In this historic and extremely challenging session of the General Assembly, we remain committed to moving our state toward fiscal stability and order.
We recently passed Senate Bill 22 into law, which provides a stopgap on job-killing state government regulations. Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on Regulatory Reform is meeting throughout the state, hearing from citizens and determining which burdensome small business regulations we can eliminate.
The House passed Senate Bill 109, freeing hundreds of millions of dollars that can be used for job retention or taxpayer refunds. We also passed House Bill 2, which if not vetoed by the Governor, would put North Carolina in opposition to the job-killing mandates of the Federal health care bill. North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast that is not part of the 29 states legally challenging these mandates which judges have been declared unconstitutional but will end up in the Supreme Court. We are continuing to work diligently on reforms in areas such as education and elections. These include lifting the cap on charter schools. Also, a bill was passed that would end some unnecessary and ineffective testing – a bill strongly favored by parents and teachers.
A sad commentary on Raleigh politics was the condition of the State Health Plan for teachers and all state employees. The neglect and mismanagement had led to insolvency of this plan – a disgrace and a slap in the face to the state employees. The new majority inherited a plan with a current $515 million shortfall, and a longer term actuarial shortfall in excess of $33 billion.
This week the House concurred with the Senate and passed SB 265, which not only revives the health plan but incorporates many provisions the State Employees Association of NC (SEANC) has been asking for over the years. The SEANC representative at our committee meeting made a strong statement endorsing the plan. The SEANC newsletter counteracts much of the political posturing this issue has created among some politicians and special interest groups. As a supplement to this newsletter, I will forward you a copy for those that would like to see it.
Regarding election reforms, there are several bills filed that would help ensure a more fair process and the Voter ID bill would help ensure the integrity of our elections. Surveys consistently indicate that this is favored by over 80% of NC voters. We have also passed bills that seek to address North Carolina’s laws related to a citizen’s Second Amendment rights. The concealed carry laws have reportedly been a huge success, and there is evidence of reduced crime involving guns since they have been in effect.
As a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, I find myself continuing to remind people that gun-restricting laws will only restrict law-abiding citizens’ rights! The criminals will carry their guns regardless of the laws. Last week we passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, as many parents and grandparents of victims emotionally watched in the gallery. At least 35 states reportedly have similar laws, including California since 1969. Republicans have been introducing the bill for 25 years, but the Democratic leadership would never allow a vote. It passed with a 75-vote veto-proof majority. I was delighted to co-sponsor this bill.
I am on the House Government Committee. Many of our bills have dealt with forced annexation abuses across the state. Some of these situations have been tying up our courts as citizens attempt to fight these abuses. North Carolina annexation laws are among the most anti-citizen in the nation. We are attempting to address these individual situations in progress, while we are also taking up broad annexation reform going forward. The Speaker appointed me to two other special committees that I am delighted to serve on. The House just elected eight new members to the UNC Board of Governors; I was on the Nominating Committee. I am also especially pleased to serve on the Redistricting Committee. We are just now getting all the necessary census data to carry out the important task of drawing fair and legal congressional and legislative districts.
On a final, happy note, I was delighted to spend time this week with several classes of students from our area as they visited the General Assembly. It is always a rewarding experience to work with children. I also enjoyed the well attended Townhall Meeting that we had this morning in Wentworth. It is good to know so many citizens that are interested in participating in a civic discussion with their representative. As always, I appreciate your prayers as I continue to do my best to serve the citizens of Rockingham County and North Carolina. It is an honor and privilege to represent you in the legislature.