The state Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill letting the Wake County Board of Commissioners take control of school construction away from the school board.
An earlier bill passed by the Senate that affected Wake and eight other counties has stalled in the House. Senate Republicans revived the issue by changing a different bill about school funding into one giving construction authority only to the Wake commissioners.
“The intent, of course, is to allow the school board members to have more time to focus on education needs and the Wake County Commissioners – the more business-oriented folks – to be able to focus on the real estate, construction and site-acquisition needs for the county,” said Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican who introduced the initial bill.
The bill passed 26-9 along partisan lines with a final vote to take place next week. House Bill 726 would make Wake the only one of the state’s 100 counties where the commissioners and not the school board are in charge of school construction.
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“This is a bad bill for Wake County, and I think a lot of you know that,” Sen. Dan Blue, a Raleigh Democrat, said on the floor of the Senate before the vote.
Pending final approval in the Senate and in the House, the Wake-only bill would go into law since, as a local bill, it doesn’t require the signature of Gov. Pat McCrory.
Blue unsuccessfully proposed a pair of amendments Friday. One would have scheduled a referendum by Wake voters in November 2014 before the change could be implemented.
The other amendment would have delayed implementation of the bill until Dec. 31, 2014. That date would come after next year’s elections, when all four Republican county commissioners who backed the construction change would be on the ballot.
The bill would let Wake commissioners pass a resolution to take over locating, building, owning, maintaining and renovating schools.