RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Senate has approved a bill that ignores scientists' warnings of rising sea levels.
Senators approved the bill on a 34-to-11 vote Tuesday. The measure received little fanfare and no senators spoke in opposition to the measure.
The bill now goes back to the House for a vote.
HB 819 says that only the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission can calculate how fast the sea is rising for state governmental purposes and those calculations must be based on historic trends, which are much lower than the science panel's projections.
A state-appointed science panel warned sea levels could rise by more than three feet by 2100 and threaten more than 2,000 square miles of coastal land.
The coastal development group NC-20 disputes the scientists' findings and says the state should prepare for an eight-inch increase instead. The developers say stricter regulations would harm the coastal economy.
Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston County, who spoke on behalf of the bill, shared many of those concerns. He brought a prop for the Senate deliberations, a 1977 Time magazine cover featuring a penguin and warning of an upcoming ice age. Rouzer warned of overregulation.
"What does that do when it comes to land use policy?" asked Rouzer, who is running for the state's 7th Congressional District. "How's that going to affect property values? And because of the effect on property values, that's going to affect Tax revenues for those coastal counties. It's going to affect Insurance rates and everything else."
The bill has thrust the legislature into the national spotlight and was recently mocked by comedian Stephen Colbert. Rouzer said previously he was aware of, but didn't watch, Colbert's show. Still, the national attention has permeated part of the Senate chamber.
"This bill has made us the laughingstock of the country," said Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe. "We've been on Stephen Colbert's comedy show."
Nesbit was one of the 11 senators who voted against the bill. He said the legislature should heed the scientists' warnings.
"For us to begin to say we'll only consider things in a certain way is putting your head in the sand," Nesbitt said.
Allen Reed can be reached on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/Allen_Reed