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The Daily Tar Heel

Emergency Funds Bill Made Law

The new bill will establish seven bioterrorism teams at county health departments to prevent future attacks.

The Bioterrorism Defense Funds Bill, which passed the N.C. Senate on Tuesday by a 45-1 vote, grants $1.9 million for emergency management support.

The bill also allows up to $30 million to be pulled from the state's rainy day fund for further preventative measures.

The legislation took just eight days to make its way through the N.C. General Assembly.

Easley said in a speech Thursday that the bill was a high priority for the state.

"It is imperative that North Carolina takes immediate steps to protect the safety and well-being of our people," he said.

The bill will establish seven bioterrorism teams, which will work to prevent potential attacks, at county health departments across the state.

In addition, the bill will fund computer technology, training, equipment and labs to test for substances such as anthrax.

In the speech, Easley added that a governor's task force has asked for $13.5 million to fund additional needs, including public health and law enforcement.

The governor said that despite the state's budget was modified to generate funding for the bill, state needs are still much greater than available funds.

"We can expect some help from the federal government, but we just don't know when," he said. "They are moving as fast as they can."

Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange, said the bill will give the governor maximum flexibility to apply funds to various programs.

"It puts in place a system and trains people to be ready to make the quick response (to terrorist activities)," he said.

Lee said the most important part of the Bioterrorism Defense Funds Bill gives the governor access to the state's rainy day fund.

He added that most legislators spoke in strong support of the bill.

Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said the state's economic crisis initially made some legislators question giving the governor control of a large sum of nondiscretionary money. But Insko said legislative oversight will enable the funds to be monitored closely.

She added that improvements to public health technology will strengthen links between individual counties to communicate and share information. She also said the bill will help boost security.

"One of the primary responsibilities of the government is to secure the safety of the citizens," she said. "It'll make citizens feel more comfortable."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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