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.

Posted in Legislative Updates

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.

Posted in Legislative Updates

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.

Posted in Legislative Updates

Legislative Update from Representative Frank Iler – September 3, 2017

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.

Posted in Legislative Updates

Legislative Update from Representative Frank Iler – August 28, 2017

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly, we convened in regular sessions on Thursday. Much activity was going on outside of these sessions. I was able to attend meetings back here in the district on tourism and on Teacher of the Year for Brunswick County, we held the first meeting of the Environmental Review Commission in Wilmington, and we convened in Raleigh for veto overrides and new legislative districts.

Early in the week, on Tuesday, there was a meeting at Oak Island town hall of the NC Association of Resort Towns and Convention Cities. Mayor Cin Brochure is the President of the association and presented a webinar by Dr. Rebecca Tippett of UNC on the demographics and economic impact of tourism in North Carolina. With over 200,000 jobs and 60 million visitors per year it is amazing how little the resort towns receive from the almost $2 billion in local and state taxes produced. They have to provide infrastructure and services for the peak seasons’ population with a tax share based on their census population. For example, some of our beaches have populations under 1000, but produce taxes and provide services in the summer to 20,000 visitors per week. This group hopes to correct that in the future.

On Wednesday was one of my highlights each year. I was honored to be part of the panel to help select the Brunswick County Teacher of the Year for the third year. I was amazed in all my school visits at the number of outstanding teachers we have working hard every day. To interview the top seven and have to select the top three and top one is a very difficult though rewarding task. Most of our teachers are doing many creative and effective things in our children’s classrooms and need to be reminded every day how important they are to us.

That afternoon, the Environmental Review Commission met in its first meeting of the year in Wilmington. As an advisory member of the commission, I ran straight over there for the 1:30 meeting. It was a hearing, and although we got to speak of our concerns about the water quality issues, we were there to hear from the public. After local officials spoke, including Brunswick County Commission Chairman Frank Williams, we members addressed the commission. Then we heard from over 30 members of the public, mostly from New Hanover and Brunswick County. This is a statewide issue, not just a Cape Fear issue, and it has the attention of leaders from across the state. This is the first of many meetings of the commission to get to the bottom of how and why this type of pollution can happen, and what to do about it in the near term and long term.

After that meeting ended around 5:30, I went straight to Raleigh, due to the amount of business we expected the next day. Thursday, the House and Senate members of the respective redistricting committees were finalizing the new maps for House and Senate districts. While they are still revising and amending them, the House met in a regular session to vote on veto overrides. Two bills vetoed by the Governor were considered, House Bill 140 – Dental Plans Provider Contracts/Transparency and House bill 770 – Various Clarifying Changes. I am unclear why he vetoed them, but we overrode the vetoes 72-43 and 71-44 on a primarily party line vote.

Saturday was the annual banquet of the Brunswick County Sporting Dog Association. These are the hunting clubs and the proponents of hunting rights and 2 nd Amendment gun rights. I am always happy to attend.

We anticipate we will have district maps on which to vote this week, and possibly more veto overrides. We expect to be in session every day this week.

Posted in Legislative Updates

Legislative Update from Representative Frank Iler – August 22, 2017

The two weeks since my last column have been active for me, although I haven’t had to travel to Raleigh.  I have been able to meet with so many interesting groups around the district, and have been involved in several ongoing issues.  In our region we have held a ground-breaking Teacher Academy, we have learned about the safety status of our drinking water, we have seen legal threats to our beach and inlet projects, and I have met with several community groups.

The week of August 7th through the 11th, Brunswick County Schools held a Teacher Academy, the first of its kind, thanks to a generous grant from the Brunswick County Board of Education.  I was fortunate to attend and visit some of the groups who were meeting on Thursday of that week, and then return Friday morning for the ribbon-cutting to open the new school year.  Our teachers were well into their lesson plans for the semester, and were sharing best ideas from all the schools at their grade level and subject (like all the fourth grade math teachers, for example). It struck me that the new teachers would be starting class on their first day with much more information and confidence that they know what they and other teachers are doing. Also, they would have lesson plans done that would otherwise take most of their family time at night. I believe that this pioneering effort will give more confidence, professionalism, and enthusiasm to all the dedicated teachers we have in Brunswick County. There were many enthusiastic volunteers that helped with the academy, but special thanks go to leaders Jessica Swencki, Paige Garza, Antoinette Barnhill, and Kathy Oliver, as well as great support from Supt. Les Tubb and his staff.

