MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 8, 2017 – A Bit of Good News

A Bit of Good News

Late last week, the House approved its version of the state’s budget by a vote of 80-31. The good news is that on state funding for the NC Department of Environmental Quality, the House refused to go along with the Senate, which made staggering cuts to the Department’s ability to protect our air, water and public health.

A BIG thanks to all the MountainTrue supporters who called, emailed and wrote lawmakers to oppose these short-sighted cuts.

And by the way, while you’re celebrating, take a quick moment to call or send a quick note or tweet to Rep. Chuck McGrady of Henderson County to thank him for his leadership in improving the House budget for the environment. McGrady has a key leadership role in the House budget process and led the charge against the Senate’s DEQ cuts. His twitter handle is @ChuckMcGrady and you can email him at

Unfortunately, our work protecting the agency that protects our water and air is not complete. With approval of the House budget comes the final step in the budget – conference. Conference is shorthand for the process the House and Senate use to work out their final, compromise budget before sending it to the Governor for signature (or veto).

The arrival of conference means we need to let lawmakers know, again, that we want DEQ to have the financial resources its needs to keep protect our natural resources.

So….Time to Contact Lawmakers Again

That means it is time to contact our legislators again, especially senators. You can click here to use our system to locate and contact your legislators. If you have time, please consider calling, as their offices are inundated with email this time of year. Keep it short and sweet – tell them to support the House funding for DEQ and oppose the Senate’s cuts to the agency.

The Curious Path of A Bad Transportation Bill

Another issue MountainTrue is working on is Raleigh got quite a bit of attention last week  – bill a establishing a new fund for transportation “megaprojects” of statewide or regional importance that cost more than $200 million. In North Carolina – which has a long history of mixing politics with transportation funding decisions to the detriment of the environment – we use something called the Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) program to prioritize how transportation funds should be spent across the state. STI was approved by the GOP legislature several years ago, with support from MountainTrue and other environmental groups, which welcomed it as a rational, transparent way to make these decisions.

Which brings us to the megaprojects bill, which would do an end-run run around the STI and leave decisions about how to spend the megaprojects money to a small committee within the NC Department of Transportation.

The bill had a curious pathway to an abrupt ending. It was approved by the House despite significant opposition within the House GOP caucus and much speculation that it would die a quick death in the Senate, where several key legislators were quite vocal about how much they disliked the bill. Yet when it arrived in the Senate, the bill moved quickly and easily through the committee process – much to the chagrin of MountainTrue and other opponents, who were repeatedly reassured not to worry about the bill. The mystery was solved when the bill hit the full Senate – where it was defeated overwhelmingly, with just one yes vote (from WNC Senator Jim Davis).

So what happened? Under Senate rules, a bill that is defeated on the floor cannot be taken up again during the session. So the Senate apparently disliked the megaprojects bill so much, they took the unusual step of driving the ultimate political stake through its heart – and killing the megaprojects proposal for not just the rest of this session but for the 2018 session as well. Thanks to all our WNC Senators – both Republican and Democrat – who voted against this legislation.

Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.