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Here are some of the other stories catching our attention.

General Assembly Takes First Legislative Votes Of 2017


The North Carolina General Assembly did something today they haven’t done all year. They voted on legislation. 

To be clear these votes were only in committees and only in the North Carolina House. But it is a sign the legislative gears are lurching back to life. And apparently those gears are looking good. "I know I say this every year but we have a better looking committee this year. If we do as good as work as we look we’ll do ok." That’s how Republican Representative Linda Johnson from Cabarrus County opened the K thru 12 Education committee. They had but one bill on their plate.

Republican Chuck McGrady made the introduction. "House Bill 23 is a fix for a well meaning mandate to reduce class sizes in the primary grades."

Last year, a law was passed that limited K thru third grade classes to 19 students beginning this fall. It was a move to reduce class sizes in key early grades. But lawmakers didn’t include any additional funds to cover the cost of hiring more teachers to staff the extra classrooms. So some school districts said they’d be left cutting non-core classes like art and PE.

Hence this became known as the PE fix. If enacted it would allow class sizes to go back to where they were before the aforementioned law was passed. 

The PE fix flew thru committee unanimously.  

But when the action moved from education to the transportation committee the mood wasn’t quite as easy going.

As Republican Representative Ted Davis from New Hannover County found when he introduced House Bill 15. "The bill would amend section GS 20-84(b) by adding a new subdivision which would read a motor vehicle that is owned and operated by an authority created pursuant to article 1 chapter 162a of the general statute would be allowed to have permanent license plates."

Allow me to translate.

Cape Fear Public Utility wants free license plates for its cars and trucks. Other such utilities could get them, too.

Representative George Cleveland, Republican from Onslow County has heard this tune before. "Five years or so back we went through much moaning and angst here in the General Assembly cleaning up the free license plates. And every year since then everyone’s come back looking for their free license plates."

He is obviously not a fan of that. "I’m against this. I’m against broadening the free plates. I was down the road the other day and there were Red Cross vehicles out there with free state license plates on them. Its something that we either ignore and keep building or digging the hole or we put a stop to it."

The bill was approved by a voice vote and moved to another committee for consideration.

The final committee meeting of the day had just one bill to consider. It was introduced by Republican David Lewis of Harnett County. The bill focused on the size of the UNC System’s Board of Governors. "Over the next four years," Lewis told the committee, "the total elected membership of the Board of Governors would go from its current number of 32 to 24."

The theory is a smaller board will become more efficient and therefore more effective running the UNC system.

But a smaller board means fewer spots to fill. Which is why Democrat Henry Michaux of Durham spoke up. "My concern is that minority representation on that board would eventually end up being nothing."

Michaux wondered why the bill could not be amended to include language stating, "that it won’t be an all white board or all male or all female, whichever way you want to do it."

There was a bit of back and forth on this issue, but the response to Michaux was basically this can be addressed when the legislature nominates future UNC board members.

That bill passed in a 10 to 3 vote.