THE RALEIGH REPORT
April 10, 2017
The pace of work at the legislature has really picked up with more controversial bills and amendments coming through, often without time to prepare. This will be a short week as we will be back in the district Wednesday – Sunday for the holiday break; but the Monday and Tuesday calendars are unusually long.
Now is a particularly important time to pay attention and speak out on social media or to your friends on issues you care about.
Bills I Am Sponsoring
In March, I filed HB 84, Deaf or Hard of Hearing Designation. That bill passed the House last week and is now in the Senate. It directs DMV, at the request of a deaf or hard of hearing person, to enter a special designation on their drivers license and on the electronic record associated with the license or on the electronic record only. The bill also requires specialized training for law enforcement officers.
A second bill I filed with Rep. Donnie Lambeth (R, Forsyth) started out as a fairly short Telehealth Fairness Act; but after researching the issue, we decided the State needed a more comprehensive policy designed with the input of various stakeholders. The bill now directs DHHS to study and recommend by October 1, 2017 a telemedicine policy that deals with licensing standards, online prescribing and reimbursement standards. The bill will be considered in the 2018 short session.
UNC Board of Governors
The NC House elected six members to the UNC Board of Governors last week. This is a unique election in that we voted for six candidates (out of a list of 11), but had to vote for six. You could not vote for more or less. The top six vote-getters are elected.
Board of Governors elections are typically dominated by the majority party and by the candidates they nominate. We elected the following this year:
• Kellie Hunt Blue, the chair of the UNC-Pembroke Board of Trustees
• Robert P. Bryan, IIII, a former Republican House member
• N. Leo Daughtry, a former Republican House member
• Wendy Murphy, former chair of UNC-Wilmington Board of Trustees
• Roderick Doyle Parrish, current UNC Board of Governors member
• Carolyn Lloyd Coward, current UNC Board of Governors member
Confirmation of Governor Cooper's Cabinet
Prior to Governor Cooper taking office, the General Assembly acted to take away many of his powers. One action was to require the Governor to submit his Cabinet officers to the State Senate for their approval.
Governor Cooper challenged this in court along with some other restrictions Republicans placed on his administration. A three judge panel upheld most of the Governor’s lawsuit, but also ruled that the Cabinet confirmation process could continue. Both sides are appealing the case to the NC Supreme Court.
After weeks of hearings, the Senate confirmed the last nominee put forward by Governor Cooper this week. Included are two of my former colleagues, Secretary of Veteran Affairs Larry Hall of Durham and Secretary of Cultural and Natural Resources, Susi Hamilton of Wilmington.
Senate Tax Cut Plan Threatens a Billion Dollars in Public School Funding
We need to invest more resources in our public schools, particularly in the areas of teacher pay, principal pay, and instructional support like textbooks. Governor Roy Cooper’s budget outlines how to get to do this without raising taxes.
Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have a different idea. They passed, without any Democratic support, a bill to cut taxes by nearly a billion dollars. North Carolina requires a balanced budget so if we are cutting taxes a billion dollars then that is a billion dollars we cannot invest in education.
My priority is clear: invest in teacher pay raises and education. You have to make choices in government. Senate Republicans are choosing a tax cut that goes overwhelmingly to the wealthiest individuals and corporations. I choose to invest in public schools.
Increased School Calendar Flexibility for Local Areas
The House passed two bills this week to provide more school calendar flexibility to local school districts. School calendar flexibility sounds like a no-brainer issue, but it is actually quite hotly-contested. Local school boards and education advocates argue that state-mandated start and end days make it difficult to make a sensible calendar that allows for coordination with our community college calendars and accommodates lost days in the mountain areas of the state where winter weather is a bigger concern.
On the other side is the state’s tourism industry which is a major job creator in North Carolina. They argue that flexibility cuts down on the summer season – hurting rentals, tax revenue, and summer jobs.
I voted Aye on both bills.
Helping Working Families
The struggle for many North Carolina workers, particularly those with more than one job, is how to deal with family emergencies while they are struggling to earn enough to pay the bills. House Democrats introduced two bills this week to help these workers.
HB 544 offers North Carolina workers access to paid sick days and family medical leave. It allows workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work.
HB 543 is the Caregiver Relief Act and it expands upon the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and fills in gaps in the federal law. Family members would receive job protections if they need to miss time to care for siblings, grandparents, step sisters/brothers, and in-laws.
We need to build an economy that works for everyone, an economy where people can work in jobs, earn enough money, and can keep those jobs when family crises happen – as they always do. So far no members of the majority Republican caucus have signed on in support of these bills, but we will continue to work to pass them.
Elections/Ethics Reform Fight Continues
Upon Governor Cooper's election last November, legislative Republicans acted quickly in December to change the elections and ethics administration to deprive him of the authority possessed by Governor McCrory and others before him. Governor Cooper sued. The courts so far have ruled for Governor Cooper.
In response to their loss in court, House Republicans put forward a new bill, SB 68, on ethics and elections administration, but it has the same problems. Governor Cooper will veto the bill and we will be right back in court.
Why is the bill bad? There are a lot of reasons, but here are a few.
• It creates a Washington D.C.-like deadlock on the State Board of Elections and county board of elections.
• This will limit access to early voting because if boards cannot decide on early voting locations and hours, the fallback is the legal minimum.
• Remember that last year the Executive Director of the State Republican Party publicly and proudly encouraged county boards of elections to limit early voting to one site.
• It allows partisans on a county board to not show up, deny a quorum, and prevent any business from taking place.
• The law creates super-majority vote requirements on some voting issues that will make board action very difficult.
The big question to ask is why do we need to change the system to take away from Governor Cooper the same authority exercised by Governor McCrory and previous governors.
Schools could cut assistants to hire more teachers, meet class size requirements
State leaders speak out on education on rural advocacy day
NC House advances changes to elections oversight over veto threat from Cooper
News & Observer
Hog waste bill speeds through NC House
NC seeks nearly $1B from Congress for hurricane recovery
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 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.