Jones and Onslow Counties- 6th District
300-B Legislative Office Building
300 N. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
March 1, 2013
The session continues to move at a fast pace. Joint Appropriations Subcommittees are still meeting to discuss state agency budgets and many bills are being introduced as filing deadlines rapidly approach.
On Wednesday, three pieces of legislation resulting from the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage Study Committee passed out of the Senate and are headed over to the House. Senate Bill 43, Study Savings for Administration of Claims, directs the Office of State Personnel to study the expenses related to the management of state and local government employees’ workers’ compensation claims and make recommendations on improving efficiency and reducing expenses. Senate Bill 44, Workers Comp Coverage/Public Records, will permit the NC Industrial Commission to disclose additional data related to workers’ compensation insurance policies. Senate Bill 51, GBICC/Workers’ Comp Program Integrity, will enhance the collection and analysis of data from state agencies related to worker’s compensation insurance coverage and claims for the purpose of fraud prevention and detection.
Senate Bill 76, Domestic Energy Jobs Act, also passed out of the Senate and is headed to the House. This comprehensive energy bill will allow our State to take advantage of abundant energy resources. This would help generate thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in new revenue while moving us towards energy independence. The bill also encourages the governor to work with North Carolina’s Congressional delegation to advocate for state revenue-sharing from offshore energy exploration. Governor McCrory has already joined the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Governors Coalition, and earlier this month he sent a joint letter with the governors of Virginia and South Carolina asking the Obama administration to partner on offshore energy exploration.
The Senate also passed House Bill 19, Respect our Fallen Heroes, which strengthens the law prohibiting disorderly conduct at a funeral by expanding the buffer zone and making the penalties more severe. The families of those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country deserve the opportunity to pay their respects to their loved ones without interference from protesters pushing a political agenda.
The first meeting of the Coastal Caucus was held to discuss a broad slate of unique coastal concerns. In addition to longstanding priorities such as homeowner insurance and fishing rules, this bipartisan joint chamber group, is exploring ways for keeping our waterways navigable and safe. With federal funds drying up, I’ve recently introduced Senate Bill 58, Increase Funding for Dredging. Without a dedicated recurring source of state funds, shallow-inlet dredging could not occur and important coastal economic drivers such as recreational fishing, commercial fishing, and tourism could be adversely impacted. Currently all boats, inland and coastal, are required to be numbered and pay numbering fees. Existing numbering fees are $15 for one-year period and $40 for three-year period and bring in about $6 million per year. These fees are used around the state for administration costs, enforcement, water safety education, and boating access acquisition, development and maintenance. The staff from the Division of Water Resources in DENR estimates that the amount of recurring funding needed to dredge shallow draft inlets on a continuing basis is about $12 million. This figure does not include the dredging of deep water inlets like Oregon Inlet. Other states such as Florida were benchmarked and rate structures based on boat size appeared to be a standard process since larger vessels are more likely to be affected by shallow inlets. The proposed fee schedule is expected to bring in another $6 million per year that would go directly into a Shallow Draft Inlet Dredging Fund dedicated towards the dredging of shallow draft inlets. To offset any further fee increases across the state, projects from this special fund will be cost shared with non-state money from local communities on a one-to-one basis.
As mentioned in last week’s update, I have also introduced Senate Bill 127, Customer Service, Economic Development and Transportation. This piece of legislation, which has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, establishes uniform geographical administrative divisions for the State and creates the Commission on Regionalization Conformity to develop recommendations. Over the past week, I have been meeting with key members of the Departments of Transportation, Environment and Commerce to solicit their feedback on this pending legislation.
As Senate Appropriations Chair, I’ve been carefully watching the development of the sequestration process since many state agencies rely on federal grants. This is not how to run a government budget. We have been deliberate in preparing our budgets while reviewing and prioritizing items on a line-by-line basis. This is why appropriations subcommittee members have invested a significant amount of time meeting the past several weeks. Next week, to help mitigate some of these cuts, I will be submitting legislation to help preserve and bring more military jobs to our State.
We are ready to assist you with any questions, ideas or concerns you might have. You may contact the office via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (919) 715-3034. If you need to contact me in the district, my number is (910) 347-3777.
Have a great weekend!