One good thing about a short week in Raleigh is the chance to meet with people back home in the district.  Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly ended in time to get back Thursday to the district.  We had a comprehensive health bill on the House floor in Monday night’s session, we had a big announcement by DOT about a local project, and we continued all week to try to secure enough votes to override the Governor’s veto of the state budget.

Senate Bill 361 – Healthy NC creates the N.C. Healthcare Solutions Task Force, ensures equal coverage of oral cancer drugs, and addresses changes in telemedicine and telehealth services, as well as other important issues in healthcare.  It received some debate, and passed by a bipartisan vote of 106 – 3.

On Tuesday the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that they were discontinuing work on the project known as the Cape Fear Crossing.  This should be good news to those whose property was in the path of the corridors on the twenty-year-old maps, as well as those who think that the project should be reworked with a different scope.

House Bill 966 – 2019 Appropriations Act, the state budget, passed by the House and Senate in June and vetoed by the Governor, remained on the calendar each day.  We are still hopeful of an override vote soon, so our schools and agencies can know what budget to expect from the state.

Thursday was a day of highlights for me back in the district.  Having served on the Brunswick Community College Board of Trustees longer than I have been in the House, it was an honor to be reappointed to the Board.  Thanks go to the Brunswick County Board of Education for the appointment, only one of which they get each year.  At Thursday night’s Board meeting, I was sworn in by Chairman Alan Holden.  Two of my other friends were sworn in, also.  Dr. Gene Steadman was reappointed, and Mr. Ronnie Jenkins was appointed.  Both of these gentlemen bring unique talents and experiences to the Board, will represent the community well, and will help us remember that BCC’s middle name is “community”.

Later Thursday evening, I was privileged to be invited to the quarterly meeting of the Brunswick County Fire Chiefs.  I learned quite a lot about current issues and challenges of the fire departments, both municipal and rural, and was able to share some of the legislative action we are attempting to get passed by the House and Senate.  Bills are in process on firefighters’ work related cancers, firefighters’ separation allowances, and allowing first responders better interstate access.  These bills have passed the House and are now awaiting action in the Senate either this year or the short session next year.

Both at BCC and at the fire chiefs’ meeting I was able to stress the importance of getting our budget veto overridden.  It contains appropriations of $2.2 million for BCC construction, $13.3 million for Brunswick school construction, and appropriations for the Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium.  Other grants and appropriations are being held up for our first responders and others affected by Florence and other emergencies.  Teachers’ and other state employees’ raises are in question, also.  It is critical to our economy and well-being as a state to get this budget out of this hostage situation as soon as possible.

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was a longer week than most summer sessions with voting sessions in the House on four days, as well as several committee meetings.  We were able to get final House action on bills on small business health insurance, rural hospital financial assistance, and standards of student conduct.  There were also some discussions about the security of members and staff at the legislature, following an incident the prior week.

Senate Bill 86 – Small Business Health Care Act allows associations of small businesses and non-profits to offer group health insurance to association members.  The best example in our area would be the realtors, who are independent contractors and belong to the N.C. Association of Realtors.  Many other associations exist, and most of them were in strong support of this legislation.  It passed the House 82 – 32 and goes back to the Senate for concurrence with the House Committee Substitute language.

Part of Senate Bill 681 deals with a fund for rural hospitals to obtain loans to sustain operations.  The county in which the hospital is located would be responsible to see that the loan is paid back.  While only a few hospitals would be able to use the fund, it could be a lifesaver for those few and for the counties where it is the only hospital.  It passed 81 – 31 and goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

While these two bills had some debate on the House floor, the most debate was over Senate Bill 295 – Standards of Student Conduct. It gives teachers and principals more authority to decide what determines disruptive behavior.  On Tuesday the discussion was heated, and some implied that certain groups might be targeted because of skin color or disabilities.  The vote that day was split 62 – 52.  After an amendment on Wednesday that clarified some of the offenses the vote was unanimous on third reading, 114 – 0.  This bill also goes back to the Senate for concurrence with the House changes.

