Special Report on Hurricane Florence – Sept. 17, 2018

Although all meetings were cancelled in Raleigh during the past week as Hurricane Florence made her way through North Carolina, the communications among elected officials at every level has never been more urgent.  We had daily and hourly phone calls and texts among every concerned official and emergency management leader.

I had one or two conference calls daily with Brunswick Emergency Management. The county staff, county commissioners, municipal mayors, state Representative and state Senator were on the call as we got updates on preparations and conditions around the county.  We were able to ask questions and offer assistance in communicating with state agencies.  These will likely continue until the flooding and infrastructure issues are back to normal.

The state has had all legislators on at least one conference call daily.  We are briefed by the Secretary of Transportation (NCDOT), Secretary of the Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Assistant Director of Emergency Services of the Dept. of Public Safety (DPS), and the Governor’s office.  We are updated on major road closures, shelter and medical assets, and localized issues.  I have been able to assist as some of our local needs have arisen.

Other calls and texts have flooded in to my phone and Senator Rabon’s as the needs have arisen across the county and in our towns.  We have been able to put some of our folks in touch with agencies to assist them or to attempt to speed up needed services.  The needs are expected to increase this week as people are stranded by flood waters and time passes with necessary supplies running low. 

Communication with leaders across the county, our towns, and state have never been more urgent and timely as now.  The county Emergency Operations Center and the NC Emergency Operations Center have done an excellent job of uniting all possible forces to alleviate the problems as much as possible.  Thanks to all these dedicated public servants, and the leaders of our towns for all they do for the safety and comfort of our people in Brunswick County and North Carolina.

Please follow your local officials’ advice and watch out for your safety and that of your neighbors.  We will get through this and come out even stronger.

Click here for more Brunswick County-specific information. 

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – July 3, 2018

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly: we passed historic constitutional amendments for the voters to decide, we had a record override votes of the Governor’s vetoes, and we finished our work for the short session.

On last Monday afternoon we had an unusual early session.  The first item of business was to finish House Bill 1028 – Oak Island Charter Amendment by concurring with the Senate’s minor change by a vote of 111 – 0.  It became law then, as it is not subject to the Governor’s veto.

Then we began a series of constitutional amendments by voting on House Bill 1092 – Constitutional Amendment – Require Photo ID To Vote.  It passed 74 – 44 in the House and 33 – 12 in the Senate and will be on the ballot in November for the voters to decide.

During the week a total of six constitutional amendments were passed, and will be on the November ballot.  The voters will decide which of them will become part of our state constitution.  Besides voter ID, five others are:

  • House Bill 913 – Bipartisan Ethics and Election Enforcement makes the state elections and ethics board bipartisan.  It passed 74 – 43 in the House and passed 32 – 14 in the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 677 – Protect Right to Hunt and Fish makes it clear these are protected rights, subject to some statutory restrictions.  It passed 92 – 23 in the House and 41 – 6 in the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 75 – Constitutional Amendment – Maximum Income Tax Rate of 7% caps the income tax rate for the state at 7% rather than the current cap of 10%.  It passed 73 – 45 in the House and 34 to 13 in the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 814 – Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment provides for a non-partisan commission to recommend justices and judges to fill vacant positions, send them to the General Assembly, and then to the Governor for appointment.  Now just the Governor is involved in the process.  It passed the House 73 – 45 and the Senate 34 – 13.
  • House Bill 551 – Strengthening Victims Rights makes it clear that certain victims’ rights are protected instead of allowing victims and their families to be victimized further.  It passed the House 107 – 9 and the Senate 45 – 1.

All the constitutional amendments require a three – fifths vote to pass both chambers, and must then be voted on by the citizens in November.  Veto overrides must also pass by three – fifths.  The Governor had vetoed seven bills the previous week, so we took up the override votes this past week. The five we overrode were:

  • House Bill 374 – Regulatory Reform Act of 2018 overridden by 75 – 44 in the House and 34 – 11 in the Senate.
  • House Bill 382 – Dept. of Insurance Omnibus bill overridden by 84 – 35 in the House and 39 – 8 in the Senate.
  • House Bill 717 – Judicial Election Changes overridden by 74 – 45 in the House and 30 – 16 in the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 325 – The Uniform and Expanded Early Voting Act overridden 74 – 45 in the House and 34 – 12 in the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 711 – NC Farm Act of 2018 overridden 74 – 45 in the House and 37 – 9 in the Senate.

