Raleigh, N.C. — The Senate has given final approval to a measure that would allow the N.C. Highway 540 project to move forward but would leave three other turnpike projects in limbo. The final vote Thursday was 33-17.
After substantially rewriting House Bill 10 Wednesday to insert the turnpike overhaul, Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, amended the measure again Thursday.
The final version still removes the Mid-Currituck Bridge, the Garden Parkway in Gaston County and the Cape Fear Skyway near Wilmington from the state Turnpike Authority, forcing them back into the pool of transportation projects competing for statewide dollars.
But the measure no longer redirects $63 million a year in state funding for those projects into the state Mobility Fund. Rabon said the funding will stay with the Turnpike Authority until it can be redistributed by the Appropriations Committee in next year's budget.
Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt warned Republican leaders not to give up too much legislative power over transportation planning.
"I’m telling you, the question is, is who’s going to decide? DOT’s about more powerful than we are," said Nesbitt, D-Buncombe. "There are areas of this state that will never be served if it’s left to one power center in Wake County."
Nesbitt also defended the three projects stricken by the measure, explaining the reasoning behind them. "There’s a reason to all this stuff. It’s not a boondoggle, and it’s not just somebody misusing power."
The measure now returns to the House, but it's a much different bill than the one House leaders sent over. Its success is far from assured.
Meantime, the N.C. 540 project can't receive any federal funding until the House and Senate come to agreement on the measure.
Digital learning bills approved
The Senate also overwhelmingly approved two measures related to educational technology.
One, House Bill 23, requires teacher education and licensure programs in North Carolina to develop digital competency requirements. That measure goes back to the House for concurrence.
The other, House Bill 44, expresses the state legislature's intent to move away from traditional textbooks and teaching materials toward digital technologies by 2017. It now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.