August 1st there was an incident where a visitor to one of the House members was stopped at the entrance with a handgun and two extra clips in his bag.  Fortunately, the member’s office was in the Legislative Building (LB) where the entrances have been hardened with metal detectors and guards.   No motive for carrying in this weapon has been announced.

The building that contains my office, the Legislative Office Building (LOB) has no security at the main entrance, and has one guard at the street entrance.  The LOB entrances are in the process of being hardened.  One member took an opportunity last week to speak from the House floor about her concerns over our security.  I agree with her concerns. She and others, including myself, have received threats.  We usually dismiss them, but in these troubled times they must be taken more seriously.  We do have measures to take if we feel threatened to summon security to our offices. I appreciate the efforts to protect our security, while still allowing the public free access to their representatives.  It is sad that these measures are necessary.

The override vote on the state budget, House Bill 966, has still not been taken.  We are getting some good work done on other bills while we wait for the override, but most of us would rather be back home in our districts discussing more local issues with our citizens.

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was a short week in Raleigh, but many activities were going on back in our districts.  Brunswick County had a particularly large honor for our law enforcement community, we had a veto of an education bill by the Governor, and voted on a controversial child sex abuse bill.

Last Tuesday night the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association held their annual banquet in Wilmington.  Our Sheriff John Ingram was sworn in as President of the association for 2019 – 2020.  This is a big honor for Sheriff Ingram and also for his department and all of Brunswick County law enforcement.  It was a privilege to be invited as a special guest.  It was great to see all five of our County Commissioners in attendance, as well as several mayors and other officials and law enforcement officers from the County.  My colleague in the House, Representative Carson Smith, former Sheriff of Pender County, was honored as a retired Sheriff at the banquet.

Early last week the Governor vetoed Senate Bill 392 – Various Charter School Changes.  This bill would provide more opportunities for students to participate in the virtual charter school pilot program by raising the cap on enrollment, allow the Superintendent of Public Instruction additional power to approve private activity school bonds for charter school construction, and require background checks for charter school boards of directors.  There is no apparent additional cost to the state.  It passed both chambers by more than enough votes to override the veto, so we will look forward to a successful override vote in the near future.

Senate Bill 199 – Child Sex Abuse/Strengthen Laws was in the House Tuesday and Wednesday for votes.  The bill raises the age for a victim to bring a civil suit for abuse suffered under age 18 and strengthens the laws against sexual predators’ contact with children, including on-line contact.  There was some debate over raising the age for delayed civil action up to age 38, but it passed the House 92 – 15, with my Yes vote. 

We anticipate another active week, in spite of it being vacation time for most people.  The peoples’ business sometimes takes longer than usual to complete, particularly when there is not consensus on major issues.

 

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was short, but we were able to pass some bills that had been lingering in both the House and Senate for a while. In the House they dealt mainly with education, school safety, and public safety.  In southeastern North Carolina we also had a special visitor drop by on Friday.  The state budget is still on hold, as the vote to override the Governor’s veto has not yet been taken.

Senate Bill 438 – Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019 seeks to improve the Read to Achieve program, so that elementary students will be reading at grade level by third grade.  It passed the third and final reading in the House by 75 – 39, went to the Senate, and they did not concur with the changes made in the House.  It will now go into conference so the differences can be worked out.

Senate Bill 5 – School Safety Omnibus improves many aspects of the safety issues addressed in previous bills, as well as many of the issues addressed in last year’s House School Safety Committee on which I served.  It will clarify the definition of a School Resource Officer (SRO), further define the training for SROs, clarify threat assessment teams for all public schools, establish a panic alarm system, encourage private and religious schools to adopt the safety practices of public schools, and make other improvements.  This is an ongoing effort to make our schools safer so that students can learn without fear.

House Bill 863 – Qualifications for Sheriff/Expunctions makes it clear that a person who has committed a felony and had it expunged cannot run for Sheriff.  It is already law that a felon can’t run, but this adds the expunction rule to the qualifications.  After some heated debate, mainly by the lawyers in the House, it was sent back to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House.

