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Special session for Florence relief may be needed, lawmakers say

From Carolina Journal‘s Dan Way:

The General Assembly could convene a special session to allocate Hurricane Florence recovery money from the state’s rainy day fund, although some money is available for use without the legislature’s approval.

“We stand ready to do whatever is necessary to help this recovery move forward if there are legal or financial roadblocks,” including returning to Raleigh for a third extra session this year, Pat Ryan, spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told Carolina Journal Thursday, Sept. 20.

The State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund has $103.7 million, according to the Office of State Controller. That money can be spent even if the legislature is out of session. The Rainy Day Fund has more than $2 billion, most of which is available, but can’t be tapped without a vote of the General Assembly. Federal aid also will be flowing into the state quickly.

“We are already scheduled to come back into session in November after the election. Part of the timeline [for a potential special session] depends on the damage assessments, on what specific needs arise that are currently unmet, and all of that is an open question right now,” Ryan said.

“It takes a long time to do these assessments, and come up with real numbers,” Ryan said. It took about two months for the legislature to receive a concrete funding request after Hurricane Matthew before the legislature met in special session in 2016.

Pat Ryan, spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told Carolina Journal:

“I think that every person in government has the same goal, which is to help these people who are in need,” Ryan said. “To the extent that there are lessons that we can learn from some of the reasons for the delays in Hurricane Matthew aid, and apply those lessons to make things work a little bit better this time around, I think that’s an outcome that everybody should agree is a desirable goal.”

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