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March 10, 2017

Budget deliberations are under way In the General Assembly. This year, the Senate starts the legislative process. Meanwhile, House members on the appropriations subcommittees are reviewing Governor Cooper’s impressive budget proposal. Governor Cooper used the $500 million in excess revenue to fund essential programs while Republicans plan to use it for another big tax cut. The debate over the different priorities will be interesting. Gov. Cooper also continues to push for a solution to HB 2.

NC House Continues Assault on Independent Judiciary

It was a busy week for the state court system. It was a bad week if you think judges should be independent of politics. Here is the latest on four bad bills.

HB 100 passed the House and Senate and goes to Governor Cooper for his consideration. The bill makes all NC judicial elections partisan. This is the last thing our courts need. If Governor Cooper vetoes the bill, House Democrats will vote to sustain his veto but unless some Republicans join us – the veto will be overruled.

HB 239 reduces the size of the NC Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12 judges. Why would you reduce the size of the busiest appellate court in North Carolina and one of the busiest in the country? To deny the Governor the opportunity to appoint judges to three upcoming vacancies. The Governor's appointments would not be forever, just for the short time before the next statewide election. Not a single group, judicial official, or study commission voiced support for the bill. I voted against it.

HB 240 removes the Governor’s authority to fill temporarily vacant district court judge seats. The Governor has had this authority since 1965. He has had the authority through Republican Governors, Democratic Governors, Republican legislatures, and Democratic legislatures. Why are we changing now? Because today’s Republican legislators want that power for themselves.

District court is incredibly busy and important handling matters like divorces, criminal cases, and family cases. Now when a judge dies or steps down, we will have a vacancy until the House and Senate decide on a replacement. That could be months or years – meaning there will be no judge until the next election when the voters can pick one. I opposed this bill too.

HB 241 gives the General Assembly unchecked power to fill special superior court judge seats. Currently, these special judges are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. This process balances the two branches of government and leads to consensus, mainstream choices. Now the legislature will have the sole power. I voted No.

Looking at these four bills together, the big picture becomes clear. House Republicans want to seize as much power as they can, particularly at the expense of independent judges and Governor Cooper. It is not about good policy. It is not about what is good for North Carolina. It is a partisan agenda I believe most of North Carolinians oppose. Spread the word about these bills on social media, through email, and by talking to friends.

Minimum Wage Increase Bill Filed

This week, House Democrats filed HB 289 to increase North Carolina's minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and $15 an hour by 2022. Most states (29 to be exact), including several in the South, have minimum wages higher than the national one. It is time for North Carolina to join that group. I'm a co-sponsor of this bill.

• Raising the minimum wage will benefit more than a million North Carolinians. An estimated 1.3 million people would benefit from raising the minimum wage to 12 an hour—that’s a third of our state’s total workforce.

• Raising the minimum wage will be especially beneficial for women and working mothers. More than half of those benefiting (726,000) are women, while 260,000 are working moms, and 127,000 are single moms. More than half (54 percent) are people of color.

• Raising the minimum wage will especially help full-time workers trying to support their families. Shockingly, 1.2 million of those benefitting from the wage increase are older than 20. This means that more 92% of those benefiting are adults who use this income support themselves and their families, rather than teenagers looking for their first job. And 62% are full-time employees, working 40 or more hours a week.

House Republican leadership referred HB 289 to the Rules Committee meaning it has little chance of passage with our current NC House. Yet it is important to raise the issue and talk about how raising the minimum wage will put more money in the pockets of working families. More money that helps our economy through bigger sales, higher profits, and more demand for hiring.

News Clips

Partisan Judicial Bill OK’d, looks ripe for veto - Goldsboro News-Argus

NC House looks to take more appointment powers away from Gov. Roy Cooper - News & Observer

GOP's latest power shift would take judges' appointments from governor - News & Observer

House Republicans, House Democrats face off over changes to the judiciary - NC Policy Watch

Governor Roy Cooper visits New Bern to push funding for education - WNCT

Editorial: Faith in education - News & Record

What to do when pulled over: A new chapter for driver's ed? - News & Observer

Editorial: Cooper budget plan boosts schools - Greenville Reflector

Editorial: GOP should join governor in education push - Winston-Salem Journal

NC Democrats file bill to raise minimum wage, require paid sick leave - News & Observer

Bill would stop prosecuting 16-, 17-year-olds in adult court - Winston-Salem Journal

Could movies be returning? Governor Roy Cooper’s budget would reinstate tax incentives - Wilmington Port City Daily

Company promises up to 1,500 Wake County jobs with HB2 repeal - WRAL

HB2 has cost North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars. Dan Forest says that isn't very much - PolitiFact North Carolina

ACC's Swofford on HB2: Time running out on 2019, 2020 tournaments - News & Observer

Water options offered to residents near Lumberton coal ash site - Fayetteville Observer

DEQ appointee plans for agency to be more transparent, work with legislators - Wilmington Star News

DEQ nominee saying "all the right things" - WUNC

Editorial: Irrational and irresponsible legislature (Medicaid expansion)

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

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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