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Lawmakers Agree on Clean Water Bill, Welfare

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The general assembly was abuzz Tuesday as water and welfare bills moved forward.
RALEIGH — North Carolina's rivers are polluted andgetting worse, but when it comes to placing responsibility for it, it alldepends on which television commercial you believe.

Hog farms, industry and municipalities all point fingers at eachother. Now State Lawmakers finally have an agreement to force all sidesto do a better job at controlling waste.

Next to the budget bill, the Clean Water Responsibility Act is the biggestand perhaps, most controversial piece of legislation lawmakers had to workwith this session. The bill passed both the House and Senate Tuesdayafternoon.

What passed was a version that took the strictest proposal from bothHouses: a two year moratorium on hog farms, county zoning, strict setbackguidelines, a limit of nitrogen discharges for sewage treatment plants andstrict criminal penalties for criminal offenders.

Basically, the Clean Water Responsibility Act floated past its toughestobstacle.

Although the Clean Water Reponsibility Act sailed through both Houses, ahandful of opponents fought until the end.

Representative Franklin Mitchell (R) is urging House members to voteagainst the conference report. He believes the group is the mostunfriendly to farmers the state has ever seen.

Bill Holman begs to differ. The environmentalist says the bill is one ofthe most important the general assembly has enacted in state history.

Conservation groups are thrilled. For them, this bill has been five yearsin the making.

"By itself, this bill won't completely do the job," Holman says. "But it'sanother step to clean-up our rivers."

Holman believes the big loser is the hog industry after it spent thousandsin a last minute advertising blitz.

While restrictions in the bill are tough on the hog industry, they're justas tough on city sewage treatment plants. Still some representatives whoare farmers felt singled out.

Representative John Brown (R) hopes to see the attitude of the generalassembly be more appreciative and receptive to trying to protect what isforemost in North Carolina. That, according to Brown, isagriculture.

Lawmakers have also finally reached an agreement on a trial welfareplan which was the final sticking point on this year's spending plan.The welfare agreement allows certain counties to establish theirown welfare program.

Senator Roy Cooper (D) says the plan is flexible and allows counties somefreedom.

Lawmakers say they expect to vote on the budget bill Wednesday.As long as they tie up the rest of the loose ends, they shouldbe heading home Friday.

Photographer:GilHollingsworth

andKerrie Hudzinski

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