Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – February 26, 2018

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly we were not in session, but we had many committee meetings in Raleigh, two of which I am a member, I had a chance to meet with the Speaker of the House, and I had time for meetings back home in the district.

On Wednesday the House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality met in Raleigh.  As one of the Chairs, I was in attendance.  It was an interesting meeting, being in the wake of our recent session in which we were unable to agree on short-term measures to speed up the testing and remediation of our drinking water.  I expressed my concern over the way that occurred, and my hope for the immediate future.  There was some heated discussion, but also some positive testimony from the Department of Environmental Quality(DEQ) on some of the actions being taken in regard to the chemical companies and other polluters.  We also heard from UNCW and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority on the actions they have been taking in response to our previous allocations of funds to them for testing and analysis.  Near the end of the meeting there was a suggestion that the committee change its name to “Water Quality” instead of “River Quality” to include the scope of ground water in our wells and aquifers, as well as surface water in our rivers across the state.  I agree that all sources should be included to insure the quality of our drinking water.

Early Thursday morning I was able to accompany House Speaker Tim Moore when he spoke to the N.C. Press Association.  It was interesting to meet the publishers, editors, and others in attendance.  I was lucky to run into a local publisher of the State Port Pilot, Mr. Ed Harper.

Thursday was the meeting of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform.  The main subject of the day was the handling of funds to public charter schools.  There are mixed opinions on whether or not the funds should flow through the local school districts, as they do now, or being paid directly to the charter schools.  The majority of opinions from experts on all sides of this issue appears to be that they should continue to flow through the districts, but be better accounted for in some way.  It was a consensus that the system is now overly complicated and confusing.

Returning Thursday night, I was able to attend the annual awards banquet of the Cape Fear Council of Governments, which provides services to a five county region.  It was good to see so many of our Mayors and other elected local officials from Brunswick County there, and was surprised to see I was the only legislator in attendance.

Having Monday, Friday and Saturday back in the district, I was able to meet with local citizens on a variety of issues.  On Monday I met individually with the advocate for the project to move the railroad crossing from downtown Wilmington to the Brunswick side of the river and across into the port area to the south.  Also, I was able to meet with an advocate for clean water in the Leland area, and plan a meeting soon with engineers working on the water issue.

Friday saw a meeting with a couple of citizens interested in our record of election reform, voter rights, and redistricting.  It is always good to have a civil discussion of issues, even if you don’t agree on everything.  We found some on which we could agree.  Saturday was the official day for precinct meetings in my political party. It was good to see new people getting involved.  Later, one gentleman met with me in Shallotte because of the urging of his industry advocates to get to know their local legislators.  I have always said one of the benefits of being involved as I am is the chance to make new friends with differing opinions.

This week should be relatively quiet, but the calendar for the balance of March is filling up quickly.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – February 19, 2018

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly we passed the bill known as the “class size fix” for elementary schools, we continued to hold dozens of committee meetings, I was able to attend meetings back here in the district and candidate filing started all over the state.

After filing for office Monday, I left in mid-afternoon for Raleigh, due to an early session Tuesday morning.  A very important bill, House Bill 90 was on the calendar.  This bill was passed in the Senate the previous Friday by a bipartisan vote of 37 – 5.

House Bill 90 – Changes to Education and Election Laws came to the House floor at 10:00 last Tuesday morning.  This bill changes the implementation of class size reductions in Kindergarten – 3rd grade, phasing it in over four years, and provides an additional $245 million for teachers over the four years. It also provides funding to the county schools in the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by diverting the “slush fund” that had been set up by the Governor and the pipeline builder through a Memo of Understanding.  In addition HB 90 provides funds to take care of the backlog in Pre-K education slots, fully funding this program for early childhood education.

The last provision in the bill provides a ninth member to the State Board of Election, an unaffiliated or third party member appointed by the Governor.  This gives him five of the nine members, and we believe meets the standard approved by the court in its recent decision.  HB 90 passed the House Tuesday on a bipartisan vote of 104 – 12, and was presented to the Governor the same day.  It is expected that he will let it become law without his signature, rather than sign or veto it.

Many committee meetings were taking place last week both in the House and Senate.  I attended the Environmental Review Commission where the members heard about and discussed what is being done about electronic waste to keep it out of our landfills.  There are components and elements that can be recycled and others that are toxic and must be disposed of in an environmentally clean manner.

Back in the district Thursday morning, I was able to attend the meeting of the Southwest Brunswick Mayors in Shallotte, where they share ideas and common interests on a monthly basis. 

Thursday afternoon I was double-booked at the Brunswick Community College Board of Trustees retreat and the Brunswick County Schools – Teacher Advisory Committee (TAC).  I was able to slip away from BCC at 5:00 and speak to the TAC about House Bill 90, the class size bill we had just passed.  The TAC is a committee composed of the Teachers of the Year from our 19 BCS schools and chaired by the Brunswick Teacher of the Year, Carolynn Phillips. 

As mentioned, candidate filing for office began last Monday at noon and ends Wednesday, February 28th at noon.  As of the first week, at least 15 candidates had filed for the various elected county and state offices.

I expect to be back in Raleigh for at least two committee meetings this week. 

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – February 12, 2018

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly we had a one day session with committee meetings and votes on the class size bill, we had movement in the Senate on the GenX/Emerging contaminants bill, and I was also able to attend some meetings in the district.

