Representative McGrady now has to juggle the duties of being a chair of the Education Appropriations Committee and the budget discussions in conference committee with managing the coal ash bill that being debated in the House. Because of all this, he has given me the task of writing this post. My name is Sam Blanton, and I am Rep. McGrady’s legislative assistant at his Raleigh office. I’m the person who typically answers the phone, listens to constituents concerns and often times helps in solving their problems involving state government. On a daily basis, people communicate to me on how much they enjoy reading Rep. McGrady’s newsletters every week. In saying that, I hope to do justice to the reputation of his newsletters.
Something that Rep. McGrady has spoken on previously is how much longer the General Assembly would be in session. Although it seems that the end is in sight, there is still much work to do in regards to the conference committee coming to an agreement on the budget along with the House and Senate compromising on a plan to manage the coal ash ponds throughout the state.
Aside from coal ash legislation and the budgetary debate, the General Assembly has seen several bills important to Henderson County pass both chambers. Two bills that Rep. McGrady was the lead sponsor on have passed both chambers and are now law. House Bill 1113 (Bent Creek Sullivan Act Exemption) was a bill that was introduced as a means to solve a dispute between Henderson County and the City of Asheville. The purpose of the bill was to resolve an issue over the original purchase of the property using revenues generated by the Asheville water system.
Another bill that Rep. McGrady sponsored was HB1247 (Asheville Regional Airport). The bill authorizes the Asheville City Council and the Boards of County Commissioners of Buncombe and Henderson Counties to each appoint one of their own members to the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority.
Other bills that might be of interest include:
HB1099 (Unmanned Aircraft Regulation), otherwise known as the “drone” bill, was studied by the Judiciary B committee for two weeks, passed favorably out of committee and surprisingly received a unanimous passing vote on the House floor. With Rep. McGrady being one of the chairs of the Judiciary B committee, he heard lots of concerns about the bill initially from groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Farm Bureau. In the end, everyone came together to support the bill. Some of the main provisions in the bill authorized the use of drones for agricultural and recreational purposes, while providing criminal penalties for the use drones that are weaponized. After passage in the House, the bill was assigned to the Senate Rules committee on Monday, chaired by Senator Apodaca (R-Hendersonville).
An environmental bill that passed the House this week was HB1057 (DENR Study IBT/EMC Eco Flow Study). The bill would direct the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to study the statutes and rules governing interbasin transfers (IBT’s) and make recommendations as to whether the current laws should be amended. Back in 2010, the General Assembly directed DENR to develop hydrologic models for each of North Carolina’s 17 major river basins. The legislation also directed DENR to establish a schedule for developing the models and give priority to those basins most likely to suffer water supply shortages. The bill passed the House unanimously and has been sent to the Senate Agriculture/Environmental/Natural Resources Committee.
Recently, there has been a great deal of debate on reforming North Carolina’s Medicaid program. This week, the House passed HB1181 (North Carolina Medicaid Modernization) without any opposition. This bill directs a transformation of the Medicaid program into provider-led health plans to take on all risks from the existing fee-for-services program. The objective for this change is for the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) to have some degree of budget predictability for the future. The General Assembly then charged DHHS with drawing up a detailed plan that includes a timeline, cost and savings estimates, necessary legislation, and measures of success.
Coal Ash Update
After a lengthy debate on the House floor last night, Senate Bill 729 (Coal Ash Management Act of 2014) passed its 2nd reading by a vote of 85-27. The bill then passed 3rd reading this morning by a vote of 94-16, with a total of 10 amendments adopted. The entire Republican delegation along with 24 Democrats supported the bill. Rep. McGrady was one of the primary floor managers for the debate on the bill. Rep. McGrady’s next update will likely provide a more detailed account of the coal ash legislation along with a status report on the budget negotiations. The House will be in recess for the upcoming week. With tomorrow being Independence Day, we hope that all of our subscribers have an enjoyable holiday with family and friends.