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N.C. General Assembly Legislative Update - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

N.C. General Assembly Legislative Update Link - Tuesday, April 25, 2017: https://us7.admin.mailchimp.com/

Overhauling Useless Regs, Senate Cuts Through More Red Tape
When it comes to regulations, it’s an invisible tax. Such taxes are especially onerous when unnecessary and over-burdensome. Yesterday evening, we (conferees) for Senate Bill 131(Regulatory Reform Act of 2016-2017) reached an agreement and the conference report passed the Senate and cleared the House today - the bill now goes to the Governor. The wide-ranging legislation amends a number of state laws related to business, state and local government, agricultural, energy, environmental, and natural resources policy. Streamlining Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) rules on temporary erosion control structures are included. The provision directs the CRC to adopt rules regarding the use of temporary erosion control structures consistent with rules adopted by the Commission as agenda item CRC-16-23.  We provide an exemption from the sediment criteria rule for sand from the Cape Shoal Systems “borrow sites” which are used for beach re-nourishment and fill projects. We request a study of erosion patterns near terminal groins to determine whether erosion rate calculations should be adjusted due to improved erosion conditions.
Senate Bill 434 (Amend Environmental Laws 2)
Unquestionably, there are regulations that we need to keep in order to protect public health and the safety of our environment. Any regulation that is unnecessary, ambiguous or outdated should be scrapped. These regulations are invisible taxes. Thus, they increase the price of goods and reduce employment. 

Yesterday evening, continuing the strong record of eliminating and simplifying job-killing rules, the Senate passed Senate Bill 434 (Amend Environmental Laws 2). Too often the focus has been on creating new programs instead of eliminating or reforming programs which are no longer operating effectively. A provision in this bill repeals the ban on plastic bags along certain areas of the Outer Banks. This plastic bag ban has not been effective. After two years of the ban, there were more plastic bags on the beach than before the ban. It is an unnecessary burden on our job creators, and it has become very costly to business, in some cases to the tune of $50,000 per store location, annually. Please click here to see the data that was comprised by the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality

Other provision of the bill will allow the Marine Fisheries Commission to adopt rules to establish Shellfish Aquaculture Enterprise Areas to facilitate shellfish aquaculture opportunities through advanced siting and pre-approvals from relevant federal and State agencies. This will hopefully expedite shellfish leases in certain pre-approved areas (where there are fewer use conflicts and environmental concerns). This model has been used in other states including Maryland and Florida.

We address a technical clarification to transplanting of oysters and clams to allow floating upweller systems in marinas and off docks. These systems are allowed in Virginia, Maryland and other states currently. The small shellfish from these systems are not market size and cleanse themselves long before they reach market size. This clarification will provide public health protection but flexibility for the division to work with the shellfish industry in its seed nursery activities.

Time after time folks will approach me about the current moratorium on river herring. Thus, we are requiring in SB 434 that the Division of Marine Fisheries review its Fishery Management Plan for river herring (blueback herring and alewife) and report by December 15, 2017, to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources on the river herring stock assessment.

Due to current issues of locating a spoil site for maintenance dredging of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway between Beaufort Inlet and the border with Virginia, a section of SB 434 allows the Division of Coastal Management of the Department of Environmental Quality and the State Property Office to negotiate with our federal partners in regards to an agreement for acquiring dredged material easement sites. This approach is currently used in South Carolina, where they have an agreement in place between the State and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

It was a pleasure to provide a legislative update at the North Carolina Coastal Conference about legislation that I and others have sponsored to enhance our coastal economy.

 House Bill 13 Class Size Compromise

 The Senate’s House Bill 13 compromise preserves our longstanding goal of reducing kindergarten, first, second and third-grade class sizes while addressing local schools’ concerns about any unintended potential consequences of implementation. Our changes to House Bill 13 will phase in implementation of class size reductions over the next two school years by:

  • Requiring local school districts to achieve a district-wide average class size of 20 students in grades K-3 and a single class maximum of 23 students in the 2017-18 school year; and
  • Requiring local school districts to achieve a district-wide average class size in grades K-3 that is equal to the teacher-to-student ratio currently in law and being funded by the state (either 18, 16 or 17 students, depending on the grade level) and a single class maximum of three above that number in the 2018-19 school year.

This phase-in is supported by sponsors of the original House bill and the N.C. Association of School Administrators. Bear in mind, the current K-3 class size requirements have been on the books for years, and the General Assembly has appropriated tens of millions of dollars to fund them. In fact, since 2014, local school districts across the state have received a total of $152 million to lower class sizes – and every year, they are guaranteed about $70 million in recurring dollars. However, not all school systems have used the extra funding to reduce class sizes, and many systems could not or would not provide data on how they spent the money – choices that led to the concerns they now have about implementation, fears that special subject-area teachers could be fired and the need for a legislative resolution.
So to ensure a smooth transition to smaller class sizes, we have committed to continuing to study and work on funding issues surrounding enhancement teachers in subject areas like art, music, drama and P.E. And to ensure state tax dollars intended to reduce class size are actually used for that purpose, our bill will strengthen accountability measures for local school districts, including:
  • Directing superintendents to submit regular reports on class sizes, total numbers of classroom and special subject-area teachers and corresponding funding sources, and authorizing the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to conduct periodic audits to ensure accuracy; and
  • Requiring superintendents to affirm the accuracy of their reports. Those who knowingly submit inaccurate information could be subject to penalties.
For years, one of the Senate’s top priorities has been lowering class sizes in the early grades – because the research shows it leads to improved academic outcomes for our students. We are pleased to arrive at a solution that gives administrators, teachers, parents, and students certainty about what will happen next school year – while making sure the taxpayers are getting the smaller class sizes they’ve paid for.
Senate Request Revisions to Federal Fishery Regs
Senate Joint Resolution 205 passed unanimously in the Senate yesterday. The joint resolution encourages the Wilmington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow shellfish cultivation and aquaculture activities in North Carolina waters containing submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Presently, the Corps of Engineers overprotects our North Carolina SAV. This policy is more stringent than policies used in other coastal states, including the Commonwealth of Virginia. Amending this federal rule has tremendous potential to create new jobs with the shellfish and aquaculture industry. Thanks to investments by the General Assembly during the last two fiscal years which I championed, the number of new shellfish lease applications compared to last year has nearly quadrupled. The Senate also adopted Senate Resolution 370 yesterday opposing the privatization of the South Atlantic Federal Fishery Resources through catch share management.
N.C. General Assembly Legislative Update Link - Tuesday, April 25, 2017: https://us7.admin.mailchimp.com/

N.C. General Assembly Legislative Update - Tuesday, March 28, 2017 Campaign News & Updates N.C. General Assembly Legislative Update - Friday, May 5, 2017

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