Disaster Aid Bill Goes To Governor; Legislators Add Another Special Session
Updated 4:40 p.m.
A $201 million disaster relief bill won final approval in the General Assembly Wednesday and now goes to the governor. The state Senate gave its OK to a revised version of the bill in a 49-0 vote. That bill then went back to the state House of Representatives, where it passed 108-0.
Meanwhile, House and Senate leaders announced they're calling another special session, but they're not saying why.
The disaster aid bill includes money for housing, economic development, local government and schools. It would go for expenses not covered by federal aid, including $300 million approved by Congress last week.
Lawmakers have said they expect to come back again in the spring to consider additional aid for communities affected by Hurricane Matthew in eastern North Carolina and wildfires in the western part of the state this fall.
ANOTHER SPECIAL SESSION
A swirl of questions surrounded the legislature's fourth special session of this term, which convened Wednesday afternoon, right after the session on disaster aid adjourned.
A proclamation calling the special session says the purpose is "to consider bills concerning any matters the General Assembly elects to consider."
Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger told reporters at the legislature that some members had other unspecified issues they wanted to discuss. Here's what he said in a video tweeted by WRAL reporter Mark Binker:
"We just had a number of folks that wanted to talk about some other things, and we just felt like it would be something that would be appropriate, if that's what the General Assembly wanted, to call itself back into special session," Berger said.
Asked what issues might come up, Berger said only: "There are a number of things that have been talked about. I am not in a position at this point to list or articulate specifically what they are."
Republican House and Senate leaders have said they have no plans to consider a bill to expand the state Supreme Court. The Nov. 8 election flipped the ideological tilt of the court in favor of Democrats. Democrats have fretted recently that the legislature might try to reverse that by expanding the court by two seats, and filling them with Republican-leaning justices - called "court packing."
House Speaker Tim Moore said earlier this week Republicans had no plans to introduce a court-packing bill.
"At this point, there is no bill to do that. We’ve been saying that all along. The only folks talking about a bill to deal with the state Supreme Court are the Democrats. That’s not something that we’re even discussing," Moore told WRAL.
Still, Democrats worry there's a theme here - putting handcuffs on incoming Gov. Roy Cooper - a Democrat.
As of 4:30 p.m., one bill had been filed - in the Senate. It would revise how school financing bonds are used - to put a priority on economically distressed areas. It was filed by Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow County).
There were lots of rumors around the statehouse about others. One idea making the rounds is that Republicans might try to change how appointments are made to the Board of Elections.
The session could last the rest of the week, Berger said. The deadline for filing bills was 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate, and 7 p.m. in the House.
N.C. General Assembly website, with links to bill filings and schedules, http://ncleg.net/