Over the past two months, a lot of concern and conversation has been raised about our drinking water coming from the Cape Fear River.  While the urgency of the GenX controversy is being met by stopping the outflow from Chemours and our expert water treatment engineers in the area, there is much we need to know about the safety of our drinking water in the Cape Fear region and in the state.  The Environmental Review Commission has been reappointed by the legislature and advisory members have been added.  I was just notified that I am one of the advisory members, and our first meeting is in Wilmington this Wednesday, August 23nd.  We hope to get to the bottom of why this can happen, given the resources that have been given to the concerned departments over the years.  I also wonder why we allow dumping of chemicals before we know their safety, rather than after.

We learned last week that the Southern Environmental Law Center is suing the Army Corps of Engineers over their issuing the permit to Ocean Isle Beach for their terminal groin project at the east end of the island.  After two years of public input, including input from the Audubon Society whom the SELC represents, they waited until the week that OIB is opening bids to file suit.  This is the way the SELC operates, delaying projects like the Bonner Bridge and the Monroe Bypass for up to 20 years.  One can only guess how many lives and injuries have resulted from the delays in these improvements.  The multi-millions in taxpayer dollars wasted on increased construction costs and legal fees is well known.  This project is needed to protect the beach and create turtle habitat. One can hope the court sees through this quickly. Wonder why they didn’t sue over the similar Bald Head Island project, which was built almost two years ago?

Additional actions the past week have included a lunch meeting with the Southport town council and Sen. Rabon to discuss the waterfront and other issues.  Also, on Friday, I met with a Brunswick Plantation HOA group in the Calabash area to discuss a project of concern on Highway 17 near their entrance.  Commissioner Randy Thompson and DOT engineers were also involved in the meeting.

This week I am involved in the Environmental Review Commission meeting on Wednesday.  Then we return to Raleigh Thursday to draw new districts and override vetoes.

Posted in Legislative Updates

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – August 7, 2017

Last Thursday, August 3rd, was the day the North Carolina House and Senate were called into special session twice.  We were expecting to vote on overrides to four bills vetoed by the Governor, we found the override votes were delayed due to members not attending, and we handled several other bills in one long day.

The Governor had vetoed four bills during July: House Bill 140 – Dental Plans Provider Contracts/Transparency; HB 205 – WC for Inmates/Newsprint Employees; HB 511 – Game Nights/Nonprofit Fundraiser; and HB 576 – Allow Aerosolization of Leachate.  These are significant bills to our dentists, newspapers, charitable fundraisers, and our landfill operations. We understand that the override votes will likely take place in a special session beginning August 24th.

We had to convene at 10:00 last Thursday due to a proclamation from the Governor. We had already stated in our adjournment resolution in June that we would convene in special session beginning at 12:00 noon.  We hastily adjourned the first session and moved on to the noon session.

After noon we took up a variety of bills dealing with regulatory reform, environmental reform, and revenue laws changes.  We also voted on House Bill 770 – Various Clarifying Changes, a far-ranging bill that contained an important provision for our schools. It places more emphasis on student growth, so that true progress can better be measured in the A – F grades assigned to schools. 

Last week I found out that I had been appointed by the Speaker to the Justus – Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force.  I have since learned that this is a national model of a task force to address heart disease and stroke and has existed since 1995. Their accomplishments are listed on their website. I suppose my own personal experience with heart issues and surgery in 2003 led to my being considered for this mission.  I welcome this opportunity and look forward to serving on the distinguished 27 member task force.

The next articles I plan to write will be during the special session during the latter part of August and early September.  The purpose of this session will be to draw and vote on new legislative districts as directed by the courts, as well as the veto overrides.

Posted in Legislative Updates

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – June 26, 2017

Last week in the North House of Representatives we passed the long-awaited state budget, we passed a bill involving domestic violence and murder, and we got an idea of our adjournment date for this year.

The negotiated state budget for 2017 – 2019 was released last Monday and scheduled for votes in the House and Senate.  The House has a rule it has to be out two days before a vote, so we voted on it Wednesday and Thursday, while the Senate voted Tuesday and Wednesday.  It requires votes on two separate days.  Known as Senate Bill 257 – Appropriations Act of 2017, it consumes about 900 pages including the “money report”.  This budget spends $23 billion in 2017-18 and $23.7 in 2018-19.  This is a 3.1% increase in the first year and 2.7% increase in the second year.  This is within the guideline of population growth and inflation.  It provides teachers 3.3% and 6.3% average increases in the two years for a total of 9.6% above the 2016-17 budget.  Increases are in the budget for principals, other state employees, and a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for state retirees. Other highlights include: almost $1 billion increase in Education, a 4% increase in Justice and Public Safety (your law enforcement and court system), and 2% in the second year in Health and Human Services (with Medicaid more under control after years of runaway increases).  To view the entire budget go to www.ncleg.net and enter SB257 in the appropriate search line at the top of the home page.

