Annexation Moratorium Bill Dead
Legislation calling for a nine-month moratorium on involuntary annexation in North Carolina has died before making it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, chairman of the Senate Committee of Rules and Operations, elected not to put the House-approved bill on the Senate calendar for a vote despite having nearly three weeks to debate it within the committee.
The N.C. General Assembly adjourned Friday until Jan. 28, 2009, effectively killing the legislation before any action could be taken.
Doug Aitken, president of the Fair Annexation Coalition (FAC) who lives in Pinewild Country Club, was upset by Rand's actions.
"The legislation is dead and we can thank Sen. Rand for that," Aitken said in a phone interview Monday. [The bill's defeat] will cause harm to the entire state."
Aitken stressed that the grassroots effort to put municipal annexation reform into the spotlight was not in vain. He said the movement has gained a lot of public support over the past several months and volunteers have spent countless hours "educating" representatives and senators on the issue.
"Lobbyists say there has never been a more effective grassroots effort," Aitken said. "We have come a long, long way."
Aitken was puzzled that Rand didn't listen to those who were pushing for the bill to receive an up-or-down vote. He believes that Rand's refusal to submit the bill to the Senate floor was a political power play influenced by the North Carolina League of Municipalities.
"Sen. Rand is exercising control over the entire N.C. General Assembly and thousands upon thousands of people," Aitken said. "He's not putting what's best for the state first. That's not good government."
The House overwhelmingly passed the moratorium earlier this month and sent it to the Senate. Supporters of the legislation had hoped the Senate would vote on it before the short session ended.
Aitken and Lydia Boesch, who also lives at Pinewild Country Club, sent a letter to Rand on July 17 asking him to do "what is fundamentally fair and democratic" and put the bill to a vote.
The letter claims that the FAC has identified 33 senators -- including Sen. Harris Blake of Pinehurst -- who are in favor of bringing the bill up for a vote.
The Rules Committee is in charge of placing bills on the legislative calendar. Rand stated that the rules do not allow the legislation to be heard in the Senate.
The letter disagreed with Rand's position that the legislation cannot be voted on, citing Senate Joint Resolution 1573 that "specifically states that bills implementing the resolutions of study commissions and select committees may be heard." The letter also requested an explanation from Rand if he chose not to move the bill along.
Blake, a Republican who represents both Moore and Harnett counties, said in an interview last week that he believed if the bill was sent to the Senate floor for a vote, it would pass, though he did not indicate how he would vote on the legislation. Aitken also believed the bill would have enough support for approval.
Blake said in the interview that the decision to put the bill to a vote was entirely up to Rand, and he would not speculate on whether or not the bill would make it out of the committee.
A group of Pinewild residents have been fighting the village of Pinehurst's plan to annex the gated community for more than a year. Pinehurst intended to have the annexation completed by June 30, but a pending federal lawsuit has delayed those plans indefinitely. A federal magistrate is recommending that the suit be dismissed.
A judge dismissed a suit a filed in state court earlier this year.
The N.C. House approved a nine-month moratorium bill by a 98-18 vote on July 2. It was submitted to the Senate Rules Committee the next day.
If the bill was approved this session, a nine-month moratorium on involuntary annexation across the state would have gone into effect on August 31 and lasted until May 31, 2009.
Aitken served on the House Select Committee on Municipal Annexation, which recommended that the General Assembly impose a one-year moratorium to give legislators time to revise the laws. It was shortened to nine months by another House committee.
With this legislation off the table, Aitken said he and his colleagues would not pursue another moratorium, but instead will attempt to reform the existing annexation laws.
A joint study commission on municipal annexation has been appointed by House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight to research the issue further. It will include members of the Select Committee on Municipal Annexations, as well as representatives of the N.C. League of Municipalities, and N.C. Association of County Commiss-ioners.
Aitken will remain on the committee and is confident that the current laws will be amended.
"We hope to have something done by the end of the next session," he said. "I am convinced there will be a change to the law."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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