On Thursday I learned that House Speaker Tim Moore wanted to visit several sites in southeastern North Carolina to see some of the projects impacted if the budget is not passed in its current form.  Beginning Friday morning with the Pender County Courthouse, which was impacted by Hurricane Florence, he then went to the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, and to the Southport campus of Brunswick Community College.  The aquarium and the Fort Fisher Museum stand to receive almost $13 million for upgrades and construction in the budget.  I joined the Speaker, his staff, and members of the aquarium and museum staff at the aquarium.  I learned that it is the most visited aquarium of the three in N.C. with 500,000 visitors a year.  It was very busy Friday.

At BCC’s Southport Center, the Speaker was met by college President Gene Smith and received the key to the city from Mayor Jerry Dove.  We then toured the classrooms where an amazing amount of teaching legacy crafts is done.  This allows our local citizens to explore their talents in arts and crafts, as well as add to the economy of the Southport area, which is known for local arts. Other classes are offered, and more space will soon be needed.  The building is ready for additional classrooms, and the funds in the state budget would be helpful.  The demands on BCC’s other campuses in areas such as Health Sciences and Career Technical Education (CTE) are also increasing.  Unfortunately, the $2.2 million slated for BCC is being held up by the Governor’s veto.  We hope to override it soon.

One of the highlights of the Speaker’s trip was the ferry ride from Fort Fisher to Southport.  The N.C. ferry system is also supported by the state budget.  Fortunately, funds for the ongoing operations are not cut off, as the state does not shut down due to a budget impasse.

We will be back in session this week, with more interesting bills coming up for votes, and a possible veto override.

 

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was short, but as intense as the heat outside in Raleigh. There was controversy over public schools, over sports betting, and over appointments to various boards and commissions.  We also continued debating in committees about healthcare, school safety, and insurance for public schools.  The Governor’s veto of the state budget has yet to be overridden, but remains on the calendar.

Many Senate bills were on the House calendar last week for approval.  Senate Bill 438 – Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019 seeks to improve the Read to Achieve program so all children can read at grade level by third grade.  It was well debated and passed the House by a slim margin of 58 – 51.

Senate Bill 154 – Allow Sports/Horse Race Wagering Tribal Lands approves betting on sports events and horse racing on Cherokee tribal lands.  This is in line with federal law, but my concern was the possible spreading to other parts of the state in future legislation.  With my No vote it still passed the House by 90 – 27, and was sent to the Governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 686 – Appointments Bill 2019 contains the appointments of the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem to dozens of boards and commissions across the state.  It received wide support from both political parties and was approved 79 – 37, after some debate, and became law.  The main appointment from Brunswick County is Tom Adams’ reappointment to the N.C. Ports Authority.  He resides in Ocean Isle Beach and is former Chairman of the N.C. Ports Authority.  Also, I was reappointed to the Justus – Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force for a second two – year term.

In addition, I would like to publicly thank the Brunswick County Board of Education for reappointing me to the Brunswick Community College Board of Trustees.  It is fulfilling work with dedicated trustees and staff members at BCC, and I have been there for longer than I have served in the N.C. House.

Many committees were meeting last week, including Finance, Insurance, Health, and Education K-12 committees.  Some of the bills we were considering included House Bill 922 – Enhance Insurance Coverage/Education Buildings, Senate Bill 315 – N.C. Farm Act of 2019,  and Senate Bill 5 – School Safety Omnibus.

We will continue meeting until the budget is approved, and we are not yet sure when that will be accomplished, since the Governor’s veto occurred.

Top Line Points

Gov. Roy Cooper and Democrats are holding the entire state budget hostage over their demands for Medicaid expansion.
Their political games are hurting students, teachers, schools and colleges who desperately need these vital resources in the budget.
From billions in school construction and education funding to millions in teacher raises and classroom supplies, the Governor and Democrats are putting politics over people.
Furthermore, by holding the budget hostage, the Governor and Democrats are denying tens of thousands of low-income NC students free lunches.
It is simply unfair and irresponsible to use students, teachers and schools as bargaining chips to force a partisan agenda through the legislature.
Key Education Benefits and Resources Being Blocked
  1. 3.9% teacher pay raise over the biennium.
  2. $1.43 billion over two years in increased education funding.
  3. $91 million in school safety measures.
  4. $4.4 billion over the next 10 years for school construction.
  5. $3 million to provide free school lunches for low-income students.
  6. $15 million in new funding for classroom supplies.
  7. Provides $150 per teacher in the 1st year and $200 in the 2nd year for teachers to purchase classroom supplies.
  8. $400 million for Community College construction and renovations.
  9. $632 million in capital projects for the UNC System.
  10. Continues N.C. Promise, giving students an opportunity to attend three state universities for only $500 a semester.

