week in November, the House Select Committee on NC River Quality held our last meeting of the year.  We heard how the Department of Environmental Quality is addressing the issues related to emerging compounds in the Cape Fear River.  The day we met DEQ was on site at Chemours making sure they had stopped discharging manufacturing compounds into the river. Chairman Ted Davis then set our next meeting for January 4th.  The purpose he stated for this meeting is to propose short-term solutions for dealing with these issues.  Long-term solutions will be addressed in the short session, beginning in May.

Two transportation committees met the first week of December.  The House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Range Funding Solutions met on the 4th, and heard presentations on autonomous (driverless) vehicles.  This phenomenon is closer than we think, and must be dealt with in our transportation planning.

The Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee, of which I am a Chairman met on the 7th. We heard a wide range of reports from NCDOT: The Strategic Transportation Investment Plan (STIP) update procedures; ferry terminal ramps and structures; the bridge program; draft tolling policy; and a study to allocate local municipal road funds (Powell Bill funds) on a seasonally adjusted population basis rather census data only.

Last week started Monday with a much deserved retirement lunch for Mary Strickland, founder of the Maritime Museum in Southport, along with her husband Wayne.  I was privileged to present Mary with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to recognize her long service to the museum and the community. She is also a former council member in Southport. 

After an early radio appearance in Wilmington on Tuesday morning, I made my way to Raleigh for the fourth time in two weeks.  Fortunately, the two meetings I needed to attend were both on Wednesday.  The morning meeting was the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform.  We are looking at the way funds are allocated to the 115 NC school districts, and how that can be improved so that the funds follow the students and their needs.

The Environmental Review Commission, of which I am an advisory member, met in the afternoon to discuss landfills across the state and how they operate both physically and financially.

The rest of the week was devoted to transportation.  Thursday morning the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in the southern part of Brunswick County met in Carolina Shores.  This committee is part of the MPO connected to the Grand Strand Area Transportation Plan (GSATS), and, among other things, is involved in planning for the proposed Carolina Bays Parkway which we hope to connect with South Carolina with an interstate quality highway.

An exciting event occurred Friday morning.  We cut the ribbon to open the final leg of I-140, connecting I-40 to central Brunswick County.  After years of planning and construction, this highway, which will be totally open to traffic by this weekend, is two years ahead of the original opening date of 2019.  It will be a positive economic factor to our northern county as well as the southern tourist areas, and will save many of us time getting to Raleigh and points north and west. 

Next month will be filled with committee meetings, as well as a very short session around January 10th.  Hope everyone has a great holiday season with family and friends.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – November 13, 2017

Last week was another week of committee meetings at the North Carolina General Assembly, as well as community events and meetings.  I had two transportation committees and two other transportation events, and other civic and veterans’ events. 

Monday was a full day, with a tour of the N.C. Port at Wilmington, followed by the House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Range Funding.  It was well attended by over a dozen House members from across the state, as well as House staff members, DOT staff, and some local officials.

After a busy day of visiting polling places on Tuesday, municipal Election Day, I was in Raleigh Wednesday meeting with the new Chief Engineer from the Dept. of Transportation, Tim Little, as well as the new Deputy Chief Engineers for Eastern North Carolina and Western N.C. It was a very good chance to discuss some of our local concerns and projects, including the Carolina Bays Parkway.

After this meeting we had a scheduled tour of the new Raleigh Union Station multimodal complex.  This included the station, with its proposed tracks for intercity passenger rail and future local rail lines.  We could also see the development in the surrounding downtown neighborhoods in anticipation of this new forward-thinking facility.

Thursday morning, one of the key transportation committees met there in Raleigh, the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight committee (JLTOC).  Meeting between sessions, we get reports from DOT and others.  We attempt to hold accountable those DOT divisions from which we have requested progress in our budget provisions.  DOT is very forthcoming in reporting to us, and our discussions can get very pointed in this committee from both Senators and House members.

Back in Brunswick County, I was honored to be asked to speak to the South Brunswick Rotary Club early Friday morning. It was a good chance to update them on what is happening in Raleigh and in the district, as well as the new DOT audit we received the day before from State Auditor Beth Wood.

Saturday was Veterans’ day, and I was very glad to be able to attend the 11:00 a.m. ceremonies honoring our veterans at American Legion Post 543 at St. James.  Then I arrived late to the ceremonies at VFW Post 8866 at Holden Beach, but was able to share cheeseburgers with them and thank them for their service to our country.

