Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly was briefer than usual but filled with information of importance to our state. We had a chance to vote on the Senate version of the biennial budget, had some controversial committee discussion on a big education bill, and had some important visitors from back home.
House Bill 259 – 2023 Appropriations Act lays out the two-year budget planned for 2023 – 2025. It started in the House this year and was passed and sent to the Senate in April. The Senate had completed their work and sent it back for concurrence in the House. They had made many changes. We voted last Wednesday to NOT CONCUR with the Senate version. This means we will go into conference with our Senate colleagues and negotiate the differences. We are required to pass the exact same bill in both chambers before it can go the Governor and possibly become law. Very importantly, we are required by our N.C. Constitution to pass a balanced budget, unlike the federal government, which can borrow and print money without real limits.
House Bill 512 – Forgivable Loans/HBCU Supplemental Funding not only adds funds to our community colleges and historically minority colleges and universities, but it aims to authorize and regulate video gambling. There was heated discussion and public input in the House Commerce Committee last week. I am a member and had many questions. With all the controversy we may see changes in the bill, and possibly bring it back for a vote later.
One locally important bill, House Bill 544 – Limited Shark Fishing Tournament Moratorium, passed the Senate 44 – 0. Having passed the House 113 – 0, it went to the Governor for his signature late last week. Rep. Miller was the primary sponsor of the bill, and it includes all of our Brunswick beaches, and prevents shark fishing tournaments during tourist season. Common sense.
We had lots of distinguished visitors from back home. Our county commissioners visited, and I met with them at my office. Earlier, we had five of our fire chiefs visit at our office. Also, I met with UNC Wilmington Chancellor Aswani Volety, Assistant to the Chancellor Mark Lanier and other university officials on the Halifax Mall in front of our office building.
This week we anticipate long budget negotiating sessions between the House and Senate. We hope to vote the budget out before June 30 and get the Governor’s signature early.