 

School Construction Funding Per County

 

Alamance-Burlington $18,428,823
Alexander County $12,411,156
Alleghany County $10,353,574
Anson County $11,884,154
Ashe County $10,775,162
Asheboro City $ 4,396,455
Asheville City $ 2,713,629
Avery County $10,511,929
Beaufort County $12,165,414
Bertie County $11,234,254
Bladen County $12,277,125
Brunswick County $13,315,336
Buncombe County $14,687,531
Burke County $15,756,422
Cabarrus County $17,220,503
Caldwell County $15,402,161
Camden County $10,666,626
Carteret County $12,158,044
Caswell County $11,332,269
Catawba County $11,116,803
Chapel Hill-Carrboro $ 9,532,195
Chatham County $12,337,946
Cherokee County $11,136,538
Clay County $10,335,402
Cleveland County $16,605,277
Clinton City $ 4,357,148
Columbus County $10,632,523
Craven County $14,384,993
Cumberland County $28,886,745
Currituck County $11,067,730
Dare County $11,381,585
Davidson County $14,998,456
Davie County $11,627,851
Duplin County $15,498,144
Durham County $18,587,527
Edenton/Chowan $10,729,020
Edgecombe County $13,427,241
Elkin City $1,616,987
Forsyth County $24,142,940
Franklin County $14,047,855
Gaston County $20,416,874
Gates County $10,913,914
Graham County $10,336,858
Granville County $14,143,141
Greene County $12,000,632
Guilford County $28,758,346
Halifax County $ 5,201,993
Harnett County $21,892,627
Haywood County $11,889,100
Henderson County $13,511,592
Hertford County $11,524,488
Hickory City $2,861,982
Hoke County $15,821,609
Hyde County $10,156,538
Iredell-Statesville $13,034,411
Jackson County $10,974,793
Johnston County $27,659,803
Jones County $10,399,503
Kannapolis City $3,000,295
Lee County $14,032,240
Lenoir County $14,071,824
Lexington City $ 2,423,631
Lincoln County $13,071,054
Macon County $11,156,512
Madison County $10,666,773
Martin County $11,558,269
McDowell County $12,814,262
Mecklenburg County $48,448,911
Mitchell County $10,546,702
Montgomery County $11,488,434
Moore County $13,314,557
Mooresville City $ 3,829,900
Mount Airy City $ 2,259,667
Nash-Rocky Mount $16,943,741
New Hanover County $16,843,283
Newton-Conover $ 2,095,306
Northampton County $10,865,984
Onslow County $18,360,133
Orange County $ 5,612,793
Pamlico County $10,324,498
Pasquotank County $12,451,049
Pender County $13,872,281
Perquimans County $10,472,554
Person County $11,454,025
Pitt County $19,856,962
Polk County $10,546,975
Randolph County $15,742,900
Richmond County $14,202,934
Roanoke Rapids City $ 6,041,637
Robeson County $25,780,597 23
Rockingham County $15,686,829
Rowan-Salisbury $17,608,410
Rutherford County $14,040,176
Sampson County $11,949,305
Scotland County $13,570,841
Stanly County $13,731,951
Stokes County $12,719,108
Surry County $10,800,912 31
Swain County $10,615,809 32
Thomasville City $ 1,796,180 33
Transylvania County $10,895,356
Tyrrell County $10,313,374 35
Union County $20,751,542 36
Vance County $13,614,718 37
Wake County $52,215,430 38
Warren County $10,668,056 39
Washington County $10,703,586 40
Watauga County $11,217,518 41
Wayne County $19,103,192 42
Weldon City $ 1,891,823 43
Whiteville City $ 4,312,611 44
Wilkes County $14,016,757 45
Wilson County $14,881,132 46
Yadkin County $12,532,520 47
Yancey County $10,572,504

