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General Assembly Special Session Report Day Two

The General Assembly gathered in Raleigh today for the second day of its Special Session, ostensibly to handle emergency matters related to the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew and wildfires out west. But speculation has been rampant that lawmakers would also take up unrelated matters, including the possibility of increasing the number of seats on the Supreme Court. That could give outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory the ability to add two new seats to the court which, after November's election, ended up with Democrats claiming four of the Supreme Court's seven seats. However, yesterday, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said he didn't want to increase the number of seats on the court and that the House had no intention of doing so. We will be providing live coverage of the second day of the special session today.

Editor’s Note: Most recent news is at the top. Scroll down for updates from earlier in the session.


Wednesday, December 14

Update: 3:52 PM

Going into the rest of the additional special session, we will be posting updates in new posts. Reporter Liz Bell will be reporting on the Senate, and I will be posting from the House. Look to our new posts for additional reporting on the Fourth Special Session of the biennium.

Update: 2:43 PM

Going into recess in House until 5. Won’t be any votes on legislation then, but there may be Committee assignments. Votes on some legislation may happen sometime later tonight, according to Speaker Moore.

Senate is in recess until 4:45 PM.

Update: 2:38 PM

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, says he is lodging a constitutional protest against this special session. Other Democratic representatives are now standing up to join in the protest. I can’t tell for sure but it looks like every Democrat is going to join in the protest. Jackson said constitution requires the special session be called when a certain number of signatures to hold it have been received. He says House and Senate leaders have had the requests in since Monday and sat on the knowledge that there would be another special session until today. Democrats evidently didn’t learn about extra special session until noon today.

Update: 2:24 PM

Rep. William Richardson, D-Cumberland, said that Constitution requires extraordinary circumstance to call a special session and demanded to know from Speaker Moore what extraordinary circumstance this session pertained to. Moore responded that the Constitutional law applies to the governor calling a special session. The General Assembly can do so at any time if 3/5ths of its members in both chambers agree.

Update: 2:15 PM

The bill filing deadline is now 7 PM in the House. Looks like its 5 PM in the Senate.

Update: 2:09 PM

Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said the decision was made to convene the extra special session because of a number of requests received from General Assembly members to have one.

Update: 2:07 PM

Both House and Senate have adjourned the special session focused on disaster relief. Senate is coming back at 2:15 to start the next special session. House is starting up now.

Update: 1:35 PM

House came back into session at 1 PM and, after a delay as representatives trickled into the chamber, moved the vote on the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 — House Bill 2 — to 1:30 PM. Once the action got underway, the House quickly voted unanimously to concur with the Senate’s version of the bill. A minor amendment was added to the bill in a Senate Appropriations Committee this morning, which is why the bill had to come back before the House. It goes to the governor for his signature now.

Now the big news is what’s going to happen when the next Special Session of the General Assembly starts at 2 PM. Stay tuned.

Update 12:01 PM

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, ended the Senate session by announcing that there will be another Special Session starting at 2 PM today, and the filing deadline for bills is extended to 5 PM today. Looks like disaster relief won’t be the only thing happening this week after all. Senate reconvenes at 1:30 PM. House reconvenes 1 PM.

Update: 11:50 AM

The bill passed the Senate unanimously. It now has to go to the House for concurrence since an amendment was added this morning in Senate Appropriations.

Update 11:49 AM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Jones, Onslow, responded to senators critical of things absent from the bill. Jones said that this bill is a first step. And that “If there is an issue out there that’s not being taken care of, we want to know about it.”

Update 11:41 AM

Senator Jane Smith, a Democrat representing both Columbus and Robeson Counties, stood up and spoke, saying that Robeson was one of the hardest hit in the state by the hurricane. She said hundreds of families remain in hotels in the county.

“I’m disappointed that we’re not allocating more money,” she said.

She said she hopes more money is appropriated soon.

Update: 11:20 AM

The Senate is about to take up the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016. It has made it through the full House and two Senate Committees with only minor changes.

