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Update: Reversal of House Committee Vote on Soucek’s ETJ Bill, Passes Second Reading on House Floor Tuesday

Boone's ETJ areas (click to view larger). Map submitted by Planning & Inspections Director Bill Bailey
Boone’s ETJ areas (click to view larger). Map submitted by Planning & Inspections Director Bill Bailey

Update 5:20 p.m. Tuesday: SB 865 passed its second reading in the House on Tuesday afternoon in a 65 to 47 vote. Because of an objection, a third reading wasn’t conducted immediately after the second reading vote. It has been calendared for the Wednesday session, which convenes at 3:30 p.m.

Before the vote passing the bill on second reading, Rep. Paul Luebke (D-Durham) attempted to add a friendly amendment that would require Watauga County to establish zoning ordinances within the ETJ area before abolishing it. That amendment was tabled in a 60 to 50 vote.

By Jesse Wood

June 24, 2014. That didn’t take long.

“Less than 24 hours after it was voted down in the House Government Committee, a bill to strip the town of Boone of its powers of extraterritorial jurisdiction was resurrected and approved by the same committee,” WRAL reported Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Billl 865, sponsored by Sen. Dan Soucek, would go into effect in 2015. The local bill, which doesn’t require the governor’s signature to become law, has already passed the Senate, and is now moving its way to the floor of the House on Tuesday.

In the N.C. House Government Committee on Monday evening, the bill received an unfavorable report in a roll call vote of 12 to 15 and appeared to have stalled in committee. On Tuesday, the bill resurfaced in the same committee and received an 18 to 16 vote, according to WRAL, which reported that absent committee members on Monday “were rounded up” for a second vote.

From the WRAL report:

“In general practice, a bill that loses a committee vote is considered dead. Rep. Winkie Wilkins, D-Person, asked committee Chairman Rep. Mike Stone, R-Lee, how the bill had resurfaced.

“It did not get a favorable report, but it did not get an unfavorable report,” Stone said. “He would like an opportunity to have his bill heard again because there were members who were not here who wanted to vote for it.”

“Explain what consequences the 12-15 vote had yesterday if the bill just suddenly appears on the calendar again,” Wilkins countered.

Senate special counsel Gerry Cohen said the bill wasn’t actually dead after Monday’s vote – just in parliamentary limbo.”

One Representative in particular changed his mind overnight. WRAL quoted Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford saying that the town has abused its ETJ authority – something that Sen. Dan Soucek has said many times over in the past few years.

“I don’t think this is the right venue to settle this. It should be settled in Boone or in that county,” Faircloth added. “But it’s not being settled there, and so it’s here.”

Mayor Andy Ball has taken to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, pleading to members of the N.C. House for a “Nay vote on S865 [which] sets a bad precedent” for the state as it would abolish a municipalities ETJ for the first time in history.

House Committee Votes Down ETJ Bill

By Jesse Wood

June 24, 2014. After passing the N.C. Senate and first reading in the N.C. House, the bill to eliminate Boone’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) has stalled in the N.C. House Committee on Government.

Senate Bill 865 was filed in the N.C. Senate by Sen. Dan Soucek on May 28. The bill was sent to the N.C. House on June 17 and passed its first reading a day later. On Tuesday night, the committee didn’t report favorably on the bill in a 12 to 15 roll call vote.

WRAL reported that all Democrats voted against a favorable report on the bill, while Republicans were split:

“A roll call vote found 12 votes for the measure, mostly from far-right Republicans who favor tea party principles. But 15 lawmakers voted against it, including all Democrats on the committee and several establishment Republicans, including Reps. Mitch Setzer, R-Catawba, Steve Ross, R-Alamance, and John Faircloth, R-Guilford.”

While not a member of the N.C. House Committee on Government, Rep. Edgar Starnes, a Republican out of Caldwell, spoke against the bill at the meeting.

“This would be the only time in the history of North Carolina that we have removed a town’s ETJ authority,” Starnes was quoted by WRAL. “I think it sets a dangerous precedent.”

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Andy Ball said that Starnes, who owns a second home/investment property in Boone’s ETJ, gave an “eloquent talk” on the importance of the ETJ in a tourism and college town.

“We weren’t aware he would be coming and speaking,” Ball said. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

At the committee meeting, Soucek reiterated his “regulation without representation” mantra. People who reside in the ETJ can’t vote in town elections. While the ETJ falls under the town’s regulatory policies, people who have property in the ETJ don’t have to pay taxes and don’t receive town services.

“We have people being ruled over by people [they] can’t elect,” Soucek said at the committee meeting.

WRAL reported that with the bill failing in committee, “legislative rules say it’s dead for the remainder of the session.”

Ball, however, said that the rules can be changed and that Rep. Jonathan Jordan made it known that he is going to continue to push this bill over the next few days. 

This legislative session is expected to end July 1. That date, though, isn’t set in stone.

Read more about this issue here.