The budget passed the House by 77 – 40 on Wednesday and 77 – 38 on Thursday.  It had already passed the Senate by 39 – 11 on Wednesday.  It was presented to the Governor on Thursday.  He has 10 days to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.  Should he veto it, the vote count was well over the three-fifths required for an override of the veto.  So we can expect this budget to become law without change.

Senate Bill 600 – Britny’s Law was passed Thursday in the House.  It calls for considering of a pattern of past domestic abuse in whether to charge first degree murder of a spouse, girl or boyfriend, or other domestic partner.  It is named for Britny Puryear, a young mother of a five month old, who was murdered by her boyfriend and father of her child.  He was charged and convicted of second degree murder and will be out of prison possibly in twenty years.  This law will allow a prosecutor to consider the pattern of domestic violence as premeditation, and to charge first degree murder.  This will include possible penalties of life in prison without parole or the death penalty.  Britny’s law passed the House 110 – 2 and the Senate 48 – 0.  The 2 no votes were due to opposition to the death penalty.

We were informed that we will attempt to adjourn by July 1st.  It may take an extended week and late night votes, but it is a worthy goal to wrap up the peoples’ business in a timely manner.  We handled about 100 bills last week in the House and Senate, and I expect many more this week.

It is interesting to receive some of the comments on this column, which I have written each week we are in session since going to Raleigh.  It is intended to inform readers on some of the key issues with which we are dealing that might be of interest to them.  It is not intended to be a laundry list of the dozens of bills we handle each day on the floor or in committees, or a list of the committee meetings, and meetings with constituents and lobbyists every hour on the hour.  It is also not intended to be a campaign piece in which I tout how busy I am, or how important my issues are to the history of the world.  One comment last week implied that we weren’t very busy, because my article apparently to her was all we did.  Anyone can view the calendar for both chambers, the committee agendas, the members’ record, and the text of all the bills at www.ncleg.net .

Posted in Legislative Updates

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – June 19, 2017

The North Carolina House of Representatives was busy last week.  We honored a beloved deceased former member of the House, we passed a major regulatory reform bill, and we had a special House page helping us for the week.

While the full Appropriations Committee chairs and top leaders from the House and Senate put the finishing touches on the 2017 – 2019 state budget, both chambers got busy on the bills that remain to be handled.  We were assured that we were close to having a final budget on which to vote this week.

Committees got busy passing bills and sending them to the floor of each chamber.  However, we paused on Wednesday to honor a past member of the House with whom many of us had served.  Representative Ruth Samuelson served in the House from 2007 to 2014. So I served about five years with her.  Ruth retired to go into charity fundraising and then was taken by cancer at the young age of 57.  She was a strong leader, a talented negotiator, and a friendly, Christian influence on her colleagues.  One of her passions was abortion, and she led us on giving women more information before they choose to abort a baby.  House Joint Resolution 765- Honor Ruth Samuelson, Former Member was read aloud.  Many of the members who served with Ruth spoke to the resolution, praising her talent and demeanor.  It was very emotional for us all.

Thursday, we took up Senate Bill 16 – Business and Agency Regulatory Reform Act of 2017.  This bill has over 20 provisions, many of interest to us on the coast: making the rule-making process more open; studying the setting up of arbitration panels for disputes between local governments and developers, as well as disputes concerning property owner associations; storm water issues; pool electrical safety; pet kennel rules; alarm system sales rules; inspection of back-up lights during vehicle inspection procedures; and many others.  The goal is to simplify the making of rules, as well as give citizens more access into the process.

I was very fortunate the week before Father’s Day to have my granddaughter as a page for the House.  Elisabeth Iler, who actually lives in Mooresville in Iredell County, served with a large page class last week.  They were able to see more debate and voting on the House floor than other recent groups.  I encourage any high school students or parents to consider paging in the House or Senate next session.  Applications for the 2018 session will be taken starting in January, and the procedures are on the legislature’s web site, www.ncleg.net .  You may also read our bills and get other information on this site.

Posted in Legislative Updates

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – June 12, 2017

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.

Posted in Legislative Updates