The North Carolina General Assembly officially “adjourned” its 2017 session in June. But since that adjournment, lawmakers have been back at work in Raleigh twice — and have made plans to return yet again early next month.
So what’s going on?
The short answer is that the legislature has been wrestling with court orders to redraw their districts, following several years of state and federal legal action on the issue.
Earlier this month, the General Assembly approved revised districts for both the state Senate and the House of Representatives. Those maps are now being considered by a federal court, which can accept them, revise them or throw them out all together and develop a new set of districts. Look for the court to take comment and perhaps make a decision by the end of September.
In the meantime, a local TV station has built this tool so you can see how the revised districts would impact your area. The biggest impact on the coast would be for those voters in the northeast region of the state.
Whatever the final outcome, the debate over the maps is already having an impact. Sen. Bill Cook, who represents Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, has already announced he will not seek another term after his district was changed significantly. Cook has been a stalwart supporter of the oyster industry as well as commercial fishermen. He is also a supporter of the effort to repeal the plastic bag ban on the Outer Banks.
After completing their redistricting work, legislators reconsidered a regulatory reform bill that had been stalled. House Bill 56, “Amend Environmental Laws,” included the plastic bag ban repeal as well as $435,000 in funding for UNC-Wilmington and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and other local public utilities to address the Gen X water pollution issue in the Cape Fear River.
HB56 is now on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.
Legislators did not vote to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of House Bill 576 — also known as the “garbage juice” bill. This bill would allow landfills to spray liquid runoff — known as leachate — into the air for evaporation. Industry supporters say it’s a safe and affordable way of disposing of the leachate. Critics say the process is a public health threat and that process has not been subject to any scientific review. HB576 remains on the General Assembly’s calendar, which means lawmakers can take it up when they return to Raleigh on Oct. 5 for yet another special session.