The Interim

in-ter-im (noun). The intervening time. In this case, the weeks between the September adjournment of the 2019-2020 session and the first meeting of a newly-elected legislature on January 13.

The legislature may be out of session, but I’m still busy answering email messages and calls from constituents, talking with graduate students enrolled in their first policy course, and having virtual meetings with stakeholder groups to discuss bill ideas for the 2021 long session. Read more

Short Session Update

The legislative short session kicked off on April 28, a date specified when the long session adjourned on January 14. When we adjourned in January there was every reason to anticipate a typical short session: budget wrangling, passage of a few remaining bills, and adjournment with plenty of time to campaign for the November election.

But in the intervening 15 weeks, the world dramatically changed with the discovery of a novel coronavirus in a single Chinese province. Its global spread was rapid, soon reaching the definition of a pandemic. The first US case was diagnosed in Washington state in late January; NC documented its first case in early March. The usual routines of schools, businesses and families have since been incredibly disrupted. Unemployment is at a new high. The need for online learning has laid bare the geographic and socioeconomic divide in the availability of broadband internet. Serious health disparities for people of color and those without access to health insurance  (acknowledged as longstanding problems in our state before COVID-19) are the cause of higher rates of infection and death for these populations. Fifty years after the civil rights movement, our country is facing protest marches, rioting in many cities, and widespread public outcry for criminal justice reform after the latest episode of extreme force used by police officers against people of color, particularly black men.   

These are the conditions in which the General Assembly has engaged in a short session like no other.   

With health experts urging statewide actions to ‘flatten the curve’ of new COVID-19 cases and the resultant ‘stay at home’ executive order (now a ‘safer at home’ executive order), the House made history when the short session gavelled in, using Zoom to convene committee meetings and live-streaming floor sessions on YouTube with proxy voting allowed by new House rules. In addition to protecting public health, an upside to this new world order is that citizens can easily tune in to committee meetings that previously required travel to Raleigh. House and Senate floor sessions can be viewed rather than just heard (although audio-only is still available). Access to each day’s legislative calendar; committee links with meeting times, agendas and documents; and video and audio links for each Chamber are available here

April 28-May 2 was devoted to unanimously passing two COVID-19 response bills which Govenor Cooper quickly signed into law. Session Law 2020-3 sets education, economic support, health and state operations policies. Session Law 2020-4 appropriates $1.4 B of the state’s federal CARES Act funds. Read the specifics on the NCGA webpage under Session Laws.         

Some of the most noteworthy bills passed in recent days include:

The Second Chance Act (SB 562)
After 13 months of legislative inaction, the Second Chance Act passed the NC House unanimously on June 10 after passing the NC Senate unanimously in 2019. The Second Chance Act is an important step in improving expunctions in North Carolina. Expunctions help people who committed crimes a long time ago  clear their records and improve their opportunities for jobs and housing.  Some of the improvements include:
*Provides automatic record clearing for charges dismissed or disposed of as “not guilty.”
*Allows expunctions for people whose convictions are treated as juvenile offenses under the Raise the Age law. 
*Expands eligibility for expunctions for people who have been convicted of multiple nonviolent misdemeanors.

Read more about the bill in this article

The ‘gym’ bill (HB 594)

HB 594 as originally written pertained to HOA bylaws when it passed the House in 2019. It was sitting dormant in a Senate committee when an Alamance county senator decided to strip the original language and use the bill as a vehicle to reopen gyms and fitness facilities. Stripping bills is a common occurrence in the short session since to be eligible for action most bills must have passed one Chamber in the long session. The ‘new’ bill contained rigorous requirements for screening and distancing of employees and participants, for equipment cleaning after each use and for thorough daily facility cleaning, among other stipulations. As a nurse practitioner I understand and value the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise and wellness activities. In addition, many health & fitness facilities are small women-owned businesses. I looked forward to voting for this bill and supporting the health & fitness industry and these small business owners. 

Unfortunately, the same senator bill sponsor decided at the last minute to add verbatim the language of the recently vetoed bar bill–and new language that I could not support because I am a health care provider with a background in public health. The new language stripped the governor of his executive authority to close newly reopened bars if COVID-19 trends make it advisable to do so. It also stripped the Secretary of DHHS of her authority to close a business that threatens public health through its business practices (declaring it an ‘imminent health hazard’).

