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By Rep. Frank Iler
Editor’s note: The representative’s legislative updates will continue to be published for the duration of the General Assembly’s short session, which has been extended beyond its expected July 1 conclusion.
It was clear by June 30 the weather in North Carolina would be stormy by week’s end. It was also clear the debate in Raleigh would be stormy, as well. We learned early in the week that we would be taking up two major bills. The subjects of the bills are Medicaid and coal ash, so we knew there would be controversy and long debates in committees and on the House floor.
House Bill 1181, North Carolina Medicaid Modernization has been worked out over a period of many months among the interested parties. They include the Department of Health and Human Services, the private providers such as hospitals and doctors’ groups, and the legislative committees in both houses. The bill seeks to transform the traditional fee-for-service system into a system that provides budget predictability for the taxpayers of the state while ensuring quality care to those in need. It provides a five-year path to slow the rate of cost increases, create more efficient administrative structures, and improve health outcomes for the state’s Medicaid population. After much discussion in the House Health and Human Services Committee and the Appropriations Committee, it was taken up on the House floor July 20. There, it passed the House by a unanimous vote of 113-0. A vote like this on a major subject indicates a very inclusive process and good committee work.
Senate Bill 729, Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 has been hotly debated not only in Raleigh, but also in the media, especially since the coal ash accidental spill on the Dan River in February. There are as many opinions as to what to do about coal ash cleanup as there are people in North Carolina. The lengthy debate and long list of amendments are evidence of the controversy surrounding this subject. This bill creates a Coal Ash Management Commission to oversee the assessment, planning and cleanup of all coal ash ponds across the state. Ponds will be assessed and grouped into one of three classifications based on risk to surrounding water supply. High-risk ponds will be required to be cleaned up by 2019. All ponds are planned to be neutralized by 2029. The timelines for individual pond sites will be determined by the assessment and planning phases. Quarterly reports by the pond owners (Duke Energy, specifically) are mandated to be made to the Coal Ash Management Commission and the Environmental Review Commission. After 21 amendments on the House floor were voted up or down, Senate Bill 729 passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 85-27. It required a second vote Thursday, July 3, and passed 94-16 after several more amendments were added. It now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.
I missed the Thursday, July 3, vote. The rain bands from Hurricane Arthur were over Oak Island before 9 a.m. Thursday, so I got an excused absence and headed to Brunswick County. A local bill for Shallotte and Southport, Senate Bill 846, was also on the floor July 2 and Thursday, July 3. I was able to handle it July 2, and our Rules Committee Chairman Tim Moore agreed to handle it for me July 3. It passed unanimously on both votes.
After arriving back home, it was a relief that Arthur was not as strong a storm here as it could have been. The beautiful weather Friday, July 4, the colorful parade in Southport and close family and friends made for a wonderful Fourth of July. It was good to see Gov. Pat McCrory in the parade.
During the week, there were many other bills in committees and on the House floor besides the two major ones above. The big remaining question is, “What is happening with the budget negotiations?” The conference committees are meeting this week. The House is holding no-vote sessions, which means most of us don’t need to be in Raleigh this week. We are on a 48-hour call-back notice when the budget is ready for final debate and votes. You may see me around this week. I anticipate we will finish the session by July 20.
Rep. Frank Iler, R-Oak Island, represents Brunswick County in the North Carolina House of Representatives and faces Democrat Charles Warren in November’s general election. He can be reached in Raleigh at (919) 301-1450 or Frank.Iler@ncleg.net.