Each week in the North Carolina General Assembly this month feels like it should be the last for this session, but we keep coming back. When we adjourned the short session in late June and set a date of November 27th to return, most of us assumed it would be for a week. Then,Hurricane Florence happened. After two weeks, it appears we will be back another week or two. Hurricane relief and voter photo ID bills have dominated the discussion, the committee meetings and the votes so far.
Senate Bill 823 –Hurricane Florence/Supplemental Act appropriates an additional $299.8 million to hurricane relief and funds to match federal dollars for agricultural damage,commercial fishing losses, stream debris removal, derelict vessels study,school and college repairs, courthouse and county building repairs, and other losses. Senate Bill 823 passed the Senate 44 – 0 and the House 103-0, and it was signed by the Governor on December 3rd.
This is the third installment of the $849.4 million allocated originally, and leaves $94.7 million to be appropriated in 2019. However, there is more availability in the Savings Reserve Fund, which was built up to $2 billion over the last five years. There is a requirement in the bill to build the fund back up over the next five years.
The other major bill, Senate Bill 824 – Implementation of Voter ID Constitutional Amendment,passed the Senate, was amended by the House, and sent back to the Senate. It spells out the various forms of ID that will be accepted at the polls when voting. After amendments, it passed the House 67 – 40 last Wednesday, passed the Senate 25-7 on Thursday, and was presented to the Governor the same day. It is expected he may veto it, causing us to return to session to override his veto.
There were two resolutions adopted by the House honoring the lives of two law enforcement officers. NC State Trooper Kevin Conner was killed in the line of duty recently in Columbus County, and Greensboro Police Officer was killed in an accident in Guilford County responding to an emergency call. These were House Resolution 1104 and House Resolution 1116, respectively.
Last Thursday, the House Select Committee on School Safety met and presented their report for the next session of the House, which begins in January. As a member of this committee I was very interested in this report and voted for it. The key findings and recommendations included expansion of school safety grants, studying mental health screening, civic responsibility education, and expanded first aid training. It also recommends reintroduction of school safety legislation from the 2017 session, and continuing committee study and recommendations to the General Assembly.
We had various routine bills dealing with technical corrections, board appointments, and local issues. We anticipate returning on Tuesday, December 11th, weather permitting, and possibly Monday, December 17th, for possible veto override votes. Final adjournment is expected before Christmas.