House Passes Annex Reform Bill
The state House has overwhelmingly passed legislation to reform involuntary annexation law.
Lawmakers approved Bill 524 on a third and final vote Thursday. Rep. Jamie Boles, a Republican representing most of Moore County, voted in favor of the legislation. Speaker Joe Hackney, a Democrat who represents one and a half precincts in Moore County, did not vote.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate. Last year, the House approved legislation to impose a temporary moratorium on involuntary annexations, but the bill died in the Senate.
Boles said Thursday that while he wasn't happy with the bill, he voted for it because he thinks some municipalities have abused annexation and citizens deserve recourse. He thinks the bill will make municipalities more accountable and will prompt more methodic and thoughtful annexation.
"I do think since 1959 that North Carolina has changed and so has its communities," he said. "We do need reform and some things need to be updated."
But he said he believes the requirement of obtaining signatures from 15 percent of registered voters in the area to be annexed and the surrounding municipality is too high and would like to see that percentage lowered. The bill allows for one year for the signatures to be gathered.
Doug Aitken, a Pinewild resident who heads the statewide Fair Annexation Coalition, has been a driving force behind annexation reform. He and other opponents of involuntary annexation aren't happy with the bill, especially the voting provision.
While Aitken and others have lobbied hard for a referendum, they consider that 15 percent requirement to be unreasonable and unachievable in most cases, and would prefer that the bill fails.
"We want it to die on the floor," he said this week "It's not a compromise bill. To say that is not really accurate."
For more on this story, see Friday's print edition of The Pilot.
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