State Senate approves annexation moratorium

It is now up to the state House whether or not North Carolina will impose a moratorium on municpal annexations. The state Senate approved the moratorium March 7 in a 36-12. Forced annexation opponents see this as a very important step toward ending the abuse once and for all.

“The new legislative majority has been moving quickly and decisively on the issue of forced annexation on some important fronts,” said Catherine Heath, director of the StopNCAnnexation Coalition. Both the state House and Senate are considering annexation moratorium bills and there are several bills to repeal or suspend forced annexations.

Senate Bill 27, Involuntary Annexation Moratorium, is sponsored by Senators Andrew Brock (R-Davie) and Phil Berger (R-Guilford), the Senate President Pro Tem. “Senator Brock has done an outstanding job of explaining and defending this bill in committees and on the floor,’ said Heath. A similar bill introduced in the House by Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), HB9, hasn’t moved past the first reading on the floor where it was referred to the House judiciary committee.

Just days into the start of the session. Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-Greene) introduced a bill to repeal a recent Kinston annexation. Rep. Rayne Brown (R-Davidson), one of the new legislators, filed a bill to repeal a Lexington forced annexation. Both bills went through committee hearings together, passed the House and moved to the Senate on the same day.

“Both representatives were amazing and effective in defending their legislation against the opposition they received along the way,” said Heath. “It was a wonderful thing to witness after so many years of watching annexation reform legislation be squashed by a powerful few and city lobbyists in control of the General Assembly.”

Heath said that although there is currently no legislation pending to amend the state’s annexation laws, she’s been assured that such legislation is being drafted. “I expect that the state House that will come forward with the proposed legislation first,” she said.

Other annexation bills would reverse a number of recent forced annexations that are being fought in the courts or recently lost a battle in the courts, said Heath. “Communities in Wayne, Cumberland, Lenoir, Davidson, Buncombe, Edgecombe/Nash, and New Hanover/Brunswick are fighting hard to help legislators get these bills passed into law,” she said.

Heath said that the StopNCAnnexation Coalition has focused on bringing people together toward a single goal of changing minds (and bodies) in the legislature to change the law based on the guidance from an opinion issued by the Fourth Federal Circuit Court.

“The court instructed a local group fighting an annexation into Wilmington through the courts that relief from this awful law and their ‘due process’ could only be found in our state legislature, not the courts,” she said.

If people were deprived of the right to vote on annexation, the court said it was due to “the annexation scheme enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly. When a legislature passes a law which affects a general class of persons, the political process provides all the process that is due.”

She said that the number one priority for reform is to give the property owners the means to say yes or no to city annexation attempts.