Raleigh, N.C. — House lawmakers want schools and day care centers to test their water for lead contamination, but they did not set aside funding for that testing regimen that will cost an estimated $4.8 million.
The measure, House Bill 1074, passed 113-0 late Thursday.
Because it is late in the session and the state budget is already set, with only one more House vote needed to send it to Gov. Pat McCrory, House Budget Chairman Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said lawmakers could not explicitly set aside the needed funding. Instead, they are directing the Department of Health and Human Services to cobble together the money from unused portions of agency budgets to pay for testing.
"We're going to encourage DHHS to find the funds," Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, told colleagues.
If DHHS doesn't have that money, local day care centers and school districts could be stuck with the testing bill.
The same measure responds to a deadly case of amoebic contamination at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte by allowing the state to regulate such parks in the same way that swimming pools are overseen. The park had fallen into a regulatory gap.
Most of the debate on the bill focused on the lead testing.
"I just wonder, if the funding is not there, if we find something what kind of public relations is going to come out of this," said Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin.
Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, also said the state should find the money rather than leaving it to DHHS to scrounge.
"We need to do this, but we really need to appropriate the money for this in the long run. We don’t need to pass it along to state or local governments," Insko said.
The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.