Being in Raleigh last week was like being in the eye of a hurricane.  Bills were blowing through committees, coming to the House floor for heated debate, and moving back and forth from the House to the Senate and back.  All the while, the Governor was vetoing three of our key bills in four days.  Little did we know that real storms would hit Raleigh late Saturday, causing damage and loss of life across the eastern Piedmont and Coastal Plains.  We all need to keep our political activity in perspective, and keep these North Carolina communities and families in our thoughts and prayers.

Monday night, Senate Bill 8 – No Cap on Number of Charter Schools passed its third reading in the House by 68 – 51 and was sent to the Senate for their concurrence (approval), since we had amended the bill in the House.  They later failed to concur and a conference committee was appointed to work out the differences.  Once the conference committee comes to an agreement, a conference report (final bill) is crafted, signed by all members and sent to both bodies for a vote to concur. The bill is then sent to the Governor for her signature or veto.

Tuesday was a ceremonial day with a session in the old Capitol building.  The House and Senate met in the Capital building from 1840 to 1963, when the current legislative building was completed.  We met there for a short session to pass House Bill 833 – Honor State Capitol and House Bill 635 – Halifax Resolves.  The Halifax Resolves, signed in a convention in Halifax, NC, April 12, 1776, was a document calling for separation from England several months before the Declaration of Independence.  This was the 235th anniversary of the event.

Preliminary Budget options were presented in House Appropriations Sub-committees on Wednesday and Thursday.  There was a lot of debate in the Transportation Appropriations sub-committee on which I sit, as well as several amendments offered.  We will take up debate again on Wednesday morning.  All 5 of the other Appropriations Sub-committees are working through the same process to come up with a House budget for the state in a matter of days.

A large group of realtors from the Brunswick County Realtors Association traveled to Raleigh to meet with me, Sen. Rabon, and Rep. Hill.  I enjoyed a long discussion with them regarding business and coastal issues.  On Thursday, one of our issues moved forward when the Senate Bill 100 – Terminal Groin legislation, passed the House Committee on Environment.  This bill will help protect our inlets and islands where dredging has caused problems.

Thursday’s session was very interesting.  Two bills of local interest passed the House.  House Bill 167 – Extend Assessment Refund Period, which was initiated by Boiling Spring Lakes, gave towns the right to refund capital project assessments back to the citizens who paid them.  The original bill passed last year, but this bill extended the date to assessments collected prior to 2012.  Also, House Bill 420 – Oak Island/Wheel Locks, adds Oak Island to the list of towns that can use wheel locks to enforce parking regulations.  Both bills must pass the Senate and must be signed by the Governor to become law.

Also on Thursday, the House passed House Bill 383 – Extend UI benefits/Continuing Resolution, which would have extended unemployment benefits and prevented a state shutdown in the event the Governor doesn’t sign the budget by July 1st.  She chose to veto the bill on Saturday.

Last week, the Governor chose to veto House Bill 7, which would have given Community Colleges the option not to participate in a federal loan program, and Senate Bill 265, which would have transferred the State Employees’ Health Plan to the Treasurer and required state employees to begin paying 5% of their premiums.  This was almost identical to her own proposal in her budget.  We’ll see if we can override these vetoes with a three/fifths vote.

This week we expect to work on annexation reform bills, the budget, and dozens of other topics as bills flow through the legislative process.

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