General Assembly passes bills providing aid, relief to communities battered by Florence

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The North Carolina General Assembly on Tuesday began its special session by swiftly – and unanimously – passing two bills providing aid and relief to communities battered by Hurricane Florence.

“The General Assembly moved quickly on solutions to pressing problems,” Senate President Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said. “We’ll continue working with our colleagues in the legislature and the executive branch to help folks recover.”

The first bill, School Calendar & Pay, as several public school districts struggle with nearly four weeks of missed class time. This legislation enables those districts to write off up to 20 days, or a matching number of classroom hours. School boards can also choose to make up the time at their discretion.

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The second bill, Hurricane Florence Emergency Response Act, establishes a Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund that will be the account for all things hurricane relief. The Act on Tuesday transfers $56.5 million into the fund in what’s being labeled as a “down payment” for more aid from state and federal governments.

Relief in the education bill also comes in the form of money; $6.5 million was allocated to cover missed wages as if the teachers were working.

When it comes to elections, the General Assembly is loosening some of the deadlines on voter registration, pushing the date back until Oct. 15. County boards of elections are also afforded opportunities to change polling sites and replace voting machines damaged by the storm.

Lawmakers will take the next two weeks to further assess the damages and work with the governor on a bigger relief package. They’ll return to Raleigh to continue the special session on Oct. 15.

“It’s always good to see partisanship and some of the crazy divisions we let ourselves get into have been put aside for everybody to work together,’ Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said. “This special session is an example of that.”

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