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Updates from extra Special Session in the Senate

The General Assembly gathered in Raleigh today for the second day of its Special Session to handle emergency matters related to the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew and wildfires out west. Both the House and Senate passed the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 between yesterday and today. The bill now goes to Governor Pat McCrory to be signed. It was announced, after the Senate's passage of the bill, that an additional special session would be held to take on any matters legislators wanted. While it is not yet known what matters will be taken up, there have been rumors about limiting the powers of incoming Governor Roy Cooper. We will be reporting updates as news comes in. Reporter Liz Bell will be covering the Senate, and reporter Alex Granados will be covering the House.

Wednesday, December 14

Updated 7:10 PM:
N.C. Senator Bob Rucho, R- Mecklenburg is the sponsor of two bills confirming Wake and Mecklenburg special superior court judges — filed just before the Senate’s 7 PM deadline.

The two bills would confirm Governor Pat McCrory’s appointment of special superior court judges Andrew Heath in Wake County and Adam Matthew Conrad in Mecklenburg County.

You can find all of the bills filed by the Senate today here.

Updated 6:32 PM:
The N.C. Senate is filing bills before their 7 PM deadline, and one titled “Bi-Partisan Ethics, Elections, & Court Reform” would change the partisan makeup of the N.C. State Board of Elections.

Right now, the board has a 3-2 Democratic majority. If the filed legislation passes, each party would choose 4 members. Four members (two from each party) would be chosen by the governor, two (one from each party) by the Senate, and two (one from each party) by the House. This bill comes after heavy speculation that the Republican-dominated legislature would use the special session to pass items in their favor before incoming Governor Roy Cooper takes office in January 2017.

The bill would make a similar change towards a bipartisan makeup of county boards of elections, with two members from each party, appointed by the State Board of Elections — which the bill renames the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

The elections bill would also “restore partisan elections for the N.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.”

The bill’s sponsors were Senators Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, and Tommy Tucker, R-Union.

Updated 6:10 PM:
The N.C. Senate adjourned until 9 AM tomorrow but has until 7 PM to file bills. Those will go to the appropriate committees in the morning.

So far in this surprise special session following the special session that dealt with disaster relief, Senator Harry Brown, R-Jones, has filed a single education bill — QZAB Use Modification. Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) were created by U.S. Congress in 1997 as a financial instrument for schools to raise money for repairs, technology, infrastructure, and more.

This bill lessens restrictions on the program in North Carolina, which the State Board of Education administers. The bill modifies the program to allow the funding to be used for things like teacher training. You can read the full federal QZAB law that the N.C. bill refers to here.

The bill would also require an application process for the program set up by the State Board, with “counties determined to have greater economic distress” receiving priority.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.