Legislation that would provide additional state disaster aid for Ocracoke Islanders and other communities damaged by Hurricane Dorian as well as replenish the pool of state money used to match hundreds of millions of dollars in federal disaster relief stalled this week in the waning hours of this year’s legislative session.
The state House and Senate each passed competing bills that will now have to be worked out by a conference committee.
On Wednesday night, the House passed a $280 million package that included additional state aid, state matching funds for federal assistance and what supporters called a policy “pivot” toward a more resilience-based approach. Representatives said the new approach was necessary in light of the recent string of major storms and the likelihood of that trend continuing.
On Thursday, the Senate responded with a completely different bill that stripped out the policy changes and additional state aid provisions. The Senate bill includes both the required state funds to match federal aid for past storms
Both the House and Senate bills include $30 million for matches required by the state Department of Transportation.
Both chambers appointed a conference committee to work out the differences before adjourning until Nov. 13, when the legislature is scheduled to return for a brief session to take up congressional redistricting. Under rules worked out for the November session, House and Senate leaders have a narrow set of criteria for taking up new legislation, but left open the option to take up conference reports to make sure they can move the disaster recovery package and any other must-pass legislation.
North Carolina Emergency Management officials have estimated that without legislative action the state could run out of matching funds for some storm recovery efforts before the end of November.
After the November session, legislators aren’t scheduled to return to Raleigh until Jan. 14, 2020.