Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Moratorium Bill, Senate Committee Meeting

WRAL and News14 were filming the Senate Committee meeting on Tuesday as they discussed the Annexation Moratorium Bill. You can watch a half hour of the meeting here. Some of the audio requires your computer volume to be turned all the way up but most of it does not.

Senator Andrew Brock did a terrific job of explaining the Bill and answering questions from the Committee Members. He defended the people of NC and the need for the moratorium very well.

I took notes about the questions that some of the committee members asked.

Senator White asked why a moratorium was necessary and tried to defend the right of cities who have annexations in process to complete them. He also thought some cities should be exempt from the moratorium.

Senator Blake defended the cities right to complete the annexations in process and that each annexation in process should be looked at on a case by case basis. 

Senator Robinson stepped up for the cities by declaring that the cities have added the annexation tax revenue to their balance sheets and shouldn't be asked to forgo that revenue.
She also wanted to know if anyone had an accurate count of the cities who are in the process of a forced annexation. Legislative Staff answered that by stating that the NCLM kept them informed and would provide that number. Hmm...

Senator Jones wanted to know if there was any support from "other organizations" for the moratorium.
Every person in the room who belonged to an anti-forced annexation group stood up to be recognized.
Senator Jones did his best to ignore the people while he clarified that he was referring to the lobbying organizations for the Cities and the Counties.

Senator Kinnard began her comments by telling a story about communities that elected their own Mayor and then followed that by stating that there are now "donut holes" in municipalities.

Perhaps I was having trouble hearing everything she said, but I couldn't make much sense out of her comments other than the fact that she dutifully brought up the "donut hole" argument against changing the law.

Senators East, Tucker, and Goolsby had strong statements in support of the moratorium and against how things have been done in the past.
  • The people need a real voice, 
  • The people are paying and getting nothing for the money paid to cities, 
  • The law has been abused and paper towns were approved as favors and now they are out of control and engaged in land grabs amongst themselves.
All good and true points.

Senator Pate and Senator Nesbitt were absent from the meeting.

Charlotte's lobbyist told us about the horrors of Virginia and the moratorium they passed years ago. 
Mayor Walser from Lexington got up and cried us a river about extending water and sewer to the County schools and that gave Lexington the right to forcibly annex.
It was noted during the meeting that Walser is a Republican who supports forced annexation.
Wow__I wonder how many more of those we need to watch out for.

There were some interesting aspects of the meeting from the perspective of how some things have changed since I began attending committee meetings for the annexation and eminent domain issues:

The city lobbyists and their faithful servants are not quite as arrogant as they have been in meetings as recent as last session. This last election has clearly knocked some of the wind out of their sails, but they are working hard to regain their influence in the General Assembly.

The defenders of the cities and the status quo are still repeating the same old tired push-back arguments against a moratorium or against putting an end to forced annexation as they have time and time again. And they STILL can't make their case with any decent backing. It's just so because the NCLM said it's so.

Paul Meyer, the NCLM lobbyist, did throw out a mild threat. He warned that passing a moratorium would "throw a wet blanket" on the current negotiations underway between our Legislators and the NCLM. (Throw that blanket, Legislators!)

Hmmm..... (again) Meyer stated that our Legislators are "negotiating" with NCLM lobbyists as to what the promised, but still not seen, annexation reform legislation will contain.

Yet we've been told that input from our side is not wanted or needed. We are just supposed to let the Legislators write the Bills because that is what they were elected to do.
Double Hmmmm.... when was the NCLM elected to help write the Bills?

Well, at least the League lobbyist told us that some of their concessions will be surprising.
(eyes rolling)
I can hardly wait. WHOOPPEE!

All I know, _and I believe I'm not alone in thinking this, _is if this Legislature fails to put an end to forced annexation this year, with everything in place that has raised the hopes of thousands and thousands of people across the State, I'm not sure what else the people would have to do to get it done.
Perhaps some further "house cleaning" would be in order? 

Nevertheless, "Thank you Andrew Brock for standing strong against the opposition to the moratorium and for the great answers you gave to their comments."

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