All of these bills can be read on the General Assembly web site at www.ncleg.net .

The last order of business last Friday was to adjourn the short session.  We may be back before the year is over, depending on what the Governor and the courts do that may require our attention.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – June 25, 2018

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly we overrode the Governor’s veto on two election bills, we moved local bills through committees and both chambers, and we learned about constitutional amendments to be voted on shortly.

Many of our votes in the N.C. House last week were votes to concur with bills that had passed the House earlier, and had been sent to the Senate.  There they had been changed, so we had to concur, or agree, to the Senate changes.

However, early in the week we knew the Governor had vetoed two of our election bills, and that we had to have the three fifths votes to override his vetoes.  On Wednesday we had Senate Bill 486 – The Elections Security and Transparency Act back before us.  This bill requires county Boards of Elections to perform background checks on board employees that handle sensitive election data.  This does not include precinct poll workers.  This override vote was 74 – 42, and became law over the objections of the Governor.

The second vetoed bill was Senate Bill 757 – Various Court Districts Changes.  This bill changes some districts for District Courts and Superior Courts, most notably for the Wake and Mecklenburg County districts.  The districts’ populations had been skewed by growth patterns since the 1980s, the last time they were updated.  SB 757 addressed these disparities to bring more fairness into the districts.  It passed 74 – 43 and became law.  The Senate had already overridden both bills earlier.

Many local bills were considered and passed in both chambers last week.  Two of our local bills were in the Senate last week.  House Bill 1027 – Bald Head Island/No Wake Zone and House Bill 1028 – Oak Island Charter Amendment were sent to the Senate Committee on State and Local Government, and then to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operation of the Senate.  I was on hand to present them to both committees and they passed.  HB 1027 then passed the Senate and became law.  HB 1028 had a technical change in the Senate, passed that chamber, and was sent back to the House for a concurrence vote.  It is first on the House calendar this Monday, and should have passed by the time the readers see this article.  The Governor does not have a chance to consider local bills for signature or veto.

Constitutional amendments to be presented to the people on the November ballot must be passed by the House and Senate by at least a three fifths vote.  Several of them are being considered, and two are on the House calendar for this Monday.  Senate Bill 677 – Protect Right to Hunt and Fish will make it more difficult to put further restrictions on hunting and fishing beyond what has already been done.  It passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 44 – 4.

House Bill 1092 – Const. Amendment – Require Photo ID to Vote will have its first floor vote Monday afternoon.  It requires proof of residency through the use of a photo ID.  Anyone without an ID may get a free one.  Both of these proposed amendments should be passed in the House Monday.

The pace of votes this week will be busy, and we may be able to adjourn the short session by Thursday or the wee hours of Friday morning.  I expect floor voting sessions to last into the night, possibly all week.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler — June 18, 2018

Last week at the North Carolina General Assembly we handled well over 100 bills in the House and Senate, we overrode the Governor’s veto of the state budget, and we passed several bills of local interest.

Last Monday, June 11th, we reported for a night session at 7:00 p.m. While many weeks there are no votes on bills on Monday, we started right out with 15 bills in this session.  It was a sign of the week to come.  We were kept busy all week until Friday afternoon with committee meetings and midnight voting sessions.  Mostly “Public” bills were being voted and passed back and forth between the House and Senate.  Public bills are those effecting the entire state.  In the coming weeks we expect to handle more local bills and constitutional amendments, which are not subject to the Governor’s veto.

On Tuesday, we voted to override the Governor’s veto of our state budget, Senate Bill 99 – Appropriations Act of 2018.  The Senate had voted to override it the previous Thursday.  Our vote was 73 – 44 to override, in excess of the required three fifths.  It became law immediately.

Several public bills of local interest were passed and sent to the Governor.  One of them, Senate Bill 711 – NC Farm Act of 2018, impacts our rural areas in Brunswick County and surrounding counties.  It has many provisions, but one in particular got the most attention.  It puts conditions on the ability to sue for nuisances surrounding farms.  It was amended many times, and I believe it is as fair as possible to farmers and the neighbors of farmers. It does not prevent neighbors of farmers to sue for a legitimate nuisance. This provision has been misrepresented by groups on all sides of the issue.  It passed on primarily a party line vote of 67 – 47 on Wednesday and 65 – 42 on Thursday.  It was then sent to the Governor for his action.

