The State House is open for business again after Gov. Pat McCrory called the Legislature back into session to address the issue of disaster relief funding for Hurricane Matthew victims, as well as those affected by the wildfires in the western part of the state.
McCrory spoke at the House Appropriations meeting Tuesday, where a draft bill was taken up that would direct more than $200 million of state money, from the reserve fund as well as the unappropriated portion of the General Fund, to pair with $300 million of federal money coming to the state for disaster aid for Hurricane Matthew.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill, which was then sent on to the Finance Committee, because the measure included fee waivers to aid recovery, such as a waiver for license and license plate fees for disaster victims.
The Finance Committee approved the bill after 4 p.m. and the House was set to come back into session to take up the bill at 5 p.m.
The Senate is in recess until 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Legislators debated at length in committee over how much money should be directed to the various programs meant to help fill the gaps where federal funding ends and local dollars can’t help, such as infrastructure, agricultural aid and residential aid for those who lost their homes in the flooding.
There were no structures lost to the fires in North Carolina.
Overshadowing the discussions Tuesday were rumors that the Republican-led General Assembly would add seats to the state Supreme Court, with the intention of gaining a Republican majority on the court through appointments before McCrory leaves office at the end of the month.
Throughout the day leaders in the House and Senate have said that they have no plans to provide an opportunity for McCrory to stack the court with Republican justices.
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger said that the Senate has made “no decisions with reference to anything beyond the hurricane.”
House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said “the only people discussing a Supreme Court bill are the Democrats. That’s not something we’re discussing. I don’t believe we ought to do it. I’ve made that clear from day one. That’s not something we’re looking at.”
The apparent rumors, possibly bolstered by Wake County Democratic Sen. Dan Blue’s press conference before session this morning, gained traction with a cluster of protesters who gathered in the legislative chamber galleries and elsewhere in the State Legislative Building, chanting “shame” and other slogans at times during the day.
The deadline to file bills in the Senate passed at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The deadline to file bills in the House will pass Wednesday at noon, narrowing the scope of what will be discussed during the special session.
As of 5 p.m. the only bill filed in the Senate was SB 1, which set up the rules for the third extra session. In the House four bills were filed as of 5 p.m.: the bill to establish the rules for the session, the disaster relief bill, the adjournment resolution, and a technical correction bill meant to move up the timeline at which the Statewide Compensation System Project must be implemented.