Tuesdays are going to be committee days this session, and most of our floor votes will be on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Last week only a few of our committees were meeting due to few bills being filed so far. So we had time to meet with various groups and individuals advocating for different issues. For example, one meeting was with representatives of the RV (Recreational Vehicle) industry seeking to pass laws differentiating their dealers from franchise automobile dealers. Another was with Common Cause about redistricting reform, which revealed that we may have more ideas about districts in common than not. In all, I had at least a dozen such meetings.
We are having our Bill Drafting Department work on bills we have requested. They research existing laws and determine what changes are needed to accomplish what we are seeking to do. A couple of examples of my bills in process are a local bill for Sunset Beach storm water funds and a statewide bill to make the Loggerhead Sea Turtle the official saltwater reptile of North Carolina. These may be filed in the next week or two, along with others.
One committee that met was the Education K-12 Committee. We had two bills up for discussion on school calendar flexibility. They will expand the school year and shorten the summer break. These bills are always a major concern for our tourism industry on the coast. There are several of these local bills being filed, and they will be very controversial.
On Wednesday, we had House floor votes on the permanent rules of the House for 2019 and appointments to the bipartisan Ethics Commission. The House rules debate was very long and passed by a vote of 70 – 47. The ethics appointments bill was almost unanimous at 116 – 1 in the House and 45 – 0 in the Senate.
By Thursday, many discussions were taking place on the upcoming budget negotiations. As a Vice Chair, I met with the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the House Appropriations Committee, where we planned the calendar for assembling and passing the budget earlier than in past sessions. As Chairs of the Appropriations Committee on Transportation, we also met separately with our committee staff to set the stage for our transportation budget. This budget is separate from the general fund budget, and spends almost $4 billion each year on transportation maintenance and construction.
There have been almost 40 bills filed in the House so far. I expect many more to be ready to file this week.