State lawmakers returned to Raleigh on November 27 for a lame-duck (waterfowl reference, anyone?) special session to consider a range of issues, of which the voter ID bill was probably the most contentious. Because the November election results ended the Republican veto-proof majority that has been in place in both the senate and house since 2010, this could have been an opportunity for Republicans to push through controversial legislation. However, for the most part that did not happen.
No action on wind moratorium or terminal groins
As during the "short session" earlier this year, Audubon and our partners were on the lookout for emerging threats, including extension of the wind moratorium on new wind projects, or changes in existing law to allow hurricane response funding to go towards terminal groin construction. Although a few rumors arose, no credible threats emerged and this is in large part due to the ongoing education of lawmakers about our issues.
In case you missed it, Audubon North Carolina Executive Director Andrew Hutson had an op-ed in the Daily Advance paper (Elizabeth City) before the start of session highlighting the balance that Audubon believes can be achieved with new wind projects. The wind moratorium is set to expire December 31.
Thanks to everyone who has participated in our Lobby Days, met with lawmakers in district, or communicated with lawmakers in response to Audubon action alerts. It really does make a difference!
A threat to conservation trust funds
One unexpected threat that did emerge during the session was a Senate bill that would have terminated six boards and commissions in a power struggle and legal tussle between Governor Cooper and the legislature. Two of the boards that would be affected – the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund – have provided millions of dollars to protect Important Bird Areas, state parks, and other natural areas across the state. Audubon and our partners believe that a bill to terminate the commissions, without a replacement plan in place, was not a responsible approach and actively opposed the Senate bill.
Audubon grassroots sprang into action
Representative Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson County), this year’s recipient of our T. Gilbert Pearson Outstanding Lawmaker Award, displayed great leadership in introducing an alternative bill in the House to address the board appointment without endangering the trust funds. Audubon and our partners actively supported Rep. McGrady’s bill and garnered enough support that passage of the senate bill was no longer viable.
Audubon membership played a critical role in bringing about this positive outcome. In just 48 hours, Audubon supporters sent 134 thank-you emails to cosponsors of the good house bill and 221 emails urging other representatives to oppose the bad senate bill and support the good house bill.
Rep. McGrady was kind enough to publicly recognize Audubon’s efforts to protect the conservation trust funds on Twitter.
Looking ahead to 2019
As this year’s legislative special session comes to an end, we are already preparing for the 2019 “long session,” which will begin with leadership elections on January 9, followed by the start of regular business on January 30. Be on the lookout for future communications about Lobby Day and other ways you can get involved in protecting birds and the places they need.
-- Greg Andeck, Director of Strategy and Government Relations