The new language required that the governor’s decision to close bars and a DHHS decision to declare a business an imminent threat would be ultimately decided by a vote of the 9 member Council of State.  The Council of State are politicians elected statewide, including the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Secretary of State and the State Auditor.  They are all elected to do important jobs, but none involve issues of public health. Stripping away the power of the governor’s public health team would limit their ability to respond to illegal mass gatherings and to respond to changing COVID-19 conditions.

The new bill never received a House committee hearing; no amendments or changes were allowed on the floor.  I was very disappointed to have to vote against it. The bill passed 69 to 50 and now heads to Governor Cooper for his signature or veto.

Elections Bill Offers Safe Options for Voting (HB 1169)

With health officials expecting the coronavirus to keep many people away from the polls this year, it was important for the legislature to act quickly to make sure that county boards of elections are prepared for more absentee ballot requests. While the bill was not perfect, it safely expands access to voting while making this year’s election more secure.
HB 1169 will make these changes for the 2020 election: 
  • One witness instead of two for completed absentee ballots
  • Flexibility in the filling of positions for precinct officials
  • Allowing completed absentee ballot request forms to be emailed or faxed to county board of elections
  • Providing an additional two weeks for county boards to approve requests for absentee ballots
  • Requiring the State Board of Elections to create an online portal for submission of requests for absentee ballots by September 1, 2020

Other news  

New Task Force to Address Racial Inequity in the State Criminal Justice System

Governor Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 145 on June 10, forming the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. The task force will recommend solutions to stop discriminatory law enforcement and criminal justice practices, and hold public safety officers accountable.

Led by Attorney General Josh Stein and North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls, the task force will convene a wide range of stakeholders including: community policing advocates, state and local law enforcement agencies, justice-involved individuals, representatives of the judicial branch, individuals from marginalized populations and more.

The task force will develop and help implement policy solutions to address systemic racial bias in criminal justice and submit legislative and municipal recommendations on or before December 1, 2020.

The Order also creates a Center for the Prevention of Law Enforcement Use of Deadly Force within the State Bureau of Investigation to track statistics and improve training related to the use of force.

Also last week, Secretary of the Department of Public Safety Erik Hooks directed law enforcement agencies under the purview of Department of Public Safety to ensure each division has a ‘duty to intervene’ policy in place. He also directed that divisions conduct policy reviews on use of force, deescalation techniques, arrest procedures, cultural sensitivity training and internal investigation processes. Executive Order No. 145 directs cabinet agencies and encourages non-cabinet state agencies with sworn law enforcement officers to do the same.

Read the full Order and FAQ.

Communities of color are disproportionately affected at each stage of the criminal justice system. National data is sobering: 

  • Black adults are 5.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than white adults;
  • Hispanic adults are 3.1 times more likely to be incarcerated than white adults;
  • Black drivers are approximately twice as likely as white drivers to be pulled over by law enforcement for a traffic stop;
  • Black defendants are more likely to be jailed before trial than white defendants;
  • The murders of white people are more likely to be solved than the murders of black people;
  • When black men and white men are convicted of the same crime, black men receive a prison sentence that is 20 percent longer;
  • Black women are imprisoned at twice the rate of white women; and
  • Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than are white men; black women are 1.4 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than are white women.

Individuals interested in serving on the task force can visit the Governor’s website to apply.

DHHS Shares Health Guidance to Re-Open Public Schools  

State education and health leaders have announced the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) health guidance for resuming in-person instruction in NC public schools. The toolkit provides a baseline for health practices to be followed to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as North Carolina resumes classroom instruction.

Re-opening plans will be determined by the status of COVID-19. Schools may reopen according to three scenarios – Plan A: Minimal Social Distancing, Plan B: Moderate Social Distancing, or Plan C: Remote Learning Only.

Governor Cooper and health officials have warned that people must continue to take COVID-19 precautions to ensure schools can resume in-person instruction.

The Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) was developed using the most current CDC guidance for schools and includes requirements and recommendations for eight areas: Social Distancing and Minimizing Exposure; Cloth Face Coverings; Protecting Vulnerable Populations; Cleaning and Hygiene; Monitoring for Symptoms; Handling Suspected, Presumptive or Confirmed Positive Cases of COVID-19; Communication and Combating Misinformation; Water and Ventilation Systems; Transportation; and Coping and Resilience.

