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May 12, 2021

Actions from the General Assembly: Three days in review

In what N.C. Sen. Dan Barrett called an “extenuation of 2017’s long session,” the North Carolina General Assembly reconvened Wednesday.

Barrett said he foresaw action on GenX contamination, on certain committee appointments and on judicial redistricting and reform.

Judicial redistricting and the potential for change in judiciary electoral methods had both visitors’ rooms above the House and Senate filled with protesters on Wednesday. But changes to the judiciary appeared low on the agenda.

With the first three days of January’s special session done, two of Barrett’s three predictions reached votes on Wednesday: committee appointments and GenX.

Committee appointments remain the only items moved to fruition, as GenX considerations remain at an impasse because of disagreements between Senate and House legislators.

Appointments

As the special session started, precedence was given to committee appointments.

Senate Bill 308 appointed five people to public offices at the recommendation of Speaker of the House Tim Moore. The bill also corrected a term on the 2017 appointments bill.

Appointments included:

  • Haywood Edwin White III of New Hanover County to the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

White’s term will expire on June 30, 2019. He is filling the unexpired term of Christopher J. Leonard.

  • Harvey “Keith” Purvis of Pitt County to the North Carolina Agriculture Finance Authority.

His term will expire on June 30, 2019, and he is filling the unexpired term of Anthony L. Gordon.

  • Heather S. VunCannon of Randolph County to the Charter School Advisory Board.

VunCannon’s term will expire on June 30, 2019. She is filling the unexpired term of Anthony Helton.

  • Frank A. Stewart of Gaston County to the North Carolina State Ports Authority.

His term will expire on June 30, 2018, and he is filling the unexpired term of Daniel L. Gurley.

  • Susan D. Neeley of Gaston County to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine.

With a term expiring Jan. 1, 2020, Neely is filling the unexpired term of Kevin Sowers.

The bill’s revision changed Bradford T. Smith of Brunswick County appointment to the Ferry Transportation Authority Board of Trustees. His term previously expired on June 30, 2020. Now, it expires on June 30, 2018.

Senate Joint Resolution 700 and 701 appointed Charlotte A. Mitchell and ToNola D. Brown-Bland to the Utilities Commission.

Since July, Mitchell has occupied a vacancy caused by the expiration of Bryan E. Beatty’s term. Her appointment was submitted by Gov. Roy Cooper, and her term will be effective from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2023.

Brown-Bland was reappointed, having served a previous term that expired on June 30, 2017. Her new term expires on June 30, 2023.

Senate Resolution 699 confirmed Franklin R. Allen of Montgomery County to the Board of Agriculture. Allen fills a vacancy caused on Aug. 22, 2017 by the resignation of Tommy Burleson. He will serve as the forestry representative, with a term expiring Sep. 1, 2019.

GenX bill

The GenX bill, or House Bill 189, drew much less public ire than judiciary reform.

Attacks on the measure would instead come from the Senate after the House approved it unanimously across party lines.

As written, the bill requires new and more comprehensive lines of communication between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board.

It also requires that the Department of Environmental Quality study the state’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and coordinate and share water quality data with Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

What drew ire from Senators was the bills appropriation of a large amount of funding to the state’s response to water quality concerns: a total of $2.3 million.

“What the House passed today unfortunately does nothing to prevent GenX from going into the water supply,” said Senate leader Phil Berger (R-26) in a statement. “It leaves North Carolina taxpayers holding the bag for expenditures that should be paid for by the company responsible for the pollution.”

Berger said that the bill also failed to give the Department of Environmental Quality any new authority to act on contamination, and that it redundantly authorized the department to purchase equipment it can access for free.

“Senate Republicans have already shown we are serious about finding real solutions that will actually improve water quality in the Cape Fear River and hold violators accountable for dumping GenX into the region’s water supply,” Berger said. “That’s why several months ago we passed legislation to immediately and directly address the problem of GenX contamination in the lower Cape Fear region.”

For now, it appears that action on the legislation is at a stand still. Berger said that the bill will be addressed more thoroughly in the General Assemblies short session this spring.

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