 

Community College Construction Funding

 

Alamance CC $7,938,704
Asheville-Buncombe TCC $8,265,643
Beaufort County CC $4,149,414
Bladen CC $3,520,119
Blue Ridge CC $2,905,574
Brunswick CC $2,278,736
Caldwell CC and TI $6,909,954
Cape Fear CC $ 9,986,372
Carteret CC $ 3,375,700
Catawba Valley CC $ 8,655,880
Central Carolina CC $10,031,233
Central Piedmont CC $20,000,000
Cleveland CC $ 7,598,247
Coastal Carolina CC $ 8,460,455
College of the Albemarle $ 6,376,529
Craven CC $ 5,765,056
Davidson County CC $ 6,755,089
Durham TCC $ 6,188,478
Edgecombe CC $ 5,417,837
Fayetteville TCC $20,000,000
Forsyth TCC $14,572,113
Gaston College $ 9,009,858
Guilford TCC $19,525,968
Halifax CC $ 2,996,526
Haywood CC $ 2,105,434
Isothermal CC $ 5,007,321
James Sprunt CC $ 3,144,017
Johnston CC $ 5,111,793
Lenoir CC $11,826,322
Martin CC $ 2,190,242
Mayland CC $ 3,829,850
McDowell TCC $ 2,173,649
Mitchell CC $ 3,397,210
Montgomery CC $ 1,860,231
Nash CC $ 7,753,111
Pamlico CC $ 1,222,332
Piedmont CC $ 3,001,442
Pitt CC $14,535,241
Randolph CC $ 5,418,451
Richmond CC $ 7,526,958
Roanoke Chowan CC $ 2,217,281
Robeson CC $ 6,555,976
Rockingham CC $ 4,407,523
Rowan-Cabarrus CC $12,614,170
Sampson CC $ 5,203,976
Sandhills CC $ 4,970,448
Southeastern CC $ 6,701,009
South Piedmont CC $ 5,560,411
Southwestern CC $ 5,020,226
Stanly CC $ 5,610,190
Surry CC $ 7,888,312
Tri-County CC $ 2,055,656
Vance-Granville CC $ 7,394,217
Wake TCC $20,000,000
Wayne CC $9,149,360
Western Piedmont CC $ 3,947,229
Wilkes CC $ 5,514,320
Wilson CC $ 4,402,607

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly started quickly on Monday
with a night voting session and saw us handle a full calendar all week. After a
week off for July 4 th celebrations, we had a lot to do. The Budget bill, House Bill
966, was back on the calendar for a possible veto override vote, and many bills that
had come over from the Senate were on the House floor for votes. The Senate was
also voting on our House bills.

Independence Day, July 4 th is always exciting for our citizens, especially those
being sworn in as citizens for the first time in naturalization ceremonies, those who
are joining in parades in many of our towns, and those enjoying family time. It
was a pleasure to ride in Southport’s Official N.C. July 4 th parade and see many
friends across the county on this patriotic day that should bring us closer and help
us realize how lucky we are to be here.

The state budget, House Bill 966 – 2019 Appropriations Act, was vetoed by the
Governor on Friday, June 28 th , one day after it passed both the House and Senate.
His explanation was two sentences long, but came down to the lack of Medicaid
expansion the way he wanted it in the budget. It is widely known that, in addition
to the $4 billion spent on Medicaid now, his plan would add $1.2 billion to the
budget and possibly $8 billion over the next 5 years.

However, the budget bill can be enacted into law over his objections if the House
and Senate can get three fifths of the members to vote for it. That would be 72
votes in the House and 30 in the Senate. Since it is a House bill, we have to vote
first. So, House Bill 966 was on our House calendar all last week in the hopes of
obtaining enough Democrats to join with the 65 Republicans and accomplish the
override. The state is now operating on the previous budget as of July 1 st , but not
shutting down. What the veto does is stop the teacher and state employee raises,
future public school and community college construction funds, school safety
funds, further tax cuts for working families, future transportation construction and
maintenance funds, as well as funds for many local and regional projects for our
citizens. We are continuing to work on the override vote, which could come at any
time.

