Legislative roundup

State House sends toll bill sent to Senate after brief spat

May 21, 2013 

A House proposal that won unanimous approval last week to allow limited toll collection on Interstate 95 faced an unexpected challenge from toll foes when it returned for a final House floor vote Tuesday.

The House eventually gave its final approval – not unanimous, this time – and sent to the Senate a bill that would let the state Department of Transportation charge tolls only on new lanes added to interstate highways, while guaranteeing that drivers can use the original lanes without paying tolls.

Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican, tried to amend the bill to give the legislature power to veto any DOT decision to add toll lanes to existing interstates.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave it in DOT’s hands” to decide which roads get tolls, Speciale said.

Bill supporters said local planning boards will have veto power over future toll projects, and DOT will be required to consult the legislature. They said Speciale’s proposal would undo the support of DOT and Senate leaders.

“I see an issue with I-95 because we have so many different opinions up and down the highway,” said Rep. Pat McElraft, an Emerald Isle Republican. “When you leave it up to people in the General Assembly, you might have one opinion down in Lumberton and another opinion from another area of I-95 – and you might have representatives fighting each other.”

The House defeated Speciale’s amendment 97- 18, and then approved the bill by 108-7.

Staff writer Bruce Siceloff

Budget moving fast

Senate Republicans pushed their state spending proposal through a pair of committees Tuesday, but not before giving Democrats and advocacy groups plenty to pick at when it comes to reshaping public school funding and raising fees.

The North Carolina government budget plan cleared the Senate’s appropriations and finance panels with only a little vocal push back following the approval of a handful of amendments. The first floor vote was expected Wednesday.

The Associated Press

Arguments over vouchers

Supporters and critics of a House bill that would let public school students attend private schools using public funds debated the bill in committee on Tuesday.

Lawmakers on the committee, however, did not debate and did not vote.

Speaking against the bill, Charles Brown, chairman of the Scotland County Board of Education and vice-chair of the Scotland Republican Party, said vouchers undermine public education.

Doug Tuthill, president of the Florida organization that helps administer that state’s tax credit scholarship program, countered by saying that in Florida, the program strengthens public education by attracting poor children to private schools, reducing the poverty levels in district schools.

Staff writer Lynn Bonner

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