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The Daily Tar Heel

Commissioners Prepare for State's Legislative Session

In a meeting at the Southern Human Services Center, the commissioners unanimously approved the county's goals 4-0. Commissioner Margaret Brown is in Mexico and did not attend.

County attorney Geoff Gledhill presented the county's goals in front of about 30 residents.

The goals include replacing the existing school impact fee with a school impact tax, continuing a moratorium that prohibits new billboards on Interstate 40 in Orange County and funding the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.

"We're meeting with our state legislatures on the morning of March 12 to share legislative goals for the 2001 session," Commissioner Barry Jacobs explained before the hearing.

"We have to have a public hearing before that," he said. "Then bills have to be submitted by March 14."

The legislature then has 3 1/2 months to consider the bills, he said.

"We'll go through the list and see what people have to say about them," Jacobs said. "Hopefully people will support our ideas.

"Whatever it is, we want to hear what they have to say."

Only one county resident addressed the county's goals at the hearing. Resident Mariah McPherson of 513 N. Nash St. asked the county to work for anti-discrimination legislation in housing, employment and public accommodations.

"Make it a part of your legislative package," McPherson said. "I don't want Orange County to go backward. Without human relations we don't move forward, we go backward."

Commissioner Moses Carey said McPherson did not need to worry.

"That provision is included in our legislative package," he said.

Jacobs said he couldn't say what the most important goals for the county were.

"Probably those that have wide support because we're not in them alone," Jacobs said. "There may be some opportunities for collaboration with our neighbors that could make us more formidable" in lobbying for goals, he said.

As for other goals, Jacobs said he did not how to categorize and prioritize them. "They're such different areas," ranging from nursing homes to zoning, he said.

Several commissioners said they expected the state's budget shortfall to affect Orange County's goals.

"Based on all the prognoses, it's going to be a bad budget year," Commissioner Stephen Halkiotis said.

"It depends on how courageous the legislature is in closing some of the more obvious tax loopholes," Jacobs added. "We just have to accept there's going to be conservative spending.

"We have an excellent congressional legislation delegation. Their philosophies are close to ours."

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