The General Assembly reconvened for a special session on Tuesday, October 2nd at 10 AM. Lawmakers took up issues to address disaster relief, approving an initial round of $56.5 million in recovery funding. This first round of funding will address the needs of school systems that will not hit the minimum 185 school days required by law. With the passage of the legislation, the General Assembly adjourned and will return on October 15, at which time lawmakers will address larger funding measures.
Joint Appropriations Committee
The General Assembly held a Joint Appropriations committee to address school recovery across the state. Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 3 passed unanimously through committee. The companion bills are aimed to move millions of dollars across the state to ensure that all school employees are paid and that schools can waive days missed due to the storm. Legislators stressed the importance of paying all school personal including cafeteria workers and contractors.
The school districts under federal major disaster declarations are allowed to set their own requirements for making up missed days. They could also waive them all together. Some lawmakers are concerned that 20 academic days missed could put students behind the curve when it comes to testing.
Here is an overview of what lawmakers passed Tuesday:
- Allow school systems in counties hard hit by the storm to waive up to 20 school days and make sure teachers and other school employees, who normally would not be paid on days school does not meet, get paid.
- Start up the state's disaster recovery fund, with $50 million to cover initial matching costs on federal recovery dollars and $6.5 million to make sure educators get paid. The money will come from the state's "rainy day" reserve fund, which has been built up to $2 billion.
- Delay the voter registration deadline from October 12 to October 15. The state NAACP asked the legislature to push it to October 17, the start of early voting in North Carolina. The state will set aside $400,000 for the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to communicate changes to voters.
- Empower local boards of election to move early voting sites if facilities or roads to them have been damaged. These decisions would have to be unanimous under the legislation. Democrats pushed to allow majority votes to make these changes, but the Republican majority declined.
- Allow the governor to waive Division of Motor Vehicles fees for duplicate driver's licenses and other official documents.
Lawmakers will take up additional funding on October 15 after identifying more needs.
Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions
As officials continue to assess the damage from Hurricane Florence, House members got an update on transportation infrastructure on Wednesday. NC Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon addressed legislators on the progress that is being made in the aftermath.
2,500 roads were closed during the peak of Hurricane Florence. As of Thursday, only 126 roads were down. NCDOT is still working on roads, bridges, and other infrastructure in the Southeastern part of the state.
Secretary Trogdon estimates that the state should receive close to $266 million in Federal funding, with the state matching $66.8 million. The Department is looking at projects such as rebuilding bridges which can take months. You can take a look at what routes are still closed here.