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Lawmakers plan to tap into a $2 billion rainy day fund, waive school make-up day requirements and take other steps to help hurricane-battered communities.
RALEIGH — North Carolina’s lawmakers are convening in special session today to begin passing laws to help communities recovering from Hurricane Florence.
The lawmakers gather at 10 a.m. Then at 11 a.m., a joint House and Senate budget committee is scheduled to begin considering hurricane legislation. Lawmakers plan to pass some legislation today, according to House and Senate leaders, and return next week to consider the funding needs.
North Carolina has a $2 billion “rainy day fund” to help pay for response to emergencies and natural disasters. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 28 counties from the Sandhills to eastern North Carolina are in a disaster area, including Cumberland, Brunswick, Craven, New Hanover, Pender, Onslow and Robeson.
In addition to disaster-relief money, lawmakers expect to adjust policies for voters in affected communities, for schools and for motorists to help them cope with the disruptions caused by the storm, according to the offices of the House speaker and Senate president pro tem.
Schools in the path of the hurricane closed in mid-September as the storm homed in on the coast. Some remain closed in the hardest hit areas.
Normally, missed school days must be made up so that students receive the state-mandated minimum of 185 days, or 1,025 hours, of instruction.
Lawmakers say they want to waive the make-up days requirement in communities affected by the storm.
Sen. Michael Lee of New Hanover County, where Florence made landfall, said last week he plans to introduce legislation that specifies that teachers and other school employees will not need to use vacation days or personal paid time off to make up for days they could not work due to the storm.
The Oct. 12 deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election may be extended in the federal disaster area counties.
The elections boards in those counties could be granted flexibility to set up new polling sites to replace storm-damaged ones, and new registration sites.
The local elections offices could be given money for voter outreach to tell the public about new polling sites and other changes.
Lawmakers plan to enact laws to ensure North Carolina receives federal money for hurricane relief and to earmark state money for hurricane relief.
Vehicle owners may have lost their vehicle titles or other Division of Motor Vehicle documents in the storm. The legislature plans to waive fees for them to obtain duplicates.
Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-261-4710.