The Senate only has until noon to file any other bills, and so far nothing has shown up. A few bills were filed in the House yesterday, but nothing that seemed to have anything to do with the controversial idea of court-packing or limiting Governor-Elect Cooper’s power. The deadline for the House to file more bills has already passed.

It’s possible this special session might make it to its end addressing only the main topic it was called for.

Update: 10:52

Public with NAACP gathers outside the Senate Chamber balcony before Senate session (Photo Credit: Alex Granados)
Public with NAACP gathers outside the Senate Chamber balcony before Senate session (Photo Credit: Alex Granados)

Update: 10:50 AM

Senate Finance Committee gives favorable report to disaster relief bill. Goes to full Senate session now, which is supposed to start at 11.

Update: 10:39 AM

Senate Finance took up the same issue House Finance took up yesterday.

The item on the agenda is a waiver to certain DMV fees. The governor has already started waiving these fees, Rep. Nelson Dollar said yesterday. The waiver was for people who lost their licenses, registration cards, special identification cards, etc., as a result of the hurricane; for instance, people who had to evacuate quickly.

The disaster relief bill is likely to get a favorable report from the Finance Committee and move on to the full Senate.

“This is a long range plan,” Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, Duplin, Johnston, said of the bill during the finance meeting. He said all the needs caused by the hurricane might not be handled by 2017 or even 2018. He said that the General Assembly was still taking up measures to address consequences from 1999’s Hurricane Floyd in recent years.

Update: 10:08

Senate Appropriations gives a favorable vote for the disaster relief bill. It now moves on to Finance.

Update: 9:45 AM

Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, Duplin, Johnston, says that this bill is just a first step and that numbers are still coming in on damage to North Carolina from the hurricane and wildfires. More numbers will be coming in later months that will help the General Assembly better understand what kind of funds are needed for recovery.

Update 9:33 AM

An amendment to the bill passed just now in Appropriations. Basically, it concerns a section of the bill that allocates $10 million to the Department of Environmental Quality. A portion of that is to go to local governments to help fix burial sites damaged by the hurricane. The amendment adds that a portion of the funds can be used to give grants to help with repairing, replacing or removing septic tank systems damaged by the hurricane.

Amendment to disaster relief bill passed in Senate Appropriations
Amendment to disaster relief bill passed in Senate Appropriations

Update: 9:24 AM

Governor Pat McCrory speaking at the Senate Appropriations Committee during the second day of the Special Session on disaster relief (Photo Credit: Alex Granados)
Governor Pat McCrory speaking at the Senate Appropriations Committee during the second day of the Special Session on disaster relief (Photo Credit: Alex Granados)

Governor Pat McCrory kicked off the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting today. Yesterday, he did the same at the House Appropriations Committee.

He started off talking about the devastation that he and many others saw after the Hurricane.

“We all heard story after story after story of human loss, human strength, human heroes, and we all saw the best of North Carolina,” he said.

He mentioned a woman he met in a shelter in Lumberton with addiction issues who told him she’d lost her dog. She said her dog was what kept her clean, he said. He and his staff were able to go to a shelter and find the dog for the woman.

The governor gave anecdote after anecdote to strike home to the Senators the importance of the legislation they were facing.

“I could repeat story after story after story,” he said.

He talked about the people who died in the hurricane, the roads destroyed, livestock killed, people without shelter, small businesses destroyed and entire towns that have been essentially wiped off the map.

“I want to thank you all for coming back into session, because there are people that are still hurting as we’re speaking,” he said.

He also went into the damage caused by the wildfires out west and the heroics of the people who were battling it, before talking about some of the specific needs addressed in the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 — including housing, reconstruction and school calendar flexibility for schools that missed many days due to the hurricane. The bill passed by the House yesterday forgives all but two missed days for school affected by the hurricane.

See our coverage of yesterday’s House session to see more details about what is currently in the disaster recovery bill.

Update: 8:28 AM

Yesterday, the State House passed its version of the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016. Today, the Senate will take up the matter. The bill will first come before the Senate Appropriations meeting at 9 AM. After that, the bill will go to the Senate Finance Committee at 10 AM. You can listen online by following this link. The Appropriations meeting is in room 643. The Finance meeting will be in room 544.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.