Another bill that impacts our area is House Bill 512 – Monitor Implementation of TBI Waiver.  However, this bill was used to include other health-related provisions, one of which was included at the request of Dosher Memorial Hospital.  The added provision allows Dosher to operate their business on the same basis as other hospitals.  Prior to this they had been treated differently.  We originally thought this could be a local bill, but our NC Constitution requires health issues to be in public bills.

This week should be devoted to local bills, constitutional amendments, and possible veto overrides.  Two local bills that have passed the House unanimously should be passed by the Senate shortly.  House Bill 1027 – Bald Head Island/No Wake Zone and House Bill 1028 – Oak Island Charter Amendment are priorities this week.  We may well be able to adjourn this session by June 30th.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – June 11, 2018

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was busy, both on the floors of the House and Senate and in committee rooms: we passed bills on school safety and elections; we moved the Build NC Bond Act through three committees; we passed local bills, including two for Brunswick County towns; and we saw the Governor veto the budget, which was overridden in the Senate immediately.

Monday we passed a school safety bill, House Bill 938 – Various School Safety Changes, defines School Resource Officers (SROs) and requires training for them, requires peer-to-peer support groups in grades six and higher, and sets up reporting requirements for other school safety measures.  I was a cosponsor of this bill, and it passed 111 – 0 in the House.

Senate Bill 486 – The Elections Security and Transparency Act had passed the Senate and was in the House for a vote Monday. It requires criminal background checks for local election board employees who have access to the computer programs for election data. This does not include the poll workers.  It also establishes the order of the judges on the ballot. As expected, it passed on a party line vote of 66 – 44 and was sent to the Governor.

The Build NC Bond Act, House Bill 1010 was in the House Transportation Committee Tuesday.  It was approved and moved on to the House Appropriations Committee and House Finance Committee, where it was approved almost unanimously.  It should be on the House floor this week for a vote.  The bill allows borrowing against future transportation funds to speed up regional and division highway projects.  This includes those approved by local transportation groups, The Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), which are made up of local officials.  This should help projects in the rural and eastern NC areas.

Two local bills passed the House State and Local Government committee and came to the floor Thursday.  House Bill 1027 – Bald Head Island/No Wake Zone allows the local public safety department to enforce the no wake zone in their town limits.  House Bill 1028 – Oak Island Charter Amendment allows the Town Manager to reside outside the town limits and defines some of their duties.  These were both requested by the towns.

Last Wednesday, the Governor vetoed the state budget.  Without getting into the politics of it, this was not unexpected, but we were hoping he might let it become law without his signature.  However, since it is a Senate Bill (SB 99), the Senate voted on Thursday to override his veto by a vote of 34 – 13.  We expect to override it this Tuesday, and it will become law.

During the week we had various groups of visitors, many from back home in Brunswick County.  One in particular, Brunswick County Association of Realtors brought a large group, and I was able to meet with them twice, at a Tuesday night reception and Wednesday in my office.  It is always good to see these folks from back home interested in what we do in Raleigh.

Another very busy time is expected this week.  We are reporting for Monday night votes and a full week of committees, floor votes and visitors.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – June 4, 2018

It seems the last two weeks in the North Carolina General Assembly have been all about the budget, but we also have been filing local bills and bills that were recommended by study committees.

As to the budget, we passed the 2018 – 2019 budget last week in the House and the Senate.  It is now in the hands of the Governor.  He can sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.  This is the earliest anyone can remember in recent years the budget has been done, almost a month ahead of the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1st

The budget bill, Senate Bill 99 – Appropriations Act of 2018, went to the Senate floor last Wednesday for a vote.  It passed 36 – 14 on second reading and also 36 – 14 on third reading Thursday.  In the House it passed 72 – 45 Thursday on second reading and 66 – 44 on third reading Friday.  Some of our House members had Friday plans and were not there for the final vote.  However, I was there.

Some of the highlights of the budget: investment of over $700 million additional in our schools; a 6.5% raise for teachers, a 2% raise for other state employees, and 1% increase for retirees;  An 8% raise for Highway Patrol, who have not had a raise in several years, and a raise for correctional officers; all these law enforcement and first responders get an increase in their death benefit, retroactive, to take care of the families of the prison officers and employees who were killed the past year; Additional $60 million in disaster relief for Hurricane Mathew and wildfires, bringing the total to over $360 million; Over $35 million to support school safety on the local level; Over $10 million to support efforts to identify contaminants in our drinking water and eliminate known contaminants; Tax relief for 99% of North Carolinians who will pay less or no state tax.

