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Lawmakers prep for special session if needed after Florence

September 12th, 2018

— State legislators are preparing to come back into session as needed on disaster relief after Hurricane Florence passes.

“We are currently preparing for a worst case and are prepared to do our part in supporting the victims of this storm,” House Majority Leader John Bell said in a text message Wednesday.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s spokesman said it’s too early to say whether a session will be needed, given that the governor has the power to spend emergency funds and shift money in the state budget. But, “the legislature of course stands ready to clear legal or financial roadblocks, just as we did after Hurricane Matthew,” spokesman Patrick Ryan said in an email.

Both Bell and Senate Finance Chairman Harry Brown said a session would deal only with disaster relief. The Republican majority that controls the General Assembly has a history, though, of dropping surprise legislation into special legislative sessions.

They came back into session in December 2016 to pass some $200 million in disaster relief for Hurricane Matthew, then also passed legislation limiting incoming Gov. Roy Cooper’s powers.

The moves kicked off lawsuits and power struggles between the two branches of government that continue to this day.

This time, “if we come back into session, it will be for disaster recovery only,” said Bell, R-Wayne.

Brown, R-Onslow, said he couldn’t think of anything else the legislature would take up.

“I would think [disaster relief] would be the only thing,” he said.

The General Assembly already plans to come back into session after Thanksgiving to flesh out implementation language for any constitutional amendments that pass during the Nov. 6 elections.

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