“Budget Week” would be an apt description of last week in the North Carolina House of Representatives. Virtually all day Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were dedicated to budget discussions and debate. Many other important bills were handled, but they were primarily passing in the Senate while we in the House focused on the budget.
The budget bill this session is Senate Bill 402 – Appropriations Act of 2013. It started in the Senate and is the state budget for expenditures for the biennium, which is the two year period beginning July 1, 2013 and going through June 30, 2015. It seems as if we have worked on it for months, but the Senate passed it and sent it to the House just three weeks ago. After being analyzed and rewritten in appropriations subcommittees, we met in the full House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. We met all day, 8:30 until 5:30, considered over 60 amendments, and voted it out. Wednesday it was on the House floor for debate. We convened at 12:00 noon, considered 30 more amendments, and voted at about 8:00 p.m. The vote was 77 – 41, mostly along party lines, as expected. Thursday was the final vote, which we call the third reading, and after four more hours of debate it was basically the same 77 – 40 vote. Now the budget, as revised by the House, goes back to the Senate. They are expected to not concur (not agree), and it will go to a conference committee to work out the differences.
All during this budget week, I had bills which I had sponsored that had to be presented and passed in Senate committees. A local bill concerning dredging funds for Holden Beach and Ocean Isle Beach, House Bill 229, was in the Senate State and Local Government Committee. It passed and now it goes to Senate Finance Committee. As is our practice, I left my committee and went to the Senate committee to present it.
Also on Tuesday, our most important transportation bill in over 20 years was in the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee. House Bill 817 – Strategic Transportation Investments, which I have explained previously, was presented and passed. It then went to the Senate floor on Thursday, where it was presented by Senator Rabon and Senator Harrington. They had put a lot of work into this bill after it went to the Senate, and they did an excellent job presenting it. I was able to leave the budget debate in the House and witness their debate and the vote on the Senate floor. It passed 42 – 5 on second reading and should be voted out early this week. If all goes well, it should be signed by Governor McCrory by mid-week, possibly Wednesday. This bill will change the way DOT evaluates projects, and will spend our funds much more efficiently, getting the state many more projects over the next 10 years.
Another significant transportation bill, House Bill 785 – Cost-Sharing/Transportation Improvements, was in the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday. It helps developers and the Dept. of Transportation work out fair agreements on large development projects that require private money for traffic improvements like turn lanes and signals. A good example is the Hwy. 17 corridor in Leland with Brunswick Forest, Wal-Mart, and other large developments. The bill was amended in committee to include directions to DOT to find future efficiency savings in their operations. As the primary sponsor, I had to present it to the committee. It passed unanimously and should be on the Senate floor Monday night.
To follow these and other bills, please visit the General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net.