I’ve really enjoyed Dan Conrads’ wit and wisdom in reporting what’s gone on in the NC legislature. Dan is moving on and we’ll miss his great work and advocacy. Here’s his wrap up of the good, the bad, and the ugly from this legislative session. All the best Dan!
NC Conservation Network Legislative Update for July 5, 2012
Volume 14, number 9
1. The Big Picture. GO
2. Session Wrap Up – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. GO
3. So Long, Farewell. GO
4. Summary of bill that became law this Session. GO
You just can’t make this stuff up… This being my seventh session in some capacity at the General Assembly I assumed I had seen it all, and that there was no way I could be any more cynical or jaded about the process…well you know what they say about people who assume. The last two days of the 2012 biennium will surely be remembered.
After vetoing the budget on Friday, the Governor waited until Sunday to veto S820 (Clean Energy and Economic Security Act). The legislature moved quickly to bring up the Racial Justice Act and Budget veto overrides, however, fracking appeared to be the one they were scrambling the most on to collect the necessary votes. A hastily called finance meeting was assembled late Monday night and the budget was amended to add in a $60 million dollar tax credit for the film industry in Wilmington. Once the House reconvened S820 was immediately brought up for veto override consideration. No debate was allowed on the bill and they moved quickly to a vote. The motion passed 72-47, achieving the 3/5ths by just one vote. However, immediately after the vote Rep. Becky Carney (Mecklenburg-D) could be seen scrambling to talk to the Speaker and then heard to exclaim she had pushed the wrong button. A House rule prohibits members from changing their votes if it would change the outcome, the rules can be suspended by a majority vote. When Rep. Carney rose to explain her situation, rather than be recognized the Speaker recognized Rep. Paul Stam (Wake-R) who made a motion to reconsider and then an immediate subsequent motion that his motion do lie upon the table, meaning that the vote could never be reconsidered. This motion is non-debatable and passed on party lines. Thus rather than let Rep. Carney explain her mistake and potentially change her vote, thus changing the outcome of the vote, the series of maneuvers ensured there was no way that could ever be done, and with that fracking was legalized in North Carolina. Laura Leslie ran a piece on the mistaken vote that has aired on CNN: http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/video/11277668/#/vid11277668
The fallout did not stop there however; the vote by Rep. Susi Hamilton (New Hanover-D) to override the Governor has caused quite a firestorm and displays the worst of politics. The film tax credit was maligned by Republicans even in 2010, so it was quite surprising they saw this issue, never even discussed in the budget process, as worthy of consideration this late in the session. Things became clearer when Rep. Hamilton, a huge proponent of the tax credit, as it impacts her district, walked on the budget override vote and switched her vote on fracking to become the deciding vote to override the Governor’s veto. Her vote seemed even stranger considering she had just been honored by the NC League of Conservation Voters as an environmental rising star and just days earlier had signed on to a letter urging the Governor to veto the fracking legislation.
Following the vote Rep. Hamilton was under particular scrutiny and accusations of pay for play politics, on Tuesday NCLCV stripped her of her recent award, their press release is available here:http://nclcv.org/news/releases/falling_star/; this is when the backpedaling began. Among her numerous stories and rationalizations were that: 1)she did not know fracking was on the letter to the Governor; 2)she had signed on the letter due to another provision it discussed; 3)Rep. Pricey Harrison (Guilford-D), the letters author, had mistakenly put her name on the letter; and 4) despite having assured several environmental lobbyists in person that her vote was not of concern, that the idea to override the Governor had actually come from environmentalists because we could get something much worse later as she stated “they could have resurrected S709.” S709 is a study of possible regulatory frameworks for fracking and other non-binding actions related to drilling without any formal rulemaking or legalization of the practice so it is hard to see how anyone could consider that worse than S820 which legalizes fracking and places the design of a framework in the hands of a newly created industry laden Commission. Adding even more to the story are reports that Rep. Hamilton rents property to film producers benefitting from the tax credit. Here are but a few of the recent stories regarding Rep. Hamilton’s vote:
As if all that were not enough the legislature also delayed the implementation of portions of the Jordan Lake clean up in two bills S229 (Amend Environmental Laws) and H953(Amend Environmental Laws 2) and prohibited the adoption of any policies regarding sea level rise for four years H819 (Coastal Management Policies). The debate on H819 Tuesday morning digressed into a comical half an hour debate of climate change science which would have frightened most science teachers in the State. And now it’s on to the elections.
2. Session Wrap Up – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Here’s a quick wrap up of what has passed this session for a more complete analysis of the bills please see the Bills that became law this Session section below.
The Good: Apparently Tom Cors of the Nature Conservancy likes Section 18 of S229 which provides certain protections to the Galax and Venus Flytrap, aside from adjournment that’s the best I could find.
The Bad: So many choices, so little time–
S.L. 2012-142. H950 (Modify 2011 Appropriations Act.), Harold Brubaker (Randolph-R)
S.L. 2012-91. H952 (State Air Toxics Program Reforms.), Mitch Gillespie (Burke-R)
H177 (Clean Energy Transportation Act.), Ruth Samuelson (Mecklenburg-R)
H585 (Vehicle Emissions Inspections), Gaston Pridgen (Hoke-R)
H819 (Coastal Management Policies), Pat McElraft (Carteret-R)
H953 (Amend Environmental Laws 2.), Mitch Gillespie (Burke-R)
S.L. 2012-143. S820 (Clean Energy and Economic Security Act.), Bob Rucho (Mecklenburg-R)
S229 (Amend Environmental Laws), Don East (Alleghaney-R)
S810 (Regulatory Reform Act.), David Rouzer (Johnston-R)
The Ugly: Hmmm nothing ugly really comes to mind, oh wait please reread the entire first section of this update.
3. So Long, Farewell.
Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu… On a personal note, as many of you already know this is my final legislative update (and actually my last day at Conservation Network). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my three years here and will miss the many friends I have made amongst all of our affiliate organizations. I look forward to continuing to work on the issues and hope to cross paths with many of you in the future. I’d also like to thank the entire NCCN staff, especially our Stanback Intern Cassidy Nolan, a duke law student who has helped greatly with putting these updates together this year, and Grady McCallie for all his help and contributions to the updates over the years. As a parting gift here is a new video of a puppy chasing a crab on the beach and a repeat of a Staff favorite: Baby Monkey Riding Backwards on a Pig.