Board adds Penny’s name to letter opposing HB508

By ELIOT DUKE
Of the Record staff
Posted 5/20/21

The Harnett County Schools Board of Education made a point to include a representative’s name in a letter strongly opposing legislation he proposed.

Rep. Howard Penny (R-Harnett) …

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Board adds Penny’s name to letter opposing HB508

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The Harnett County Schools Board of Education made a point to include a representative’s name in a letter strongly opposing legislation he proposed.

Rep. Howard Penny (R-Harnett) co-sponsored House Bill 508 earlier this year and quickly received push back from the Board of Education as it called for tedious changes to the budget process. H.B. 508 required the board to submit specific funding requests and written academic performance reviews of its schools to county commissioners. HCS would need to seek permission from commissioners for routine movement of funds and also meet a 30-day year-end audit requirement Superintendent Aaron Fleming at the time called “unrealistic.”

Fleming, on Monday, told the board the fate of H.B. 508 is up in the air after the legislation failed to make it out of committee last week. A separate draft of the bill, Fleming said, only mentioned certain counties that would be privy to its requirements, including Harnett. By not passing through committee and therefore failing to cross over to the state Senate, Fleming said the bill could be dead or it could show up somewhere else down the line.

“House Bill 508 was in committee and when they realized it wouldn’t pass committee, it was pulled by bill sponsors,” Fleming said. “Crossover is a deadline where a bill has to cross through one chamber in order to be considered in the other in the same session. This bill did not make cross over, but it could be included in a budget bill as a policy provision, it could be put into another incentive bill that did make crossover or a house bill that made crossover. It could be inserted somewhere, but at this point I don’t see any reason why it would.”

County commissioners in May supported the Board of Education’s positions regarding the bill.

“I’m not in favor of creating more bureaucracy,” said Chairman W. Brooks Matthews, who also serves as the district’s deputy superintendent. “If we’ve got to micro-manage the school system and the school board’s finances we’ve got more serious problems than I’m aware of.”

County Manager Paula Stewart on May 11 said the bill’s sponsors forwarded H.B. 508 onto the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and the North Carolina School Board Association in hopes of finding something parties can agree on.

HCS previously decided to submit a letter to the bill’s sponsors expressing their opposition. Fleming presented the letter to the education board on Monday, but something was missing: Penny’s name.

“I know the bill sponsor originally had been contacted about this and the bill still moved forward,” Fleming said. “We can add his name or take him off.”

Several board members insisted on adding Penny’s name to the letter.

“Leave him on there,” said education board member Don Godfrey. “I hope 508 is dead. It stinks.”

Commissioner Lew Weatherspoon mentioned Senate Bill 406, which he described as a companion bill to HB 508. He felt any letter sent by the board of commissioners should include its opposition to both pieces of legislation.

Eliot Duke can be reached at eduke@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2038.

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