Monday of last week we were informed that we would be in Raleigh Wednesday night, Thursday and Friday for voting sessions.  This changed several times, but I still went to Raleigh Wednesday afternoon, although no votes were actually held that night. 

On Thursday we held a Joint Appropriations Committee meeting to review House Bill 90 – NC Truth in Education.  It had been revised so that it became the bill to fix the class size issue and address the Atlantic Coast Pipeline “slush fund” issue. It will delay the implementation of Kindergarten – 3rd grade class size reduction beyond the 2018-2019 school year and phase it in over four years.  It also appropriates an additional $240 million over the four years to make sure it is implemented without undue financial burden on local teachers and administrations. 

The bill also addresses the $68 million fund set up by a Memo of Understanding between the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the state.  Rather than a “slush fund” for the Governor to administer, the money will go into a fund for the counties affected by the pipeline to be used for their schools.  This is similar to the fines and forfeitures funds that go to the schools.

The Senate adopted the bill on Friday by a vote of 37-5.  According to House rules, it was determined that it was a “three day” bill and we will vote on it Tuesday. 

On Friday the Senate also adopted a version of House Bill 189, the GenX bill.  It will be on the House floor this Tuesday.

Prior to leaving Wednesday, I had two events here in the district.  Monday at noon the Brunswick Community College Board of Trustees hosted a lunch meeting for the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners.  We had a good presentation and discussion of current issues and future plans.  As a member of the Board of Trustees, I believe our relationships with the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education should be strong, for the benefit of the students, parents, and educators in the county.

The second event was a ribbon cutting Wednesday at the new District Office in Shallotte which I have established for the Southwest side of the district.  As I live on the Southeast side in Oak Island, this gives the citizens in the district two points of contact instead of one, closer to where they live.  They can schedule an appointment with me, check their voter registration, register to vote, and pick up literature at the office at 4745 Main Street in Shallotte.  The ribbon cutting was well attended by citizens, elected officials, and business leaders from the area.  This included 6 of our mayors, 5 from the Southwest area and one from Leland.  Food from Art Catering was enjoyed by many in the crowd of 50 or 60 citizens.  I immediately had to leave for Raleigh Wednesday afternoon.

This week, filing for office starts at noon Monday. I expect to be in Raleigh Tuesday for the final vote on House Bill 90 and consideration of the Senate version of House Bill 189.

Legislative Update from Rep. Frank Iler – January 23, 2018

Rep. Frank Iler

Last week the General Assembly almost shut down due to 6 inches of snow in Raleigh. However, I was able to bring some of it here to Brunswick County.

Tuesday we had a distinguished visitor from the N.C. House education leadership, Representative Craig Horn of Union County.  Rep. Horn is Chairman of the House Education K-12 Committee, which handles all education bills dealing with our elementary and secondary schools in the state. He also chairs the Appropriations Committee on Education, which does the education budget. Currently he co-chairs the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform, which is looking at improving school funding.

Rep. Horn was in Brunswick County at my request specifically to meet with Chairman Charlie Miller and Vice Chair Catherine Cooke of the Board of Education and Chairman Frank Williams and Vice Chair Randy Thompson of the County Commissioners and explain what is going on with the class size issue. We could only legally meet with two members of each board, but other county and school staff members attended the meeting.  With the confusion and misinformation surrounding the history and future of the issue, I was convinced that he could bring some clarity to it. Brunswick is one of a handful of counties Craig chose to visit.  I appreciate our relationship, as I am a member of his Education Committee and his seatmate, sharing a desk on the floor of the House.

Craig explained the long history, including the three years notice that local school districts have had to plan for it, and has not been rushed, as some district boards have said.  He also explained how funds have been allocated that could be used for this purpose, and how some districts have used them for other purposes.  Then he volunteered what possible steps may be taken to resolve the remaining issues on class size, including additional funding.  He emphasized the urgency that something should be done in the coming month or two.

The leaders of the two boards expressed their appreciation for Rep. Horn driving the seven hour round trip to meet with us, and seemed to gain a better understanding of the steps we have taken and will take to ease the burden on local leaders and teachers.  They were pleased with Rep. Horn’s commitment to listening to local leaders and his desire to work out a solution that will reduce class size without putting an undue burden on local schools.

I, for one, remember when I first went to Raleigh the education establishment was asking for smaller classes in grades K through 3.  Now it seems to be the opposite. Our goal is to do what is in the best interest of the individual student so that they have the best chance to read at grade level by 3rd grade.

Since my two committees scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday were cancelled due to the snow, I was able to attend meetings here in the district that I would have missed.  The Brunswick Shoreline Protection Consortium met at 10:00 on Wednesday and got updates from the Corps of Engineers, the Director of NC Beach, Inlet, and Waterway Association, and me on what is taking place to improve our beaches and inlets.  Thursday the Southwest Brunswick mayors met in Shallotte, where they communicated and shared ideas among themselves.  It is always good to hear directly from these leaders.  I was also able to spend more time in the new district office in Shallotte on Thursday.

This week we have been called back into session on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  I hope to see some action on our House Bill 189 on water quality by the Senate and movement by both chambers on class size.  I am sure redistricting will also be a topic.  As they say, “Stay tuned”.

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.”

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