Annexation Bills' Fate Uncertain
Several bills introduced by Rep. Joe Boylan that are intended to change the state's involuntary annexation law are currently buried in the Rules Committee.
That is the committee to which House leaders send legislation they don't want brought to House floor. Bills often die in this committee.
But Boylan, a Pinehurst Republican who has been a member of the state House of Representatives since January, is not ready to admit defeat. He hopes to meet in the next week with House Speaker Joe Hackney, a Democrat, who decides where bills go. Hackney's district includes a small part of Moore County.
Former state Rep. Richard Morgan, who lost to Boylan in a primary last May, used that tactic during his two years as co-speaker, a practice that has come under fire. Morgan was chairman of that powerful committee in the mid-1990s when Republicans controlled the House.
"It's a dynamic committee," Boylan said, "when it meets."
Boylan said that he hopes to get at least one of his 10 annexation bills out of the Rules Committee and debated on the House floor. A related bill that seeks to give residents in a municipality's extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) the right to vote is also in Rules.
Though it's a setback, Boylan said a positive sign is that House members have begun to discuss the issue of involuntary annexation on the house floor.
"This is a long haul," he said. "We're trying to change people's perceptions."
Boylan said he has talked to Rep. Bill Owens, chairman of the Rules Committee. He also hopes to speak with Hackney soon.
"He said he's willing to talk to me about it," Boylan said. "I hope it will be in the next week or so. We'll see if we can get one of the bills out of committee and up for debate."
Lydia Boesch, a member of the Fair Annexation Coalition (FAC), a group formed by opponents of the village of Pinehurst's planned annexation of Pinewild Country Club that is pushing the legislature to change the law, met Thursday with Hackney.
She said Hackney told her that nothing had been decided yet. He also suggested that she try to work with the North Carolina League of Municipalities, which has been a huge proponent of involuntary annexation and would oppose any changes to the law.
She visited the office of Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat who is sympathetic to the forced annexation cause and the vice chairman of the Rules Committee.
Boesch said Glazier's legislative assistant told her that some of the bills would get out of the committee.
"We were afraid they were all just going to die," Boesch said.
Doug Aitken, president of the FAC, said that his group is "working like crazy" to keep the bills alive.
The coalition was formed by Aitken, Boesch and her husband, John, and other members of the group Stop the Taking of Pinewild (StTOP). Anti-annexation groups from around the state have joined FAC.
"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg," John Boesch said. "The Fair Annexation Coalition is in its infancy."
Aitken said that the group wants the General Assembly to impose a moratorium on involuntary annexation while the law is studied. There is a time and place for annexation and even involuntary annexation, he said, if done correctly.
"We're not saying throw the baby out with the bath water," he said.
Involuntary annexation opponents have been attempting to highlight what they see as racial inequalities in the law. Wealthy communities such as Pinewild that already have services are annexed, while predominantly minority communities, such as Jackson Hamlet, are bypassed.
There are many examples of historically black communities in southern Moore County that have been left out of the boundaries of municipalities -- Jackson Hamlet, Lost City in Southern Pines and Midway in Aberdeen. Boesch and Aitken say it is a statewide problem.
"Maybe I'm naive," Boesch said, "but I don't think it was the intent of legislators to systematically deny minorities access to sewer and water and the ability to vote."
Even if the group fails and Pinewild is annexed, which is intended to be effective June 30, 2008, FAC will not abandon the fight, Aitken said.
"We're going to do our best to go national with this," he said. "The more I get into it, the more it smells. ... The basic unfairness stretches from the coast to the mountains. It's an odious law."
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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