If you want a quick case study of what's wrong with the way government works in North Carolina these days, or more correctly who government works for, all you need to do is look into the hist or a vote Sept. 4 on the House floor. It is House Bill 1540. The title is "Disapprove CAMA Rule." The entire bill is a couple of paragraphs, mostly citations of statutes and regulations. But it poses a serious threat to North Carolina beaches and the property on them and could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Worse than that, the legislation undermines the concept that thoughtful public debate and citizen input in state laws and regulations is important.
The legislation does one simple thing. It overturns a regulation passed by the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) that bans the construction of swimming pools in setback areas on North Carolina beaches. Houses and hotels are already subject to the setback requirement. The new rules grew out of a state effort to design ways to limit damage to the coast, an effort that began after Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd.
The CRC held public hearings and received written comments and then concluded the ban of the construction of pools close to the ocean would reduce beach erosion, lessen the amount of damage to nearby structures in severe storms, and save taxpayer money in cleanup costs. So the Commission approved the rule to take effect Aug. 1 of this year.
That apparently didn't sit too well with homebuilders, developers, and realtors on the coast, so Rep. Bill Culpepper introduced House Bill 1540 to void the action of the CRC. The bill passed in the House and Senate and now has gone back to the House for a final vote.
The moneyed interests on the coast could not win the debate in a process designed to allow the public to participate. They didn't need to and hardly ever do. A few powerful legislators are taking care of that. So much for the pesky problem of what's in the public interest, what rule would protect the coast and save taxpayers money.
Often the only rule that matters in the General Assembly is the rule that those with the money and influence rule. House Bill 1540 once again makes that clear. If it passes, the coast and the state's political process will suffer yet another blow.
Common Sense Foundation (www.common-sense.org)
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