Democrats in the state Senate on Wednesday called for a special session of the General Assembly to deal with the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Matthew. But the state’s Republican leaders quickly responded that a special session was not necessary.
Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, a Raleigh Democrat, and two of his Senate colleagues said at a news conference that the legislature should meet to address the expansive needs brought on by flooding.
“We ask that you call the General Assembly back into special session that week to address this emergency, so that we can appropriate state disaster funds from the rainy day fund while we wait for release of federal dollars to our state,” Blue said in a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory.
State Rep. Billy Richardson, a Fayetteville Democrat, asked for a special session earlier this week.
A special session of the legislature in 1999 appropriated more than $836 million to help homeowners, farmers and businesses recover from Hurricane Floyd.
That 1999 session was not called until about three months after the hurricane. Blue said there is no reason to wait this year.
Republicans disagreed. Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore sent out a statement saying it would be “imprudent to try to determine long-term needs until floodwaters recede and immediate threats to safety are controlled.”
About a third of the state’s counties are a federal disaster area. Flooding has forced thousands of people out of homes and into shelters, shuttered businesses and schools, and destroyed crops.
McCrory said this week the state has enough in disaster funds to last until February. By that time, the legislature will be back for its regular session.
State budget director Andrew Heath said Wednesday that McCrory will call a special session if needed. Heath called the Senate Democrats’ news conference “a shameful display of political theater.”