Legislative maneuver poises annexation bill for compromise

Jun 27, 2014

Those who closely follow the legislative process must be shaking their head at the strange situation that has arisen concerning a bill that impacts only a proposed merger between Waynesville and Lake Junaluska and has pitted a Republican against a Republican.

Typically, local bills sail through the General Assembly when they are supported by the local legislative delegation. Both Sen. Jim Davis, who represents all of Haywood County, and Rep. Joe Sam Queen, who represents Lake Junaluska and part of Waynesville agreed to back legislation supported by nearly two-thirds of the Lake Junaluska residents.

Numerous public hearings and workshops found very few Waynesville residents who objected to the issue, either.

However, Rep. Michele Presnell, who represents a portion of Haywood County, is opposed to the annexation and has successfully blocked it in the House.

In an effort to get the bill out of the House Finance Committee where insiders say Presnell has a loyal friend in Chairwoman Julia Howard, Davis stripped the language from a bill that already passed the House and steered the bill with the Lake Junaluska merger language through the Senate again. Supporters were hopeful the bill that needed only a simple vote from the House may land in a more favorable committee. That didn’t happen, and once again, Howard can determine whether the bill gets a hearing.

But all may not be lost — or won, depending on which side you are on. Buddy Young, the Lake Junaluska public works director, said the avalanche of bad emails and backhand maneuvers have created a high profile for the bill, now HB 1080. It could well be the noncontroversial measure deleted from the House bill and re-inserted into another bill may end up in a committee chaired by Davis, meaning some vote-trading could take place.

“The one thing I have learned is anything can happen. I don’t know if it helped our chances,” Young said, “but even though the maneuver didn’t work out like we hoped, it might have a positive influence in getting some action on the bill. We are no worse off than we were.”

Davis agreed, noting in an email that he expected negotiations would be taking place between he and Presnell regarding the annexation bill, as well as the measure that will modify language that could allow the Canton paper mill to receive $12 million in state grant funds to make environmental upgrades at the mill.

Politics is filled with with strange twists and turns. Compromise needs to happen in this instance, and maybe if it is successful, it will be a hopeful sign for other issues where stalemate is ruling the day.