It was an uplifting and informative week.  With the holidays approaching, our legislative activity is expected to slow down, and my articles may slow down by Thanksgiving.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – November 6, 2017

With all the committees meeting the past two weeks at the North Carolina General Assembly, it seems almost like we are in session.  The last week in October, I had two official meetings in Raleigh, one in Carolina Shores, and several political meetings back here in the district.  Then, last week, we had one Raleigh meeting and a variety of economic and educational events.

The week of October 23rd began with a reception at UNCW Chancellor Sartarelli’s residence in Wilmington.  There we honored the new UNC Board of Governors members and I had a chance to talk with President Margaret Spellings, head of the UNC system.  She had praise for UNCW and our region of the state, even telling me she was buying a house on Bald Head Island, which is a part of our district.

Then the committee meetings began with a trip to Raleigh Wednesday for the Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Task Force.  We heard presentations on many of the efforts being made throughout the state to address these fatal issues. First we heard about the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) being carried out by NC Cooperative Extension and NC State to teach healthier cooking and eating in 43 of our counties and their desire to expand to all 100 counties.  Other presentations were on smoking cessation efforts for youth, as well as adults, the insurance gap for smoking cessation, and preventive services for Medicaid enrollees.

Thursday morning was the House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality, of which I am Co-Chair.  We heard about screening of emerging compounds in the drinking water sources in the state.  We also had presentations on efforts by the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and from Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA).  CFPUA updated their action plan to implement Section 20a of House Bill 56 (GenX Response Measures).

After rushing back to Brunswick County for a Thursday night event, I had a Friday morning meeting of the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study (GSATS).  GSATS is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the part of the county that adjoins Horry and Georgetown counties in South Carolina.  There in Carolina Shores local mayors and other officials got updates on progress on many projects in the area.  In most meetings they are able to vote on issues and future projects.

The afternoon of Friday the 27th Brunswick Community College held its Scholar-Donor reception, where BCC Foundation scholarship recipients get to meet the donor who make them possible.  It is always a pleasure to see the good work of the many generous volunteers and donors in the county who support education.

After catching my breath over the weekend, I drove again to Raleigh on Halloween night for a Wednesday morning meeting on the 1st.  The Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform met, Senator Mike Lee of Wilmington presiding.  We got a long and interesting presentation on a study by the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division on the allotment system that is used to allocate money from the state to Local Education Administrations (LEAs).  We are in a learning phase at this first meeting and many of us asked questions. We also heard how other states allocate funds.

After returning home, I was able to on Thursday to visit two South Brunswick High School classrooms between 7:30 and noon, and heard the interesting instruction taking place in Psychology and in Civics classes.  Thursday night was the Communities in Schools (CIS) Gala at Sea Trail, where funds are raised to support CIS projects aimed at keeping students in school.  It was another chance to see the generous people and corporate citizens of Brunswick County.

In a departure from the Education theme of the week, on Friday I was asked to help cut the ribbon at the senior apartment complex at Sunset Creek Commons.  A public/private partnership, they provide 72 residents with affordable living in a building that resembles a four star hotel.

This is a longer article due to covering two weeks filled with all kinds of meetings and events.  The next two weeks promise to be just as busy.

State Representative Frank Iler to Seek Re-Election in 2018

OAK ISLAND, N.C. — State Representative Frank Iler, an Oak Island Republican, issued the following statement today announcing his plans to seek re-election in 2018.

“I plan to seek re-election to the N.C. House of Representatives in 2018 because the good people of Brunswick County need a level-headed, well-respected conservative voice in Raleigh. Our campaign is already well underway, and we are actively building our organization for next year. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve and represent the good people of Brunswick County.”

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler- October 23, 2017

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly we held a very short session to override a veto by the Governor, we were planning upcoming committee meetings, and I was able to go back into our schools.

Last week, October 16th and 17th, the N.C. House and Senate were called back into session for the sole purpose of an override vote of the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 656 – Electoral Freedom Act of 2017.  Since it was a Senate bill, they acted first, meeting late Monday and voting to override it by a vote of 26 – 15.  The House met Tuesday and voted 72 – 40 to override.  SB 656 became law over the objections of the Governor.  This law makes it easier for third parties and independents to get on a ballot and does away with primary elections for judges.

We adjourned by noon Tuesday, and plan to return January 10th.  However, lots of activities continue on a daily basis.  We are constantly planning committee meetings for the upcoming weeks.

For example:

  • The Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Task Force, Oct. 25th in Raleigh
  • House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality, Oct. 26th in Raleigh
  • Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform, Nov. 1st in Raleigh
  • House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions, Nov. 6th in Wilmington
  • Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee, Nov. 9th in Raleigh

I am a member or Co-Chair of each of these committees, and so will be spending a lot of time there for the next three weeks. There are also many small group meetings back in the county, as well as charity and political events going on.