In addition to the budget, there were dozens of local bills filed.  I filed House Bill 1027 – Bald Head Island/Village Dept. Public Safety which allows the Bald Head Island police to enforce the long established No-Wake Zone there.  This will supplement the enforcement now provided by the Sheriff Dept. and the Wildlife Resource Commission.

A bill for Oak Island was also filed last week.  House Bill 1028 – Oak Island Charter Amendment changes the town charter, to better define the role of the Town Manager and allow the Town Manager to reside outside the town limits.

There were many bills filed from interim committees that address school safety, the safety of our drinking water, and transportation issues.  I am a sponsor of many of these bills, which will be coming forward in committees this week and the next few weeks.  For a list of these bills, one can go to the General Assembly web site at www.ncleg.net .  Click on the House, then click on House Member List, and click on my name.  Once on my page, click on Introduced Bills at the top for a complete list of the bills I have sponsored.  These new bills will be near the bottom of the list.

Legislative Update for Rep. Frank Iler – May 21, 2018

The beginning of the 2018 short session of the North Carolina General Assembly was last week.  We also rolled out legislation on school safety and water safety.  Budget discussions were also being held at the highest levels.

Wednesday we had 15,000 to 20,000 visitors from among our teachers across the state.  We had a good discussion with a group of four Teachers of the Year from the last five years.  We covered many of the topics currently in the education budget and in the news.

The first floor session of the 2018 short session was at noon Wednesday.  It involved the formality of the opening pledge of allegiance with a color guard from the Civil Air Patrol, and the singing of the National Anthem by the reigning Miss North Carolina, Victoria Huggins.  We were given the calendar for filing bills, which will range from May 30 to June 7, depending on the types of bills they are.

Thursday we had many bills filed on school safety.  House Bills 937 through 941 were filed, addressing subjects recommended by the House Select committee on School Safety.  They include School Resource Officer (SRO) training and additional funding, School risk management plans and building vulnerability assessments, and reporting on SROs to the N.C. Center for Safer Schools.  This is only the beginning of the school safety effort, but I believe it is a good start. 

One other bill on school safety had been filed and read in on Wednesday, and we had our first vote on it Thursday.  House Bill 933 – Reciprocity/School Psychologist Licensure will make it easier to license psychologists from other states if they have the national certification.  This should help with the backlog in hiring psychologists across the state. It passed the House by a unanimous vote of 113 – 0.  Many local bills were also filed.

House Bill 972 – Water Safety Act was filed Thursday and should be read in this week.  It martials the resources of the university scientific community as well as the government bureaucracies of the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It brings them to bear on identifying known and unknown contaminants in our water sources and eliminating them.

The senior chairs of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate were also meeting to finalize the adjustments to the 2018 – 2019 budget.  We expect to have a full schedule the next few weeks on all these issues.

Legislative Update from Rep. Iler – May 14, 2018

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly budget meetings continued on Wednesday and Thursday, the House Select Committee on School Safety approved its report of recommendations, and most of the House and Senate members survived their primary elections.

As most of our readers know, there was a primary election held on Tuesday, May 8th. After 2 1/2 weeks of early voting and a long day of Election Day voting, there was still only a 10 % turnout of voters in Brunswick County.  However, here and across the state the majority of incumbent candidates prevailed in the vote counts. The attention will soon move to the general election in November.

Immediately after the vote totals came in Tuesday night, I had to be in Raleigh at 10:00 o’clock Wednesday morning to continue the budget negotiations with the chairs of the Appropriations Committee on Transportation from the House and Senate.  Brunswick County is well represented, as Senator Rabon and I are both involved in this group.  We met several hours in the morning and again in the afternoon.  We are very close to agreement on the budget to be presented to the full Appropriations Committee and to each chamber for floor votes and passage.  It should be passed early in the session, which convenes next Wednesday, May 16th.