For example, the Toolkit requires students and others to be screened for illness before entering school and requires floor markings to help maintain social distance. It also includes sample screening symptom checklists in English and Spanish, a flow chart protocol for handling suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a checklist of infection control supplies schools may need. The Toolkit will be updated as new health guidance is released by the CDC and additional resources are made available.

Questions regarding the Toolkit in English or Spanish can be directed to

Toll Free Numbers for COVID-19 Questions 

  • Text COVIDNC to 898211 to get state coronavirus alerts. 
  • Call 1-888-600-1685 to connect families in need of childcare options.
  • There is a Hope Line at 1-866-578-4673 for older adults experiencing isolation due to social distancing.
  • The Small Business Administration Customer Service Center can be reached at 1-800-659-2955. A helpful FAQ for small businesses is here.

And finally

The short session continues. The state expects a significant shortfall when revenue figures are reported after the (new) July 15 income tax filing deadline. A proposed two year budget bill that passed in spring 2019 was vetoed by Governor Cooper (the House passed a veto override in September; the Senate never took an override vote). Because of this, the state has been operating under the FY 2018-2019 budget with some spending increases as the result of small targeted appropriations bills. It is likely in the coming weeks that a series of mini-budget bills will be filed instead of a single comprehensive budget bill. Just like many of you, the legislature is figuring out how to conduct business under new and uncertain conditions. 

I will send another update when the short session adjourns. In the meantime, I hope that you and your loved ones remain healthy. Reach me at or call Suzanne Smith in my legislative office at 919-733-5602 if we can assist you in any way. Thank you for staying in touch with me and for allowing me to represent the people of District 41. 


Caring for others, and for ourselves

Dear friends,

I hope that you are well, practicing the recommended social distance of 6 feet, getting outside for fresh air and sunshine, and staying in touch with family and friends by phone and virtually. I hope that you have not been personally affected by COVID-19. You haven’t heard from me until now because for the last 3 1/2 weeks, I have been on the front lines of the clinical response to this pandemic.

Most of you know that I’m a nurse practitioner in family practice at SAS Institute in Cary, NC. Our practice, like all other primary care providers, must be available for our patients who have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, but also to treat other acute illnesses like flu and strep throat, monitor chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension, give immunizations to children and adults, and manage other aspects of our patients’ health.

Because COVID-19 has been fast-moving, guidance to health care providers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) and Wake County Health & Human Services has slightly changed almost daily. Like other providers, our practice closely monitors health authorities’ recommendations for patient screening, testing and self-quarantine as well as best practices for protecting health care workers who care for and test them. My full time professional job has been more than full time since early March. I’ve thought of you many times, especially over the last month.

Since January

The legislature has been out of session since January 14 with plans to return on April 28 for the short session. Whether and how we will convene is still to be determined. In February I virtually attended 2 DHHS legislative oversight committee meetings and visited Janet Pride’s 4th grade class at Alston Ridge Elementary School to talk about how laws are made at the state level. It is very refreshing to answer thoughtful questions from 10-year-olds.

When COVID-19 entered the US, everyone’s time and attention shifted, including mine. Since early March I’ve participated in several calls a week conducted specifically to update legislators and answer our questions. These calls are led by Dr. Mandy Cohen, DHHS Secretary along with the leaders of NC Public Safety and Emergency Operations. Governor Cooper is also often on these calls. Also I have been appointed by Speaker Moore to the House Select Committee on COVID-19. Citizen input is welcomed; send comments and concerns here. Comments are shared with committee members weekly. Our first virtual meeting was held last week and we meet again on April 2 at 10:00.  Listen to our meetings by clicking 1228 LB.

Information you can depend on 

Like you, I want information about COVID-19 from experts and individuals on the front lines. Hard decisions have been made to protect our citizens and lessen the chances that our hospitals will be overwhelmed by a surge of acutely ill COVID-19 patients. Statistics change daily. Links included in this issue are for reliable sources you can access when you want and need information.

  • On March 27 Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 121, a statewide Stay at Home Order beginning Monday, March 30 at 5 p.m. until April 29, 2020. The Executive Order directs people to stay at home except to visit essential businesses, to exercise outdoors or to help a family member. The order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to physically stay at least six feet apart from others. Find the list of ‘essential businesses’ and other details in this press release and related FAQs.
  • Governor Cooper’s website has a list of actions he’s taken to address COVID-19 and its economic impacts (these are listed in reverse chronological order). It includes Executive Orders that closed schools (initially until March 30, then extended to May 15), banned sit-down service at restaurants and bars, extended the tax deadline to July 15 and waived rules for unemployment benefits.
  • The COVID-19 Case Count lists cases in the state and by county, as well as the number of hospitalizations and deaths; it is updated by 11 a.m. daily. COVID-19 Response in North Carolina has links to resources and information for businesses & employers; child care; colleges, universities and schools; long term care facilities; health care providers; and workers who have lost their jobs, among others.
  • For information about COVID-19 across the US and general information about symptoms, when to contact your health care provider and what you can do to safeguard your health and the health of your loved ones, I recommend the CDC.