The last two weeks I have been able to visit schools again, much like I did in 2013-2014.  Two of the schools in which I was able to spend a full morning were Virginia Williamson Elementary and Union Elementary.  I never fail to learn something on these visits.  In one school I saw the great progress that first grade students made their first year working with words and sentences when I compared lessons being taught in kindergarten and first grade.  In another, I saw the clever and effective use of technology with Smart Boards and Chrome Books in the fourth and fifth grades.  Thank you to the teachers and principals for letting me sit and observe them as they teach our most valuable assets, our children.

As the readers of this column know, I usually publish this update only when we are in session in Raleigh.  However, there are so many issues being discussed in our committees that are of interest to our area, that I may attempt to update you as we meet.  Some of the issues will be on Education, Transportation, River Quality, and Health. This is also a good time to also thank the publishers of our two county newspapers (affectionately known as the “Pilot” and the “Beacon”) for their interest in keeping the citizens informed as to what their government is doing.

 

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler- October 9, 2017

Last week the North Carolina House of Representatives and Senate were in special session Wednesday and Thursday. We welcomed a new member, Bob Muller of Pender County, passed a major elections bill, passed new districts for our judges and District Attorneys, and we overrode the Governor’s vetoes on two important bills, including the GenX funding.

Prior to driving to Raleigh Tuesday night, I was honored to participate in the Brunswick School System’s Employee Recognition Dinner. Having sat on the panel that interviewed the top teachers for 2017 Teacher of the Year, it was a privilege to be able to speak to the employees being honored in the various categories, including the finalists in Teacher of the Year. Congratulations to Tara Cumbee, Union Elementary; Sam Jennings, South Brunswick High; and Carolynn Phillips, Teacher of the Year, Leland Middle School.

Arriving in Raleigh late Tuesday night, we started early on Wednesday. During the first formal session at 10:00 a.m., we saw new Rep. Bob Muller sworn in by the Speaker. Bob replaces retiring Rep. Chris Millis, represents Pender County, and is a good friend of mine and of Brunswick County.

During the second session, at noon, we overrode the Governor’s veto on House Bill 56 – Amend Environmental Laws. This bill has over 20 provisions concerning our environmental laws. The two that impact our area the most are the funding for the GenX issue in the Cape Fear River and the establishing of the Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund. I encourage our readers to read this important bill at www.ncleg.net , and see if they agree with our overriding vote of 70-44. As usual, none of us like every provision, but believe in total it should be law.

In Thursday’s marathon session, we passed Senate Bill 656 – Electoral Freedom Act of 2017. It allows third parties and independents more access to getting on the ballot and does away with party primaries for judges. It had a lot of debate, but when considered with our other election legislation, I felt it was a good bill. It passed 70 – 44 and was presented to the Governor on Thursday.

We also voted on Senate Bill 181 – Electronic Notice-Guilford County, which allows public notices to be on line and not in the newspaper. It is a local bill for Guilford County. While I had no love for the Greensboro News-Record, I chose to vote for more public notice, not less. It passed by a slim 58-57.

We took up the judicial districts in House Bill 717-Judicial Redistricting & Investment Act. Our district did not substantively change, but according to the formula for the increased investment, we gain 1 District Judge, 1 Superior Court Judge, and 1 Assistant District Attorney. It passed 69-43 on a party line vote, except for 1 representative. Rep. Brisson of Bladen County, which is in our judicial district, voted with the majority to help us pass it. It now goes to the Senate.

Thursday we also overrode the Governor’s veto on Senate Bill 16 – Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2017. It gives specific relief and clarification of regulations on primarily small businesses. It passed 70 – 42.

We adjourned around 10:30 Thursday night after a long day. We plan to return to Raleigh on January 10th . I will be required to attend some committee meetings in Raleigh, but I will mostly be in the district visiting school classrooms and holding meetings in various neighborhoods.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler- October 2, 2017

The North Carolina House of Representatives and Senate were not in session last week.  However, we had an important first meeting of the new House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality, we had a day-long visit from the N.C. Commissioner of Insurance, and we had interesting county events on Saturday.

On Tuesday the N.C. Commissioner of Insurance, Mike Causey, visited Brunswick County for a schedule of five different meetings.  I accompanied him all day. First was a stop at the Brunswick County Senior Resource Center at 101 Stone Chimney Road in Supply.  There he made comments explaining some of the many responsibilities of the Department of Insurance.  Then his Deputy Commissioner, Van Braxton, spoke about the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP). He and the SHIIP team stayed there most of the day to explain health insurance to a good crowd.

