Special Session of the NCGA Called to Discuss Hurricane Florence Relief

A Special Session of the North Carolina General Assembly Where Bipartisan Support of Hurricane Relief Ruled the Day

Today, a Special Session of the NC General Assembly was called by Governor Cooper to consider two bills which are necessary as a result of Hurricane Florence. Senate Bill 2, titled School Calendar & Pay/Hurricane Florence, would allow public schools in counties which had received a federal disaster assistance declaration to reduce the number of hours of instructions to students attending public schools in the designated counties. It would allow school districts the flexibility to make up some days of missed classes, however, these districts could actually waive up to 20 days of missed classes if it was necessary to do so. While I support this legislation, I did raise questions during committee discussions relating to how we can provide students in these districts with opportunities to take additional classes during the summer months or during other occasions. I do not want to see our students academically shortchanged and placed at a competitive disadvantage because they missed up to a month of classes in some of these districts. These students would also be placed at a competitive disadvantage end of grade tests. This bill provided $6.5 million dollars to provide compensation for school lunch employees whose compensation is normally provided for through school lunch receipts and federal funds on instructional days.

The other bill which was passed was House Bill 4, titled Hurricane Florence Emergency Response Act. This bill appropriated $56.5 million dollars for hurricane relief. Included within this figure was the $6.5 million dollars for the school lunch employees hereinabove. These funds would currently be directed towards 28 counties which have been designated under the major disaster declaration issued by the federal government. In addition, this bill extended the deadline for voter registration applications from October 12th, 2018 until October 15th, 2018 at 5:00 pm. It also provided County Boards of Election to provide for a substitution of a one-stop voting site if it was unanimously agreed upon by the local County Board of Elections. The bill also allowed County Boards of Election to alter voting places for Election Day if the change was for the purpose of providing a substitute location for a voting precinct damaged by Hurricane Florence. Local Boards of Elections must provide notice to voters of these changes in the most expedient manner possible which may include public service announcements, print, radio, television, online and social media. It would have been great if the bill could have allowed greater flexibility for people who have been displaced by Hurricane Florence to apply for, obtain, and submit absentee ballots, however, that was not included in the bill.

There were also funds provided in this bill to address the emergence of large populations of mosquitos in floodwater-impacted areas. Lastly, there were opportunities for the governor to waive the collection of certain motor vehicle fees for residents in these impacted counties in the event that a person perhaps needed a duplicate driver’s license or other similar types of documents that might have been lost as a result of Hurricane Florence. Fortunately, there was unanimous support in the Senate for both of these bills. I only wish that we could see such bipartisanship on other occasions.

Visiting Communities Impacted by Hurricane Florence

This past Saturday morning, I got up at about 3:00 am since my plans for the day included visiting communities which were impacted by Hurricane Florence and the flooding which followed the storm. I had learned from people who had driven to the coast on Thursday and Friday that, as a result of the closing of Interstate-40, the trip could take up to 6 hours. I was determined that it wouldn’t take me that long. My conclusion was right since I was one of only a few persons driving at that hour of the day, however, the road was full of tractor trailers and tanker trucks, many of which were taking the only route open to Wilmington. I visited Jacksonville, Topsail Island, and the Wilmington area. I encountered many people whose homes were substantially damaged by the storm. The surprising thing is that so many of them were gratified and pleased that they had homes to return to since many had homes that were devastated. I took photographs of what I had seen, however, I realized that to post them it might be an invasion of the privacy of these families, and perhaps, cause them more frustration and despair.

Ultimately, I decided simply to post the photos below which depict the power of Mother Nature when a storm can change the landscape and wash away a sand dune which may have been 18-20 feet tall and leave the landscape with a stairway to nowhere with a drop-off to the ocean below. I also observed a fishing pier where hundreds of fishermen had gathered to enjoy a day at the ocean where the end is now washed away, and the integrity of the remaining structure is probably questionable. I hope that soon fishermen will be able to return with hopes of getting the catch of the day which they had dreamt of, but more importantly, that those who have lost hope today as a result of their losses can once again dream of a better tomorrow as they resume a normal way of life which they previously took for granted which was washed away in a matter of hours.

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Helping Those in Need in The Aftermath of Hurricane Florence

While the Raleigh-Durham area was not substantially impacted by Hurricane Florence, we should all do whatever we can to help those in our coastal communities whose lives and homes have been disrupted and in some instances destroyed by the force of this storm.
I would encourage you to reach out to those in coastal communities who you may know to offer assistance and to donate to relief organizations who are able to provide resources strategically to help the families with the greatest need.
We should all keep in our thoughts and prayers the first responders who are helping those in need as well as those who have suffered from this terrible tragedy.

Here is a link that you can use to donate or volunteer. The funds donated through this link will go to the United Way who will distribute those funds to local organizations helping those in need.
https://goo.gl/4uj48X

The Cancellation of McKissick For NC Senate Fundraiser Due To Hurricane Florence

In light of the impending and unknown impact of Hurricane Florence, I regretfully inform you that the fundraiser which was scheduled for September 13th at 6:30 pm at the Carolina Theater in Durham in support of McKissick for NC Senate has been canceled. If you would still like to make a donation you can use this link https://goo.gl/sRjio3

This event will be rescheduled once the aftermath of this storm is behind us, and Governor Cooper is available. I will advise you at that time of a new date for the fundraiser. In the interim, I hope and trust that each of you will prepare for the storm, and please help those in need of assistance who may not be fortunate enough to have the resources which each of us possesses to prepare for whatever this hurricane may bring.

My Thoughts and Prayers Are With You,

Senator Floyd B. McKissick Jr.
Senior Deputy Democratic Leader