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March 17, 2017

While we are in session, I will be sending out weekly Raleigh Reports to highlight the most important activities of the week. I will resume monthly Raleigh Reports when we adjourn for the interim.

This session, we have seen a big increase in advocacy groups dropping in to support or oppose various bills. Health care, education, environmental issues and HB 2 are among the most frequent topics of discussion. One such group included students and practitioners of occupational therapy from UNC and surrounding counties. Another group represented Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.

Governor Cooper Lays Out Hopeful Vision for North Carolina

Governor Roy Cooper addressed a joint session of the NC House and NC Senate this week. The Governor's message was one most North Carolinians believe in. It was a message geared to middle class families and common sense solutions. You can read the full speech here or listen to this really good 4 minute recap on WUNC.

Below is a summary of parts of Governor Cooper's speech.

Repeal House Bill 2

House Bill 2 has cost us jobs and damaged the state's reputation. It must be repealed. Legislators must act now to put this behind us so we can move forward on other issues such as public education and health care.

A Better Educated North Carolina

When businesses move to North Carolina, the first thing they look for is a well-trained workforce to fill the jobs they create. Governor Cooper proposes to make North Carolina a Top Ten Educated State by 2025. Specifically, Governor Cooper’s budget plan:

• Gives teachers an average 10% raise over the next two years and raises teacher pay to best in the Southeast in three years and the national average in five.
• Bolsters early childhood education by eliminating the waitlist for NC Pre-K and bringing back the Child Care and Dependent Tax Credit.
• Provides teachers a $150 stipend to offset personal purchase of school supplies.
• Creates Best and Brightest Scholarships for great students who commit to spending 3 or 4 years in the classroom.
•Invests in workforce development program called the NC GROW Scholarship for free community college to cover costs for recent high school graduates.

More Money in the Pockets of the Middle Class

It is time to invest in our middle class by bringing more good-paying jobs to our state.

• Funds mega-sites to attract large-scale manufacturing.
• Restores programs that are proven to work like film incentives.
• Developing and encouraging renewable energy.
• Expanding high speed broadband in rural North Carolina.

Healthier Families

Increasing access to healthcare creates thousands of good new jobs and ensures a stronger workforce. It just makes good business sense.

It’s time for a bipartisan effort to combat the opioid crisis. Opioid addiction threatens lives, rips apart families and communities and creates a shortage of qualified workers.

Create a multi-pronged approach to combat substance abuse, funding both mental health and law enforcement initiatives to encourage treatment and recovery.

Rebuilding our Communities

Finally, Governor Cooper urged a continued bipartisan effort to rebuild communities devastated by Hurricane Matthew. Nearly 600 families are still in need of permanent housing. Governor Cooper is asking legislators to restore the use of federal housing money to solve this shortage.

HB 2 Repeal Vote Defeated

One thing most voters agree on – we are sick of HB 2. Whether you do not like legalized discrimination or you do not like losing the jobs or you do not like losing the games related to the NBA, NCAA, and ACC – it all adds up to the fact HB 2 has to go.

House Democrats have filed bills to repeal HB 2, to repeal HB 2 with compromises, and to repeal HB 2 with added protections against discrimination. All of these bills solve the problem. All of them have been shut down by Republican leaders.

That is why House Democrats forced a vote this week by proposing a repeal HB2 amendment to a bill on the calendar. The motion to amend the bill was defeated along party lines with all members of the Republican super-majority voting against it.

Judicial Independence Column by Rep. Darren Jackson and Sen. Dan Blue

[Below is an edited text of a column that Sen. Blue and Rep. Jackson sent to papers across the state last week. The Salisbury Post ran it today. The Fayetteville Observer, News & Observer and Wilmington Star will also run it. Maybe there will be others. Feel free to use the language as you see fit.]

Judicial independence is a hallmark of American democracy. Some scholars call the independent judiciary the most widely admired and imitated feature of the U.S. Constitution.

Therefore, it is with great concern that Americans across the political spectrum have watched President Donald Trump attack federal judges, question their motives, and seek to undermine the legitimacy of the courts. Less noticed is what is happening here in North Carolina.

The General Assembly in which we serve is undertaking its own attack on judges and the judicial branch. Four proposed laws are making their way through the legislature – more could be on the way.

The first bill, HB 100, makes every judicial election in the state partisan. Does this sound like a process that will produce the best judges? HB 100 passed the House and Senate with nearly every Republican voting for it meaning that if Governor Cooper vetoes the bill, Republicans will override the veto.

The second bill, HB 240, takes away the Governor’s authority to fill district court vacancies. North Carolina governors have had this authority since the creation of the court 50 years ago. Now legislators want the power to appoint.

The third bill, HB 241, removes the Governor’s power to appoint special superior court judges. Currently, the Governor appoints these judges and the legislature has the power to confirm or reject the appointments. HB 241 cuts the Governor out and leaves legislators as the sole decision-makers.

Finally, there is HB 239, which shrinks the NC Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12. The NC Court of Appeals is the busiest appellate court in the state and one of the busiest in the country. These judges are writing an average of 100+ opinions a year.

Not a single group or public official is publicly supporting HB 239 – except for Republicans legislators, led by Senator Berger and House Speak Moore, both practicing attorneys which took an oath to uphold and support the Constitution.

Taken together, these four bills are an assault on the independence of the judiciary.

We have three branches of government for a reason. Our judicial branch is supposed to be independent. That independence is being threatened by changes in the law pushed through by Republican legislative supermajorities. House and Senate Democrats will continue to fight these changes, but we only have so many votes.

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 Gina Insko at 919-733-7208 or email her 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 http://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

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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