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July 6, 2017

The Long Session of the General Assembly is finished, but the legislature is not. We are scheduled to come back for special sessions on August 3 and September 6. The last week of the Long Session was action-packed with multiple late night (early morning) sessions, committee meetings called with little notice, and new policy ideas appearing out of nowhere.

Here is an update on what happened.

House and Senate Override Governor Cooper’s Veto of State Budget

Governor Cooper vetoed the budget passed by the legislature. The House and Senate quickly overrode his veto meaning the budget became law on July 1. I voted with Governor Cooper to sustain the veto.

What is in the budget? Like all budgets, there is good and bad. I voted with Governor Cooper because the bad outweighed the good. Here is a great chart that compares Governor Cooper’s budget with what the General Assembly passed.

The main reason I voted No is the budget gives tax breaks that mainly benefit millionaires and come at the expense of the middle class and working families. A better approach would be to invest that money in:

• Teacher pay raise of over 10%;
• Teacher stipend for expenses of $150 per teacher;
• Free community college scholarships for eligible NC high school graduates;
• Eliminating the pre-K waiting list;
• Bringing broadband access to rural areas;
• Job Ready sites for economic development;
• Addressing the opioid crisis.

NC House overrides budget veto, making the spending plan law - The News & Observer

Senate leader defends deep cuts to AG's office -WRAL

Editorial: A bad NC budget earns a veto - The News & Observer

Impeachment Threat Against Secretary of State Elaine Marshall

One of the last-minute surprises was a House Republican effort to launch an impeachment investigation into Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. The allegation against her is that her office improperly allowed undocumented citizens to become notaries public.

I believe Elaine Marshall has not done anything wrong and this is an unacceptable political attack. The NC Attorney General’s Office issued an advisory opinion that defended the Secretary of State’s handling of notaries public. Her office has responded to legislative inquires for information and made themselves available to anyone with questions. If there is a problem with how the office is handling this one issue, and so far the evidence is there is not, then it would be simple enough to fix. Impeachment is a huge overreaction.

House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson made the following statement on the House floor to our Republican colleagues. I support it 100%.

"Let me be very direct and very clear. The Democratic caucus sees [impeachment] as an act of extraordinary political aggression against the popularly-elected and legitimate Secretary of State of North Carolina. We will oppose the resolution. If it passes, we will fight against it every step of the way with every tool at our disposal."

Where this stands now is the House Speaker announced he has hired an "independent" attorney to investigate the issue and who will report back. It is an outrageous waste of taxpayer funds.

WRAL: Editorial: N.C. legislature sets foundation for 21st century inquisition - Capital Broadcasting Company

House: Marshall impeachment probe will have to wait - WRAL

Editorial: In North Carolina, what a political witch hunt really looks like - Charlotte Observer

Judicial Gerrymandering

If you like gerrymandering of legislators, you’ll love the latest idea out of Raleigh: the gerrymandering of judges. You may know that legislators like to use gerrymandering to fix the district lines so that politicians get to pick their voters. That is partly how we got to a point where a politically even state like North Carolina has Republican super-majorities in the General Assembly.

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down North Carolina’s gerrymandering in a unanimous decision. Every justice said what we did was wrong. Yet now we want to do the same thing with our judges?

In North Carolina, the people choose judges through elections. HB 717 would enable the politicians to change the lines and, in effect, choose the judges. The bill was drafted in secret and revealed at the end of session. Republicans voted it out of committee on party lines and we expect to take it up in the September special session.

No independent groups of judges, attorneys, court officials, or public citizens were consulted. None support HB 717.

Judicial gerrymandering is just the latest attempt by the General Assembly to undermine the independence of judges and lead to more partisan judges.

House panel OKs judicial boundary line changes; Dems say GOP trying to rig courts - Greensboro News & Record

Judicial, DA boundary line changes approved by House panel - The Charlotte Observer

Analysis indicates partisan gerrymandering has benefited GOP - Associated Press

Judicial maps won't be redrawn this session - News & Observer

Convention of States

In 1787 our country had a constitutional convention. It resulted in the Constitution that is our foundational governing document. If you are curious, North Carolina’s delegates to the 1787 convention were: William Blount, William Richardson Davie, Alexander Martin, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Sr., and Hugh Williamson.

Now 230 years later, many of my House Republican colleagues want a do-over. SJR 36 is a resolution calling for a 21st Century “Convention of States” to re-examine our founding documents.

If this sounds like a far-fetched idea, please keep in mind that the Speaker of the House spoke in favor of the resolution on the House floor – something that he only does once or twice a year. And the State Senate has already passed it!

The State House voted down SJR 36 on a 53 to 59 vote. I voted against the idea. It appeared to be defeated until the GOP leadership used a procedural vote to bring it back to life. No doubt we won’t have to wait 230 years to see the resolution again.

Convention of States idea fails at legislature - Associated Press

Push for constitutional convention falters in House - WRAL

NC legislature rejects effort to join constitutional convention movement - The News & Observer

Energy Bill Passes in Last Late Night Session

HB 589 spent much of its legislative life as a consensus bill, fought and negotiated over by interested energy and environmental groups. The bill struck a balance between allowing alternative energy fields like solar and wind to grow in North Carolina while also handling concerns of traditional institutions like Duke Energy.

The consensus blew apart in the closing days of session after a powerful Republican Senate leader inserted a provision into the consensus bill for a three year moratorium on wind energy. The stated reason for the moratorium was to study the impact of wind energy on military bases, even though the military had no concerns with HB 589.

Last-minute, closed-door negotiating resulted in an 18 month moratorium. The consensus fell apart. The bill passed on a 66 to 41 vote.

I voted No because the wind moratorium made the bill more bad than good. Two major wind projects in eastern North Carolina are likely to go away, costing us jobs and the opportunity to make our state a leader in alternative energy. HB 589 went from being a positive step forward to a signal that North Carolina is closed to alternative energy jobs.

North Carolina's last-minute wind moratorium called "unnecessary" - Triangle Business Journal

Misc. News Clips

NC Sunday hunting expansion keeps church carve-out - BlueRidgeNow.com

Legislature adds extra sessions in August, September as it adjourns regular session - The News & Observer

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 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

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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