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A new legislative session of the North Carolina General Assembly begins in Raleigh on Jan. 30.
Sen. Bill Rabon, Rep. Frank Iler and Rep. Susi Hamilton will represent Brunswick Countians during the session.
Rep. Frank Iler serves District 17, which covers most of Brunswick County. The district was redrawn in 2012. A section of northern Brunswick County including Leland, Northwest and Navassa, is now part of Hamilton’s District 18, which also covers New Hanover County.
Iler was appointed to the empty seat in 2009, then won elections in 2010 and 2012.
When the new session opens, he will serve as chairman of the House Transportation Committee and vice chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee of Transportation.
He will also serve on committees for appropriations, education, election law and environmental regulation reform.
“We have to find better ways to pay for maintaining roads and bridges, as well as new construction projects,” Iler said of his goals for the transportation committee and appropriations subcommittee.
Iler said resources available for maintenance—gas taxes—have gone down because of hybrid and electric cars.
“They do not pay like gas and diesel vehicles,” he said.
With a transportation budget of $4.5 billion a year, Iler said they have to find different ways to pay for repairs.
Up for discussion will be more tolls on urban loops and high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes.
“We will try toll roads like I-540 in Raleigh and HOT lanes like I-77 in North Charlotte.
There are lots of opinions on shrinking resources. We have a capped gas tax, but it is high compared to others,” Iler said.
Iler doesn’t expect much help from the federal department of transportation, which is shrinking resources at the federal level.
Tolls and other potential measures will come through the transportation committee.
“The formula now of systematically prioritizing projects is better than the old system, which was basically politicking,” Iler said.
He said the transportation committee would also continue discussions from last year about tolls on ferries.
Iler said there was controversy last year over the issue, as there were tolls on only three of seven ferries.
“We have to decide, either they will all be tolled or none,” he said.
Some other priorities will be tax reform and modernization of regulation reforms.
“Government regulation protects the environment and public trust land, but we don’t want duplication of regulations for different departments to regulate the same things,” he said.
Iler gave an example of wildlife regulations. He said there are two or three departments that can stop and check for fishing or boat licenses.
He is also interested in looking at some form of education reform to empower local school districts.
“Insurance rates on the coast is a huge issue,” Iler added. “And shallow-inlet dredging needs more funds. All across the state people come to fish and enjoy the coast.”
He said he would wait and see what local towns ask for in resolutions sent to the House.
Iler said he and Rabon, co-chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee of Transportation in the Senate, share the same opinion on several issues.
Continuing a first-time effort during the last legislative session, the House and Senate transportation appropriation subcommittees will meet jointly three days a week in February and March.
“We will meet jointly to be on the same page,” Iler said.
Once the House returns to session on Jan. 30, Iler said the first vote will be a resolution honoring Rep. William Wainwright and Rep. Larry Brown, who both died in 2012.
But the first day’s main issue discussed will be a requirement for a photo identification to vote.
Then, Iler said, he expects 200-300 bills will be submitted in the first couple weeks.
Look for more stories about the upcoming session, including more from Rabon and Hamilton in future issues of the Beacon.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.