Coping with our current ‘new normal’ 

While we’re staying at home except for permitted activities (receiving health care, picking up prescriptions, providing care to family members, shopping for food, outdoor exercise), it’s important to feel connected to others and to maintain good mental health. In addition to reading good books and streaming your favorite TV shows and movies, here are some online options for keeping anxiety and boredom at bay (list courtesy of Mike Stunson; some editorializing by me).

Exercise. Planet Fitness offers live workout videos daily on Facebook. Gold’s Gym has more than 600 free audio and video workouts until the end of May. Your own fitness center may also offer virtual workouts, yoga or meditation sessions.

Enjoy nature. You can use Google Earth to visit any national park online. Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are just some of the options.

Check out some animals. If you can’t see wildlife from your deck or window, the San Diego Zoo and Monterrey Bay Aquarium are showing live feeds of many of their exhibits.

Watch classic sports games. The NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB have opened their libraries so fans can watch games from years past.

Tour museums. Soak in some culture. Google’s Arts and Culture website offers tours of museums around the world, including the Tokyo National Museum and the Guggenheim. Virtual tours are also available of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Listen to music. More culture. The Metropolitan Opera streams a different encore presentation each night.

Learn to Cook. Better Homes & Gardens and the BBC have online videos featuring cooking tips.

Take a college course. Many course from Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia are now available free. In January I took the popular Yale course, “The Science of Well-Being” taught by Professor Laurie Santos. Little did I know how helpful it would be in less than 2 months! If interested, enroll here. 

A final word

Many of our fellow citizens have lost jobs and businesses because of closures required to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is a good time to help them by contributing to your favorite local non-profit. Two particularly on my radar right now are the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina and the NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund.

I would not be a good nurse or legislator if I didn’t end this newsletter with advice you’ve likely memorized by now:  wash your hands frequently with soap and water; cough and sneeze into your elbow; stay away from others if you feel sick; keep your distance from those who seem ill and from those seem healthy (6 foot rule) and call your health care provider if you have classic COVID-19 symptoms of fever with cough or shortness of breath.

To preserve COVID-19 testing supplies for the very ill and for at-risk front line health care workers, individuals with mild symptoms do not need to be tested. According to the CDC they can assume they have COVID-19 (since we know there is community spread) and are instructed to self-isolate for 7 days + 3 days following their last day of fever.

By taking care of yourselves and ‘staying at home’, you are also taking care of others. Be well.

Yours in service,


The Four Seasons

The 2019 long session kicked off on a cold day in January. The majority’s budget was crafted in the warmth of spring and vetoed in the heat of summer. Fall’s beauty has taken a back seat to brief floor sessions with a paucity of votes, many ‘no vote’ sessions, a few hastily called committee meetings, stripped bills with titles that in no way reflect their contents, and several nonsensical recesses of varying lengths. Like a plane without tower clearance to land, the legislature remains in a holding pattern, waiting for Speaker Moore, Senator Berger and Governor Cooper to negotiate a compromise budget.

In a controversial floor vote on September 11 (whose negative aftershocks continue to ripple through the Chamber), the House overrode Governor Cooper’s budget veto and all eyes turned to the Senate. After 6 weeks of failed attempts to flip a single Democrat to get the 30 votes needed, the Senate finally put the veto override vote on their October 28 calendar—and promptly removed it when all 50 Senators showed up. At this writing, the high stakes game of ‘cat and mouse’ continues.

Unlike the federal government where a budget impasse results in a partial government shutdown, North Carolina law requires our government to operate on the previous fiscal year’s budget until a new version is passed. The current stalemate has led to a unique work-around: passage of “mini-budget” bills to bridge funding gaps between last year’s budget and the vetoed budget. These have included salary increases for law enforcement and other state employees, as well as additional DEQ and DOT funding for disaster relief and recovery. Spending levels for these purposes were never in contention and unsurprisingly these bills passed with strong bipartisan support and then signed by the governor.

