Last week in Raleigh was known as much for interesting committee hearings as for the historical legislation that came to the floor of the House. On Tuesday, the House Transportation Committee, which I was chairing, heard many speakers on House Bill 422 – No High-Speed Rail Money From Federal Gov’t – This bill would not allow the state to accept federal rail funds without the approval of the General Assembly. The N.C. Secretary of Transportation, the Mayors of Charlotte, Durham, and Huntersville, as well as a half dozen other citizens spoke about their concerns regarding this bill. The bill sponsor expressed his concern over the future obligation of the state for operating and maintaining the lines, and his fear of the effect on freight lines. As chairman, I was only the “referee” of the discussions, while the speakers were earnest but very civil in their remarks. No vote was taken, due to the lengthy discussion. The bill is not planned to be on the committee agenda this week at the request of the bill sponsor.
House Bill 351 Voter I.D. was hotly debated in the Election Law Committee, of which I am a member. I brought up several points about local problems at the polling places which are rarely reported or prosecuted at the state level. The bill passed the committee on a party line vote and was sent to the Appropriations Committee.
On Thursday, Senate Bill 110 – Permit Terminal Groins was in the House Environment Committee. Many people were there from Brunswick and other coastal counties. Mayors Harry Simmons, Alan Holden, Debbie Smith, and Andy Sayre as well as Commissioner Marty Cooke all made excellent comments to the committee in support of terminal groins to protect our inlets and islands. There were environmental groups in opposition but no votes were taken. I had a chance to present some aerial photos of the Fort Macon terminal groin, which has been successfully in place over 40 years.
House Bill 61 – Speaker/Pro Tempore Term Limits which will limit the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem to 2 two-year terms in their positions passed the House by the required three-fifths votes. It will be on the ballot as a constitutional amendment and is not subject to a veto by the Governor.
The Charter School bill, Senate Bill 8, after about 6 hours of committee debate over three weeks and an hour of floor debate, passed the House Thursday on a party line vote. It will return to the floor for the third reading and vote Monday night. It will be sent back to the Senate for their concurrence (approval), since we amended the bill in the House.
Because there was a deadline to file new bills on Wednesday, many were filed and were introduced on the House floor Thursday. There were 207 read onto the floor Thursday, bringing the total to 859 House bills so far this session (531 in the Senate). We have our work cut out for us the next few weeks with all these bills in committees, the budget, and redistricting on our plates.