Raleigh, N.C. — It's back.
Senate leaders have revived legislative language that would allow the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take over construction and maintenance of public school buildings from the Wake County Board of Education.
A similar bill that would have applied the same language to school districts in roughly a dozen counties has stalled in the House.
House Bill 726, which was reviewed and approved by the Senate Rules Committee Thursday morning, now applies only to Wake County but contains the same language that has been sought by the Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners and opposed by the Democratic-aligned school board.
The measure is being pushed by Sen. Neil Hunt, R-Wake, who said it would allow the school board to focus on education.
Other senators asked if they could add their counties to the bill.
"What we have decided to do is let each county decide for themselves," Hunt said.
However, the measure is controversial, with Democrats from Wake County opposed to the measure.
"If this is such a brilliant bill, why are we not doing a statewide bill?" asked Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake.
The answer to that question may hinge on what can pass the House. Virtually all Democrats in the House and a good number of Republicans opposed the broader school construction measure.
Bills dealing with a single county typically have an easier time passing the chamber, and House leaders may be inclined to push the bill through because Hunt is a senior budget negotiator for the Senate. The two chambers are still trying to broker a final spending deal for the fiscal year that started July 1.
Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, said that the bill could hurt the prospects of a school bond referendum slated for this year, adding that people would not want to vote for school funding not controlled by the schools.
"I'm getting the exact opposite response," Hunt said.