The House Select Committee on School Safety met Thursday morning and approved its report, which included approximately 14 recommendations for legislation in the upcoming short session.  Some of the highlights are:

  • More support for School Resource Officers (SROs), to include additional funding
  • More training for SROs, continuing education requirements
  • Study a volunteer SRO program
  • Reciprocity with national certification on hiring school psychologists
  • Work to increase school counselors, psychologists, and nurses to the national per student ratios
  • Threat assessment teams in every public school
  • Study armed security options for non-public schools
  • Funding to expand the anonymous tip line Speak Up NC to the entire state.

As it was pointed out by the chairmen of the committee, this is only a start to protect the immediate physical safety as well as long term prevention of violence in our schools.  There was wholehearted bipartisan agreement on this point.  The report was approved in a unanimous voice vote, and will go into the committee process for action in the short session.

This Wednesday is the beginning of the short session.  I also plan to meet with a group of teachers just prior to the noon session on that day.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – May 7, 2018

Last week at the North Carolina General Assembly we met with the House Select Committee on School Safety, we met in several budget committee meetings, and we got ready for the short session.

Last Wednesday, May 2nd, I was in the Student Physical Safety and Security Working Group of the House Select Committee on School Safety.  We heard presentations on recommendations to go to the full committee on the 10th. They included additional training standards for School Resource Officers (SROs), additional funding to local school districts for SRO grants, and studying a volunteer SRO program.  Also, the recommendations included school risk management plans, school building vulnerability assessments, and reporting requirements to the Center for Safer Schools.  The proposed legislation can be viewed by going to the General Assembly home page at www.ncleg.net , and going to the committee website.

We were informed that we would have budget recommendations very soon after we convene on May 16th.  Preparation for this has already begun, including meetings with the senior chairs of the House Appropriations Committee, as well as the chairs of the House Appropriations Committee on Transportation.  I am a vice chairman of the former committee and chairman of the latter.  Both groups met Wednesday.  While the numbers are not finalized on how much revenue will be available for the second year of the biennial budget beginning July 1st, it appears there will not be a lot of adjustment to the budget, which was passed last year in the 2017 – 2019 budget process.

It is anticipated that we will be in budget meetings again this week, right after the primary election.  I am scheduled to be in a budget meeting at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, the 9th for budget talks.  Then, on Thursday, the 10th, the final meeting of the House Select Committee on School Safety will convene.  We will consider recommendations from the two working groups, the one on physical safety and security and the one on student health.  I expect that legislation will come out of this meeting to be considered and passed in the short session.

As referred to earlier, the short session is scheduled to convene on May 16th.  I expect it will be a truly short session, ending in June.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – April 30, 2018

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly committees were meeting virtually every day, discussions were beginning on the budget adjustments, and new security measures were being installed.

Interim and select committees were finishing their business, in preparation for the beginning of the short session on May 16th.  Two committees on which I serve met Wednesday and Thursday. 

The Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform met Wednesday, and heard from an expert on education finance.  Dr. Marguerite Roza from Georgetown University spoke on the allocation of funds using a student-based formula rather than a staffing and categorical system.  Although North Carolina uses a student head count called Average Daily Membership (ADM), we specify staffing levels and add on categorical amounts for different student needs.  Dr. Roza pointed out our system can limit local flexibility, and she compared it to other states that use other methods.  In this committee we are looking for a system that is simpler, increases local flexibility, and maintains good accountability.  After a vigorous discussion, we adjourned until after the short session.  However, I am sure many of the ideas presented during these meetings will be on the minds of our education budget writers as they adjust the 2018 -2019 budget.

On Thursday the House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality met to hear reports from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), and University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW).  While much progress has been made in the testing, identifying, and controlling of compounds in the drinking water in our region, much remains to be done to insure the continuous monitoring and insure the safety of our water.  I expect legislation during the short session to address these issues.

Thursday we also began discussions on the 2018 – 2019 adjustments to the 2017 – 2019 biennial budget.  This is an opportunity to adjust the second year of the two year state budget to reflect new income tax and sales tax projections.  Many budget meetings will be taking place in advance of the May 16th session start date.

As we went from building to building we could not help but notice the installation and testing of new security equipment going on.  Metal detectors were in evidence, as well as new doors on the parking garage underneath the legislative building.  These measures had been announced and may be long overdue, but it was disappointing to realize that they may be necessary for the safety of our members and staff in the General Assembly.  We like to be open to the public, whom we serve, but we know that only one evil person can take advantage of the openness to hurt innocent people.

This week, the committee meetings and budget discussions will continue.  I expect to meet with the House Select Committee on School Safety on Wednesday.