Last week at the North Carolina General Assembly the drought was definitely over, both inside the Legislative Building as well as outside.   Both chambers, the House and Senate, began taking up bills that had come over from the other chamber.  Some of the key bills that had passed the Senate earlier and passed the House last week dealt with Education Covid relief, Education instructor shortages, and funding for the Ocracoke passenger ferry on our coast.

Senate Bill 654 – K-12 Covid-19 Provisions covered many issues to help schools get back into full operation as soon as possible.  It addresses the establishing of virtual academies in school districts, recruiting of teachers and principals, calendar flexibility, and many other issues.  It also distributes over $300 million in Covid relief funds, which is in addition to millions in previous federal Covid funds.  This goes to the 115 Public School Units in the state, as well as other funds for specific statewide school assistance programs.  It passed 74 – 34 and went back to the Senate for their concurrence. 

Senate Bill 582 – High School Adjunct Instructors/CC Prep allows local school districts that have a teacher shortage to employ instructors that have a bachelors or master’s degree in a related field.  They must attend at least a semester in Community College in teacher preparation courses before beginning to teach.  It received a unanimous vote in the House and was sent to the Governor on Friday for his signature.

A bill of coastal interest is Senate Bill 241.  It was a transportation bill about modified utility vehicles, but a provision was added to allow the N.C. Ferry Division to lease a passenger ferry again this summer to run between Hatteras and Ocracoke Island.  The ferry that has been under construction is still not ready. So, in the interest of maintaining tourist expectations of this popular ferry we allowed an appropriation to lease once again.  We hope and expect the purchased ferry to be available for operation August 15th.  I was on the conference committee that agreed on the final draft.  Both chambers approved the conference report, and the bill went to Governor on Thursday.

This week we expect to dig into the delayed state budget and push the schedule to have a good budget not too long after the start of the fiscal year, which is July 1st.  We passed a law several years ago that provided for state operations at the same level as the previous year’s budget in case of no current budget being passed.  So, there is no such thing as a state shut-down in North Carolina.