Last week, the state House voted to advance a state budget bill (pgs. 361-3) which strips local governments of their ability to require riparian buffers and stormwater management controls which are stronger than federal or state minimums.
These handcuffs on local flexibility make no sense at a time when state and local governments are struggling to protect residents from intensifying storms and flooding. Both government and private property owners will pay a rising price for storm damage and costly new infrastructure to counter the impacts.
There was one apparent, though perhaps temporary, silver lining to these legislative storm clouds, however. The final version of the House budget removed another change which would have been even more damaging to water quality and management efforts. That was the provision which would have blocked state agencies from any protection of most so-called “isolated wetlands” (which are critical to both clean water and wildlife habitat).
The final House vote was 72-41 to return the bill back to the state Senate. Assuming the Senate votes not to accept the bill with all of the House’s changes, a House-Senate conference committee will be charged with developing a compromise version that both chambers can support. Stay tuned to see what happens with these and other provisions in conference.
Democratic legislators are urging the House and Senate Republican leadership to involve Gov. Roy Cooper’s office in negotiations, in hopes of producing a bill that can not only pass both chambers but also become law with a gubernatorial signature. During the 2019-20 sessions, a comprehensive state budget was never adopted because legislative leaders refused to negotiate with the governor on budget terms.