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January 6, 2020

Happy New Year

State legislators go back to work on January 14 in what will be the last of the 2019 session. House Democrats know nothing about what we will be doing or when we will return for the 2020 short session. That may be true for Republicans as well. Stay tuned.

Voter ID. As we ring in the New Year, I am optimistic about 2020 and the future of North Carolina and our nation. The New Year was especially happy for North Carolina Democrats when US District Court Judge Loretta Briggs rule that the 2018 Voter ID law was "motivated, at least in part, by discriminatory intent."

Republicans challenged the ruling and called on State Attorney General Josh Stein to fight it in court. Stein, a Democrat, who is responsible for defending State and Federal law, announced that he will appeal the judge’s ruling. He also ruled the law will not apply to the March 3 Primary Election due to lack of time. Whether it will apply to the November General Election depends on how long it takes for the case to work its way through the courts and the final decision.

The 2020 Election. This is more good news for House Democrats. The recently updated district maps now have five to eight districts more favorable to Democrats than they were under the illegally gerrymandered district maps. Democrats need to win only six more House seats to regain the majority. They have candidates running in 117 of the 120 House Districts; Republicans have 112. Regardless of which party does the 2021 redistricting, the move of people from the rural parts of the state to the urban areas will result in a majority of state legislators hailing from the more liberal metropolitan counties. Even currently, the more moderate House Republicans are all from cities. Finally, Democratic incumbents and new candidates better represent the growing diversity of our state than does the all-white Republican House Caucus. That will help bring Democrats to the polls in November.

Moving from 2019 to 2020

I am proud of what Democrats were able to accomplish in 2019 as members of the minority party.

Although this could change on January 14, Democrats showed the power of the minority by sustaining all 14 of Gov. Cooper’s vetoes. That action stopped these woefully unfounded and destructive bills. Here are four examples:

· House Bill (HB) 966: With the support of teachers, Gov. Cooper vetoed the proposed budget saying, “We should be investing in public schools, teacher pay and health care instead of more tax breaks for corporations.

· Senate Bill (SB) 578 would have cut state revenue from the franchise tax by $1 billion over five years, one of the most reliable sources of recurring funds used to pay teachers and state employees. That’s on top of the $4 million/year that has already been cut from the state budget this decade. Those revenue cuts have forced reductions in essential government services across the state.

· House Bill (HB) 398 funded information technology projects at state-run colleges. It also gave $20 million to Montreat College to build a cybersecurity training center. Enrollment at Montreat dropped from 1,082 students in 2010 to 839 this year. That $20 million would have been better by well-established programs at East Carolina University, NC State, NC A&T and UNC Charlotte.

· HB 370 required county sheriffs to comply with Immigration Detainers and Administrative Warrants, forcing them to use county resources to pay for a function of the federal government. If they refused to comply, they could be removed from office.

My goals for the 2020 short session:

I have two bills in the Senate that passed in the House last year. I will be working to get those passed in the short session.

HB 822, Comprehensive Behavioral Health Plan, provides a framework to ensure our DHHS will oversee and monitor all publicly funded behavioral health programs and services. It requires the Department to make annual reports to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services. The bill also requires DHHS to engage all stakeholders in developing the mission, vision, goals and objectives of the Plan.

HB 781 directs the Department of Public Safety to study issues of confinement for people with mental illness, including which conditions warrant restrictive housing (solitary confinement) for an inmate with mental illness, the average length of stay in confinement. The number and percent of inmates with a mental illness, the types of treatment provided, and the use of Therapeutic Diversion Units, and the Safe Alternatives to Segregation as recommended by the Vera Institute of Justice.

Currently, of the inmates that have mental illness and that are placed in restrictive housing, 40% refuse to leave. We can and must do better.

My Campaign

Finally, I have primary opposition this year. A young man, relatively new to the community, filed on the first day of filing. In 2016, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the NC House from Person County. He moved to Chapel Hill and got active in the Orange County Democratic Party. He has not yet filed a formal campaign committee or an end of year report.

Regardless, I take this challenge seriously and will campaign actively while also keeping up my responsibilities in the NC House and the House Democratic Caucus.

How to Engage

It's tough to keep track of what is happening. Here are some ways to stay involved.

1. Call me or my legislative assistant Young Bae at 919-733-7208 or email me at Inskola@ncleg.net with How can I get involved in the subject line.
2. Follow us on Twitter at @verlainsko and Facebook at Verla Insko.
3. Visit ncleg.net where you can see bills, listen to session, and see daily calendars.
4. Help us spread the word on social media or by forwarding this newsletter and other alerts or key news items.

As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.

Verla Insko

Please remember that you can listen to committee meetings and press conferences on the General Assembly's website at www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, select "Audio," and then make your selection – House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room.

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Verla Insko, NC House · 300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 502 LOB · Raleigh, NC 27603-5925 ·
Phone (919) 733-7208 · Mobile (919) 618-9889 · E-mail verla.insko@gmail.com or verla.insko@ncleg.net