However, some controversial mini-budget bills were vigorously debated, passed with split votes and subsequently vetoed by the governor. These include bills for UNC system and community college pay (increases much lower than in the governor’s proposed budget); salaries for teachers and support staff (3.8% for teachers, 1% for support staff, no COLA for state retirees); lowering the franchise tax (revenue loss of $1 billion over 5 years); and information technology ($20 million to a private college for a new cybersecurity program although cybersecurity programs currently exist at several UNC system schools).

Teachers who’ve written to me did not support the raises in the mini-budget bill (3.9% compared to the 5% state employees received and the 8.5% proposed by the governor). Teachers have told me they want a salary plan that recognizes the significant contributions of all teachers, new and experienced, rather than one that targets a single group (i.e., new or mid-career teachers). They want to keep  critical support staff in the classroom. They also seek reinstatement of increased pay for Master’s education and national certification.

As this newsletter arrives in your inbox the legislature is returning after a 12 day adjournment. This pre-Thanksgiving session is for the purpose of redrawing Congressional maps as a gerrymandering lawsuit advances through the court system. Although the legislature should have adjourned in early July, and instead has remained in session throughout the summer and fall, we are also due to return once again on January 14, 2020 to continue the long session (the short session begins in mid-May). All pretense of a part time legislature has evaporated.

Important bills passed during a marathon long session

After a landmark partisan gerrymandering decision handed down by NC courts in late summer, many state House and Senate districts had to be redrawn (Wake county districts had already been redrawn in 2017).

This was the most open and transparent process for redistricting that North Carolina has ever undertaken. Computer-generated base maps were used to determine the initial shapes of the new districts and were drawn without partisan, demographic, or past election outcome data (court requirements). All map drawing and requests for information were done in sight of the public via live-stream. The datasets were made available to anyone who wanted to upload them to a GIS system and analyze the maps independently. Perhaps most importantly, when considering amendments that would avoid ‘double-bunking’ incumbent legislators into one district, the redistricting committees accepted only limited changes, turning back attempts from both parties to create more comfortable partisan districts.

Even with all these measures, the process was fundamentally biased and skewed. At the end of the day, legislators were gathered around the mapping computer trying desperately to ensure that they would not have to run against one another.

Legislators should not be in the business of picking our own voters. I remain convinced that we must implement independent redistricting in North Carolina. I hope you will join and support me in advocating for a new Independent Redistricting Commission.

Sexual assault
On September 19 Governor Cooper signed HB 29 “Standing Up for Rape Victims Act” into law. It provides $6 million over the next two years to collect and outsource testing of over half the current rape kit backlog, including almost all of the kits considered eligible to be uploaded to a national database for comparison against known criminals. It requires every law enforcement organization in NC to participate in a new rape kit tracking system. This is a big step in North Carolina, recognizing that every victim who undergoes the process of having a rape kit collected after the trauma of rape deserves to know that NC will do everything possible to deliver justice and protect others from future assaults.

On November 7 Governor Cooper signed S 199, “Child Sex Abuse/Strengthen Laws”. The new law tightens sexual assault laws (making it unlawful to have sex after revocation of consent and also with someone incapacitated by drugs or alcohol) and increases by a decade the time victims of child sex abuse can seek prosecution of their abusers (from age 18 to age 28).

I was proud to cosponsor the corresponding House bills and to vote for the final Senate versions.

Juvenile justice
One of the successful mini-budget bills described earlier funds additional needs of the judicial system after the passage of Raise the Age legislation, allowing 16- and 17-year-old offenders to be prosecuted as juveniles instead of adults. Sixteen new assistant district attorneys and 97 juvenile court counselor positions are now funded. Of the 16 new ADA positions, 10 are in counties with the most need. I supported this funding and voted for the Raise the Age bill last year.

Around the district

In addition to floor sessions, committee meetings and caucuses, I’ve made time for the following:


June. I was the keynote speaker for the North Carolina launch of HepConnect, a new 6-state initiative to increase education, testing and treatment of hepatitis C, the most common cause of liver failure/transplantation. The combination of education outreach, harm reduction programs, increased screening, and new curative therapies can reduce the incidence and spread of hepatitis C and the need for transplantation. *Later in the month I joined Rep. Graig Meyer and Rep. Holly Grange to speak to health IT business owners and employees at the Digital Health Happy Hour.

