February 20, 2015

Legislative Update:
Humor unleashed in the General Assembly


Record-setting weather kept most legislators at home a couple of days during this week's session, but the lone senator who showed up for work decided to take advantage of being a majority of one.

The Charlotte Observer reports that after Sen. Jeff Jackson's scheduled appointment fell through, he decided to put his time and situation of being the only one in the General Assembly to good use.

“I thought I would fix the state,” the first-term Charlotte Democrat told the newspaper.

He then began his imaginary work and kept his constituents up to speed via Facebook.

By the time he decided to call it a day, he had expanded Medicaid, pushed through nonpartisan redistricting, invested in wind and solar energy, put money back into higher education, and more. He also noted that he ended a filibuster because he had to leave the chamber to get a drink of water.

“Just came back from the Senate chamber. All votes were unanimous,” he posted. “This is going to be like ‘Night at the Museum’ except at the end we’ll have a stronger middle class.”

Toward the end of the week, reality once again prevailed in the legislative chambers and proposed legislation began moving again.

House Bill 93, if passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, would eliminate the tolls on all the state's ferries. The bill also aims to establish the Ferry Capital Improvement Account. Revenues for the account would be derived by receipts from advertising, sponsorships, and concessions. All unallotted and unencumbered balances on the last day of the fiscal year that were appropriated from the Highway Trust Fund to the Ferry Division would not revert. Other appropriations and donations from public and private sources also would go into the fund that would be used for capital improvements and ferry facilities.

Senate Bill 103 would instruct Boards of Elections officials to notify voters without identification cards acceptable to the state, that they can apply for an absentee ballot to use for voting.

Senate Bill 90, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cook, R-First District, if passed, would mandate that vehicles have two brake lights in the rear – one on each side - and that motorcycles likewise have a brake light in the rear.

Senate Bill 105, if it becomes law, would mandate that all corporations and LLCs report the total number of veterans in their employ on their annual report sent to the Secretary of State's Office. That office would compile the number of veterans employed by such companies and publish the data on the web by June 1 each year.

Education drew a mix of bills.

Senate Bill 94 is a Constitutional amendment proposed to be placed on the ballot of an upcoming election. The proposal would abolish the office of State Superintendent, currently an elected position, and the State School Board. If passed by voters, the board and superintendents would be replaced by creating a Department of Education with a secretary appointed by the governor.

Senate Bill 107 seeks to restore pay for teachers and instructional support personnel who have master's degrees.

Senate Bill 95 proposes a new structure and guidelines for the reduction in school personnel. The bill states: “In determining which positions shall be subject to a reduction, a local school administrative unit shall consider the following: 

"a. Structural considerations, such as identifying positions, departments, courses, programs, operations, and other areas where there are less essential, duplicative, or excess personnel; job responsibility and position inefficiencies; opportunities for combined work functions; and decreased student or other demands for curriculum, programs, operations, or other services. 

“b. Organizational considerations, such as anticipated organizational needs of the school system and program or school enrollment. 

“In identifying which teachers in similar positions shall be subject to a dismissal, demotion, or reduction to employment on a part-time basis under the policy, a local school administrative unit shall consider work performance and teacher evaluations."

(Sandy Semans is a retired newspaper editor and reporter who now works as a free-lance writer.  She lives in Stumpy Point. Her update on the goings-on in this session of the General Assembly will appear weekly in The Island Free Press, usually on Friday.)


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