Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Fate of the "Study" Bill; H86

There has been absolutely NO official movement on House Bill 86, which the Rules Committee brought to the table unannounced on May 30th. At this meeting a committee subsitute was considered and plans for the June 13th Public Hearing were discussed.

Here we are eight weeks later.

The Public Hearing was five weeks ago.

What is the status of the Bill?? WHO KNOWS !!?

Everything about the status of annexation reform in the legislature continues to be wrapped in a mystery and shrouded in a cloak of secrecy.

Here's a history of that in a nutshell:

  1. There were 17 statewide Bills and 7 local Bill introduced this session that attempted to revise or reform the current annexation laws in some way.
  2. None of the Statewide Bills and only one of the local Bills were ever brought to the table for discussion in any Committee before the "cut off" date.
  3. On May 30th, after the cut off date, one local Bill was brought up for discussion in the Rules Committee, (otherwise known as "the graveyard" for Bills).
  4. The decision to put the Bill on the table for discussion was not on the calendar (which I was checking) that notifies the public. WE would NOT have been aware of the discussion, if not for someone who happened to be there notifying the annexation reform advocates.
  5. A committee subsitute for H86 was distributed to the Rules Committee, but this revision has never been posted to the General Assembly website. No mention of the Rules Committee discussion of the Bill is noted on the Bill history.
  6. The Public Hearing was not officially advertised in any way until over a week after the meeting. Less than a week before the scheduled date.
    The official "notice" was limited to an internal memo sent to select Representatives directly involved. The only public notice on the hearing came from the media after they saw it announced on the StopNCAnnexation website.
  7. The Public Hearing came, was well attended by citizens asking for reform, has been "spun" by the city lobbyists, and went.
  8. Different legislators are saying different things to me about the fate of the Bill "off the record". Things like this:
    "Yes, it passed out of Rules" "No, it did not" "H86 WILL be heard on the floor of the House and approved" "No, H86 won't be considered as a stand alone Bill. It will be rolled into the Omnibus Study Bill and go from there after the end of the session."

SO WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON? And how does a citizen get a straight answer about it?
The following was recently reported by the AP covering the Legislature:

Friday: The House and Senate won't work on Friday after all.
Senate leader Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney had told colleagues to prepare for committee meetings and floor session on a day of the week that don't normally meet. They have warned members that they want to close the committees down for the year by next weekend. But after a full day of work Thursday, Basnight and Hackney said there was no need to meet Friday."

Time is running out and we see no progress on the annexation reform issue. I'm beginning to wonder if the issue is being saved as fodder for the upcoming election. If so, it's time for the citizens to send a loud bi-partisan message to those who claim to want to serve the people.

Doug Aitken, of FAC in Moore Co., has emailed Speaker Hackney to request a meeting with him and is still waiting for that meeting. He was actually finally told that the Speaker would not take appointments from anyone else regarding the annexation issue until after the Budget is resolved.

In the meantime, annexation related Bills that expand the reaches and limitations on the cities ability to satellite annex are moving right along through the GA.
Soon there will be few cities left that have to adhere to limiting "satellites" of the city to 10% of the total incorporated area. Urban "islands" will be popping up all over the rural landscape.
More and more cities are beginning to request expansion of their reach from three miles to four.
Where will the legislature draw the line? When Asheville tries to annex some beachfront property?

Frankly, the idea of "studying" the annexation laws seems absurd when one looks at the history of studies that have been done already. It HAS been studied and found wanting.

Yet, the recommendations that the people want and have asked for repeatedly have been repeatedly ignored. Instead, these studies have tweaked the law in small ways only with approval from the tax funded and influential municipal lobbyists.
It's past time to take action and do the right thing for the people of NC.

In order to get the legislature to listen to the people it is going to take a loud roar from the voters. City Council politicians and legislators have been removed from office by the voters over the annexation issue and more evidently need to be removed.

Your VOTE is the only currency that the people should use to deal with elected officials who refuse to listen. No more "Pay to Play" when the power of the people is still at the voting booths.

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