MT Raleigh Report | August 9, 2017

A quick report from Raleigh, with updates about last week’s special session and next steps on redistricting.

A So-So Special Session

Lawmakers gathered last week for a one-day special session scheduled when they adjourned their regular 2017 session in July. Originally, last week’s session was focused on complying with court orders to revise many of their voting districts. But days before the session, the court overseeing the redistricting case ordered a different calendar for revising the maps.

So, while lawmakers did not actually take up redistricting last week, they did approve a new calendar for approving new maps.

After approving the new schedule for redistricting, both the Senate and the House tried to work out deals on bills leftover from the regular session. They succeeded on one, Senate Bill 16, the “Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2016” – a hodgepodge of various provisions on a wide variety of topics. For MountainTrue, our concern with this bill focused on a provision that limits the ability of local governments to do more than the minimum to control stormwater runoff and reduce water pollution and flooding.

Unfortunately, the Senate and the House approved Senate Bill 16 with little discussion of these concerns. The bill now goes to the Governor, who has 30 days to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

The General Assembly also took up two other regulatory bills. House Bill 56, “Amend Environmental Laws,” is another collection of changes in a variety of policy areas. These changes included a host of last-minute revisions to the state’s solid waste laws, many of which had not been discussed. The other was the House Bill 162, which started out as a largely technical bill but was transformed into what one analyst called a “quarterback sneak attack against the state’s ability to strengthen environmental rules.” The bill seemed headed for a vote of the full House when Greensboro Rep. Pricey Harrison shamed the House leadership for taking up such an important bill with little notice or debate. Called out — and facing a likely extension of the session over the bill — the House leadership pulled House Bill 162 off the chamber’s calendar. Approval of House Bill 56 also stalled when Senate and House negotiators could not reach a compromise on the bill.

Up Next: Another Special Session

Under the plan approved last week, the legislature will return to Raleigh later this month to approve revised legislative districts that must be accepted by the court in September.

Here’s how the process is planned, at least right now:

  • Aug. 18: The legislature comes into session, with organizational, non-voting sessions of both House and Senate.
  • Aug. 22: A public hearing will be held on proposed legislative maps.
  • Aug. 24-25 – Both the House and Senate vote on revised redistricting plans.

In addition to taking up redistricting, the legislature can also override vetoes and take up unfinished business, including House Bills 56 and 162.

That’s the legislative news for now. Check back here for more MTRaleigh updates as the legislature goes in and out of session in the next few weeks.

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.