Bill on dredging causes local turmoil
By SANDY SEMANS
March stormed into the
General Assembly, and at least one bill left locals cold.
Senate Bill 160
first surfaced at the end of February when it was sent in draft form
to the Dare County Board of Commissioners for review. Sen. Bill Cook
is one of the primary sponsors of what has since become a filed bill.
The bulk language aims
to create programs that could address dredging needs by using a
cost-share method between the state and local governments to fund
such work. But at the end of the bill, is a provision that would
allow Dare County Board of Commissioners to tap into all funds
derived from the 6 percent occupancy tax, although all portions have
long been dedicated to specific purposes – three percent shared
between the county and the towns, one percent to fund the Tourist
Bureau, and two percent to fund beach nourishment.
Dare County receives 32
percent – approximately $3.8 million - of the three percent
portion, and the rest is divided by the incorporated towns. The money
is used by the local governments to help fund their annual budgets.
After hours of heated
and emotional public comment and debate, the board voted at its
meeting on Monday, March 2, to ask Cook to remove the occupancy tax
language. Instead, the board voted to use the equivalent of its 32
percent of the three percent to create a line item in the budget
devoted to dredging. There was no discussion of how those funds will
be replaced in the county's budget.
Board of Commissioners
Chairman Bob Woodard said that during a break in the meeting, he
called Cook's office to ask that the language relating to the
occupancy tax be struck but was told the deadline for local bills to
go to bill drafting for changes was the next day and that it might be
too late to accomplish the deletion before filing. The board followed
up with a letter making the same request.
County Manager Bobby Outten
later notified the board of commissioners that he had spoken to Cook
and that the language would be taken out in committee. The bill was
filed as presented the day after the commission meeting. It has gone
through first reading and is assigned to the Senate Rules Committee,
as are all Senate bills when initially filed.
Senate Bill 20
was passed by the Senate but changed significantly in the House and
will now most likely go to a conference committee tasked with coming
up with a bill that both chambers might approve.
The Senate version of
the bill would temporarily cut the gas tax but then change the
formula in the future, which would increase the tax substantially.
The money would be used for highway projects.
The bill also would
require homeowners who have had a portion of the their mortgages
forgiven so they can stay in their houses to pay income tax on the
The House changed the gas tax
portion and opened the door to revisit the issue at a later date. It
was sent back to the Senate on Thursday.
House Bill 128,
if signed into law, would allow voters to petition for a referendum
on local government projects to be funded by Certificates of
Participation (COPs). It has passed first reading and is in the
Committee on Local Government.
Senate Bill 194,
if passed, would exempt contracts between companies that use services
of the state's ports from the State's Public Records Laws. The bill
was filed on Thursday.
Senate Bill 19 includes a number of
exemptions and changes in income and sales taxes. A bakery that sells baked
products with no eating utensils
would be exempt from collecting sales tax. The standard deduction would be the
same for a surviving spouse as the deduction for married filing jointly. A
county could not impose a license, franchise, or privilege tax on a person
engaged in supplying piped natural gas, telecommunications service taxed under
G.S. 105-164.4(a)(4c), video programming taxed under G.S. 105-164.4(a)(6), or
electricity. A taxpayer who has constructed, purchased, or leased renewable
energy property would be allowed a credit equal to 35-five percent of the cost
of the property if the property is placed in service in this state during the
taxable year. Other tax changes for corporations also are in the
Bill 168, if
passed into law, would allow a builder to hold property for up to
five years while it is for sale without paying taxes on increased
attributable to subdivision of the property or other improvements
made by the builder. The bill was filed on Thursday.
introduced by Cook, will add another magistrate position in Dare
County if passed into law.
Bill 138, if
it becomes law, will mandate that every student have at least one
semester of art education between sixth and 12 grades. The bill has
passed its first reading and has been assigned to the Committee on
mandates a health assessment for each child entering school and that
the record of the assessment be maintained as part of the child's
records. It has passed first reading, cleared the Committee on Health
and is now assigned to the Committee on Education, K-12.
Bill 147 has
been a long time coming, say many of the state's women. This bill, if
passed, is an act to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution. Thirty-five states have ratified the amendment since
Congress passed it in 1972, but three more states are required for it
to become law of the land. North Carolina has been one of 15
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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