There were approximately 90 bills on the House calendar last week over the four
voting sessions. There were House bills that had been changed in the Senate with
which we had to vote to concur. Most passed the concurrence votes, but on some
we voted to not concur. These will go to a conference committee of House and
Senate members, then back to both chambers for final votes once there is
agreement. Other bills were Senate bills to which we agreed, and others were
House bills up for floor votes for the first time. This busy week was reflected in
the Senate, which appeared to have about 100 bills on which to vote. Some bills
receive quick votes, but others have hours of debate.

A few of the bills that are receiving much attention include a Gaming Commission
bill (SB 574), an ABC reform bill (SB 290), a healthcare bill (HB 655), and the
Farm Act (SB 315). All the bills can be accessed and read on the General
Assembly website, www.ncleg.net .

We expect another full calendar this week, along with conference committee
meetings and policy committee meetings, at least extending from Monday through
Thursday.

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was highlighted by the presentation of the state’s 2019 – 2021 budget, the votes to pass it, and some local bills of interest.  The rhetoric was about as hot as the 90 degrees outside, but was not unusual compared with past budget debates.

House Bill 966, the state budget for fiscal years 2019 – 2020 and 2020 – 2021, was presented last Tuesday at a joint House and Senate press conference.  It was then debated and voted out of both chambers on Wednesday and Thursday.  The General Fund budget is supported by income taxes, sales taxes, and some receipts from fees and fines.  The Transportation budget is supported by a fuels tax at the pump, DMV fees, and Highway Use Tax (HUT) when you buy a car.

The General Fund budget spends $24 billion in 2019 – 2020 on Education, Health and Human Services, Justice and Public Safety, and all other state agencies except Dept. of Transportation.  In 2020 – 2021 it spends $24.8 billion.  This is a 3.5% increase the first year compared to 2018 – 2019, and 3.3% increase the second year.  This is in line with the growth in population and inflation.

The Transportation budget spends $3.9 billion in 2019 – 2020 and $4 billion in 2020 – 2021.  These are increases of 3.7% and 4.0%, respectively.  This funds all transportation construction and maintenance, except for some federal funds.  This includes our highways, ferries, ports, aviation, rail, bike and pedestrian projects, DMV, and public transit.  We continued to invest heavily in the General Maintenance Reserve, bridge preservation, and contract resurfacing.  We added $7.4 million to the Powell Bill funds that towns receive for their city street maintenance for the first increase in 6 years, bringing it to almost $155 million.

Some of the biggest parts of the General Fund include Education at 59% of the budget and Health and Human Services at 23%.  This leaves 18% for Justice and Public Safety and all other departments.  Teachers are getting raises for the 6th and 7th years in a row.  Other state employees are getting a 5% raise after years of little or no raises.

The budget also includes a plan to spend $4.4 billion over 10 years for a school construction initiative.  Out of the first $1.5 billion for public school construction  and renovation Brunswick County should receive over $13.3 million.  Out Of $400 million for Community College construction and renovation Brunswick C.C. should receive over $2.2 million.

Other projects, funded through Natural and Cultural Resources, included a roof renovation for Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach and maintenance support for the Museum of Coastal Carolina in Ocean Isle Beach.  These are resources used by our schools in educating our children as well points of interest to our citizens and visitors to the area.

Unfortunately, the Governor chose to veto the budget on Friday, primarily for the reason that it didn’t include Medicaid expansion the way that he wanted.  All these appropriations will be uncertain past the beginning of the fiscal year, which is this Monday, July 1st.  Unless the House and Senate can override the veto, local governments and school systems may hold up their budgets, wondering what the final teacher pay and funds for other projects may be.  However, the state government doesn’t shut down, but continues on the previous budget.

One local bill of interest was House Bill 237 – Brunswick County Zoning Procedures Changes, sponsored by Rep. Butler and myself.  Requested by the county, it delegates more authority to the planning board, but leaves open the opportunity for appeals to the County Commissioners as needed.

We can all look forward this week to Independence Day celebrations, including the official N.C. Fourth of July Celebration and parade in Southport.  See you there.

Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly saw budget negotiations go into the third week, a controversial fish bill in the House, and a local project in Oak Island getting sudden attention. 

As we were hoping to vote the final budget out of the House and Senate last week, we still had some issues being negotiated between the two chambers.  The Education section and the Health and Human Services section were taking the most time to be resolved, as well as salaries and cost of living increases for state workers and retirees.  This is not unusual at this point in the process, and we hope that this week we have agreement and the final votes.  The budget will then go to the Governor for his consideration to sign it or veto it.

The House took up a controversial and divisive fish bill that divided both parties. House Bill 483 – Let Them Spawn requires size limits on certain species of fish so that in theory they are old enough to spawn at least once, thereby producing more fish populations.  There is not good science on either side of the discussion, but that doesn’t keep numbers and theories from being thrown around.  Some in the recreational fishing industry think this is the answer to protecting the resource.  Commercial fishermen, on the other hand, are convinced that it is an effort to get their nets out of the water forever.  I did not think the case was made that this is an appropriate move at this time, when the N.C. Division Marine Fisheries is undergoing some changes and is working on the same issues.  However, the bill passed the House by a vote of 58 – 54 on Wednesday and 58 – 47 on Thursday.  Both political parties were split almost 50 – 50. It now goes to the Senate. 

Paving on Oak Island Drive in the Town of Oak Island began about two weeks ago.  Since it is a state road, the NC Dept. of Transportation is responsible for contracting of the paving.  I got a phone call bringing to my attention that it was disruptive during this very busy season of traffic on the main road in town.  After calling NCDOT about the timing, I was told that it was scheduled to be paved soon after the work on the bridge was completed.  They also said the town was consulted, and asked if a delay until after Labor Day was needed.  Apparently, town officials were concerned if it was delayed that it would be hard to get back on the paving schedule, and that the work needed to be done this year before winter.  I was glad to see NCDOT being responsive to our towns and county when it comes to these projects, which are always inconvenient while in progress, but more convenient after completion.  As I drove on Oak Island Drive last Saturday, and crossed the Barbee Bridge, it felt like a new bridge instead of “the old bridge.”

The past two weeks have produced less news than usual from the legislature.  However, that all changed last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The House Speaker made a surprise announcement on Wednesday.  Also, the Senate has been working very hard on the state budget which the House sent them early in May, and they passed it with votes on Thursday and Friday.

Senate Bill 359 – Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was vetoed by the Governor on April 18th.  The Senate voted to override the veto on April 30th by a vote of 30 – 20.  It has been on the House calendar for a possible override vote almost every session in May.  It requires a three-fifths vote to override, which would be 72 votes with all members present and voting.  We haven’t felt that we had the required number, so the vote has not been called by the Speaker.  However, the Speaker announced last Wednesday that the vote will definitely be taken this Wednesday, June 5th

The short bill simply says that a baby born alive is entitled to the same treatment to save its life as any other living human being.  It is hard to understand how anyone could vote against that, but this is where we are today.  It is totally political in some people’s minds.  We only hope the votes will be there Wednesday.  I was a cosponsor of the identical companion bill, House Bill 602.

The Senate has been working hard on the state budget since we in the House voted it out May 3rd and they received it on May 6th.  They had lengthy committee meetings and finalized their budget in Senate floor votes on Thursday and Friday.  The final vote on Friday was 30-16. It will now come back to the House this week.  Since there are differences in our budget and theirs, we will vote to “not concur” and then go into conference until we agree on the entire budget.  We plan to be done before the fiscal year end date of June 30th.

Several groups and individuals continued to visit and discuss their priorities with us in Raleigh. I was glad to meet with a group of homebuilders two weeks ago, and meet with our Sheriff Ingram last week.  The Sheriff is also looking forward to beginning a term starting in July as President of the North Carolina Sheriffs Association.

It was also good to have a page from back home last week.  Aubrey Sherrod of South Brunswick High School was a House page and got to see a few floor votes on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The pages also get to tour the museums and Capitol Building to see the history and the government in their state.  We had a large group, since school is ending for the year, so maybe they were able to make some new friends from across the state.