Next stop was the Supply Volunteer Fire Department.  There Commissioner Causey discussed some of the efforts to help fire departments recruit and retain good volunteer and professional firefighters.  We all listened to the needs of the fire department in a good roundtable style discussion.

As luck would have it, the county “All-Mayors” meeting was taking place nearby at BEMC’s meeting room.  The Commissioners’ party and I had lunch with the dozen mayors in attendance and the Commissioner spoke again about the responsibilities of his department.  Then we discussed various coastal property insurance issues.  The mayors and I appreciated the time he took with us.

The last two stops were at the Bolivia Volunteer Fire Dept. and the Leland Fire and Rescue Dept.  We had good discussions about recruiting and training good people, and purchasing of new equipment.  At Leland we also talked about House Bill 340, which gives firefighters and EMS workers a retirement allowance similar to law enforcement retirees.

Last Thursday in Raleigh we held the first meeting of the House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality, which I co-chair.  We heard from several organizations about the steps being taken both in the past and the future to address the concerns over river pollution in N.C. rivers, particularly the Cape Fear River.  Addressing the committee were the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS), UNC Wilmington, and Cape Fear Public Utilities Authority (CFPUA). It was an all-day informational meeting, and the first of many to come.

Back in the county on Saturday I was honored to be part of Hope for Recovery, an all-day coalition of workers in substance abuse and mental health issues. The site was the grounds of the former Brunswick County Hospital, which an organization called The Palms hopes to open as a dual diagnosis unit for substance abuse and mental illness. 

Meanwhile, at Brunswick Community College, the Intercultural Festival was going on. I was able to also visit it and meet some interesting citizens of the county as well as many visitors.  Many countries were represented, and our school children’s’ artwork was on display.

This week we will go into a special session on Wednesday to override vetoes and other issues.  We hope to be done by week’s end.

Legislative Update from Representative Frank Iler – September 19, 2017

Last week we had a big part of the N.C. House of Representatives right here in Brunswick County.  House Speaker Tim Moore was in Brunswick County all day Wednesday.  It was my privilege to help arrange his schedule and show him around.  When we found out he would be able to come to a couple of events here, we made sure that he stayed busy and saw as many parts of the county as possible.

We started the day at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant in the northernmost part of the county.  When I asked County Manager Ann Hardy to arrange a visit and tour of the plant for the Speaker and myself, she didn’t hesitate.  We were met by Public Utilities Director John Nichols and his staff, and given a thorough tour by Assistant Director Glenn Walker.  We saw the filtration system and pumps that handle up to 24 million gallons per day and pump water as far as Calabash in the far southwest corner of the county.  It was impressive to see, given the current controversy bringing into question the safety of our water.  Rep. Ted Davis of New Hanover County was also there. He chairs the new House Select Committee on NC River Quality, of which I am a co-chair.

We travelled then to Shallotte, where we had at least 35 local business leaders and public officials from the area at lunch at Jerome’s Steak and Seafood.  This included several mayors and many small business owners.  Tim explained some of the business and family friendly policies we have passed and took questions.

Directly after lunch, we went to the east end of Ocean Isle Beach, where the Speaker saw the storm erosion from storms in the past and some of the mitigation efforts that are being used.  We stood on Third Street, which is now front row, and viewed the sandbags protecting the houses.  We also showed him the area where the proposed terminal groin will be built, as soon as the court delays by the environmental groups are settled.  He asked lots of questions and talked with two of the residents that own the endangered houses.

The Chamber of Commerce was having a ribbon cutting at 3 o’clock at Twin Lakes Restaurant at Sunset Beach.  They have opened under new ownership, and Speaker Moore and I were able to participate in the ceremony and sample some of their great food.

The Speaker was travelling with two of his staff, Cory and Leah, who were his driver and scheduler for the day.  They had never been to Calabash, so Tim was insistent that we show them the Calabash waterfront.  We visited Dockside restaurant there, where three generations of the Price family have served traditional Calabash seafood and famous steaks.  Cory and Leah got to walk on the docks and sample the famous Calabash shrimp.

The final event of the day was a Republican dinner at The Lakes Country Club in Boiling Spring Lakes.  After speaking to the group, the Speaker and his staff had to return to Raleigh for early morning meetings the next day.  We kept Speaker Moore busy all day in Brunswick County, where he was in almost every area.  Next time maybe we can get him into the Southport-Oak island area also.  It was a real pleasure to have the Speaker here for a full day.  Brunswick County is becoming known across the state, and we want to have the state’s full attention when necessary for our citizens.

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