The General Assembly returned to Raleigh on January 30. As a result of the 2018 elections there are now 65 Republicans and 55 Democrats, breaking the Republican supermajority that had been in place since 2013. I expect a much better environment for bipartisanship, a plus for crafting good legislation. It will definitely be needed to pass controversial bills.
It’s clear that two issues in particular are on everyone’s radar and will be the focus of what is predicted to be a lengthy ‘long’ session.
Call it Medicaid expansion, closing the coverage gap or some other euphemism. What we label it isn’t important as long as we do it. No one disagrees about the problem: 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians in desperate need of all kinds of care, especially primary care delivered in community settings other than a hospital emergency room. Shockingly, this number includes an estimated 26,000 Veterans. Once insured, this half million residents will benefit from disease screening; early intervention, treatment and follow-up of chronic diseases; and preventive measures like immunizations and health education. All hospitals will benefit from a decrease in uncompensated care that keeps them on a financial razor’s edge, threatening smaller rural hospitals’ ability to remain open. Often the largest employer in a small county, the shuttering of a local hospital has dire economic impacts—obvious ones like increased local unemployment, but also ripple effects on other local businesses (like suppliers). Loss of a local hospital also affects a community’s attractiveness to new businesses and current and new residents.
It is expected that 2 different Medicaid bills will be filed. I’m a primary sponsor of HB 5, Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap, referred to as a ‘clean Medicaid bill’ because it has no work or premium requirements. It was filed on the first day of session and has been referred to the Health, Finance and Rules committees. Note: A new House rule requires that all bills go to the Rules committee before going to the House floor for a vote.
Although the Health committee has met 3 times, HB 5 has not been placed on the agenda.
A new version of the 2017 Carolina Cares bill is expected to be filed in late March. The 2017 bill included premium and work requirements and it is a given that these will be in the new version as well. Votes will be needed from both sides of the aisle for any version of Medicaid expansion to pass the House. Its fate in the Senate is unpredictable.
Like Medicaid expansion, redistricting is not a new idea, but there is a new level of interest from a majority of legislators. This could be due to the reality that the party who holds the majority after the 2020 elections will draw new legislative and Congressional district lines, putting the minority party in a weakened position for possibly a decade if political gerrymandering is still an accepted and acceptable practice. Two bipartisan redistricting bills have been filed. I am a cosponsor of both. Each bill uses a different method to have district lines drawn objectively. What follows is a brief snapshot of each bill. Click on the bill name to read the entire bill and the bill summary on the NCGA website.
HB 69, Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission. Establishes a Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission consisting of 11 registered voters from the specified parties, each serving four-year terms. Provides for member nominations by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Senate minority leader, the Speaker of the House, and the House minority leader and appointment by random selection by the Office of the State Auditor.
HB 140, The FAIR Act. Places a constitutional amendment on the March 2020 primary ballot. The amendment establishes standards and a process for redistricting and requires the Legislative Services Office to draw Congressional and legislative district maps. The legislature would be responsible for approving them; the Governor would not have a veto.
With more than 1000 House bills typically filed in the long session, committee work is absolutely necessary to vet bills before a floor vote. I was appointed by Speaker Moore to the following committees. Click the committee name to reach its homepage for information about meeting dates, agendas and bills assigned to the committee.
- Regulatory Reform
- Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House
Around the district
On Friday, February 8, I was honored to be among 300 guests at the 70th wedding anniversary celebration of Dr. Ganga Dhar Sharma and Saroj Sharma held at the Hindu Society of North Carolina (HSNC). The highlight of the evening was Senator Jay Chaudhuri’s presentation of The Order of the Long Leaf Pine conferred by Governor Roy Cooper. The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is the highest honor given to a North Carolina citizen. The Sharmas were recognized for founding the Asian Indian community in Morrisville, raising funds to open and later expand HSNC, ensuring that Asian Indian youth are connected to their heritage and culture, and involving Asian Indians in the fabric of the Town of Morrisville.
Along with Representative Carla Cunningham and Senators Gladys Robinson and Don Davis, I participated in a 90 minute Medicaid telephone town hall meeting on February 13. More than 600 callers from across the state were able to listen to our conversation about Medicaid expansion and hear details of HB 5. Several listeners had their questions answered live.
I spoke to 400 town officials and staff at the NC League of Municipalities Town & State dinner on Wednesday, February 20 at the Raleigh Convention Center. As a former Cary Town Council member I have a unique perspective on my role as a legislator. A new legislative Municipal Caucus is being formed to ensure that local government issues and perspectives are reflected in legislation and legislative decisions. The Caucus will have two House and two Senate co-chairs. I have agreed to serve as a House co-chair.
The Future of Black History event was held at the Cary Arts Center on Saturday, February 22. I was a panelist along with students from Green Hope High School and Panther Creek High School who lead difficult conversations about race and other issues at their schools; a Campbell University law professor; a local minister; and Colonel Glenn McNeill, Commander of the State Highway Patrol. In our 90 minute Q&A session we discussed what Black History Month means to us, whether black history should be part of the standard WCPSS curriculum, whether society’s goal should be diversity or inclusion, and what we think stands in the way of authentic inclusion. It was a pleasure to be invited to participate in this community event by organizers Tru Pettigrew and Tony Godwin.
I appreciate hearing from constituents about issues they care deeply about. Your input and feedback are important to me and to the legislative process. My office is 1213 in the Legislative Building, 16 W. Jones Street, Raleigh. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-733-5602. My office is fortunate to have Suzanne Smith continue as my Legislative Assistant. Suzanne is eager to hear about your issue and to assist you. To read about the bills I have sponsored and cosponsored this session, visit my NCGA page here.
Yours in service,