July. I met with home health representatives about increasing Medicaid rates for in-home nurses and personal care aides. I have perspective as a legislator as well as a former public health nurse who made home health visits in inner city and rural Wake County. *I participated in a well-attended Wake County delegation ‘listening tour’ at American Legion Post 67 in Cary. *I was a panelist at the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Health Care Forum. *The energy and sense of community was inspiring when I participated in the ribbon cutting for Alston Ridge Middle School. Principal Rick Williams was tapped to lead this new western Wake county school after many years as principal of Davis Drive Middle School.

August. As always, I enjoyed the annual Indian Independence Day events held at the Hindu Society of North Carolina in Morrisville. *It was a thrill to be present during Governor Cooper’s announcement that Xerox will open its next Center of Excellence in Cary, bringing 600 jobs and investing $18.4 million in Wake County.

September. Along with other state and local leaders, I attended the first sustainability event sponsored by the Cary Chamber and held at MetLife in Cary.

October. At the RLGH Against Gun Violence rally I provided a working context on this public health emergency from my experience as a legislator, nurse practitioner and former Wake County public health nurse.

November. Along with Cary Council members, county commissioners and library officials, Rep. Allison Dahle and Rep. Julie von Haefen, I cut the ribbon for the official opening of the Cary Regional Library. Hundreds of Cary citizens turned out for this long-anticipated facility overlooking the Cary Downtown Park. Groundbreaking for the final phase of the park is planned for spring 2020.


I value and enjoy my connections with local elected leaders. Understanding their priorities, knowing their views on pending legislation and hearing details about the additional tools they need to meet the needs of their citizens helps inform my votes. I make it a point to give municipal leaders a ‘heads up’ about bills that will impact local government in general or their town in particular.

Over the summer I had lunch with Morrisville council members and staff, met with Lana Hygh, assistant to the Cary town manager, and had many issue-specific communications with council members from Apex, Cary and Morrisville. I receive a lot of email from parents with school board questions and my go-to Wake county school board members are Lindsay Mahaffey and Bill Fletcher who represent schools and students in western Wake County. Our county commissioners are always a call or email away, very accessible and eager to help. Governing is a team sport.

Business Focus

I belong to the Apex, Cary and Morrisville Chambers of Commerce as one way to stay abreast of the interests and needs of businesses and business owners in the district. I attend monthly Cary Chamber ‘eye-opener’ breakfast meetings and in July was moderator for the Morrisville Chamber’s health care issues forum. In August I attended the annual Cary Chamber leadership dinner (I’m the senior member of the western Wake delegation). At the Cary Chamber’s annual September banquet I was honored to introduce keynote speaker NC Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland. These Chambers are energetic organizations that make our communities great places to live, work, play and own a business.

Paying it forward

As a legislator and nurse practitioner, I get frequent invitations to speak with graduate students, leadership program participants, and other groups interested in the intersection of policy and politics. Since January I’ve talked with health policy students at Case Western, Wake Forest, Duke and UNC-Chapel, as well as at the NC Nurses Association Leadership Academy, during the government session of Leadership North Carolina Class XXVII, and at the NC Nurses Association annual convention in Winston Salem.


Each session I have the opportunity to sponsor 5 local high school students as House Pages for one week. Pages attend floor sessions and committee meetings, distribute meeting materials to legislators and generally learn a lot about how the legislature actually works. This session I had the privilege of sponsoring:

John D’Ambrosio, Panther Creek
Caroline DeMaayer, Green Hope
Juhi Dighe, Panther Creek
Tarun Karthikeyan, Panther Creek
Tiffanie Lee, Green Hope

If you know a rising high school junior or senior living in District 41 and interested in serving as a House Page, application information is typically available at in January each year. They may also contact my legislative office at 919-733-5602 or Once my allotted slots are filled (this happens quickly) I refer students to other legislators who may still have availability.

I also had the pleasure of working with two legislative interns this session, Tyler Ross and Samantha Saunders. These energetic students worked in my office for several weeks as part of their undergraduate college experience. I was fortunate to share these interns with my seatmate in the House, Rep. Brian Turner of Asheville.

Leadership opportunities

Along with two senators and another House member I co-chair the new bipartisan municipal caucus for legislators who served in town/city government before election to the General Assembly. Caucus goals are to improve understanding of municipal issues among legislators without municipal government experience, increase understanding of how local government works, and pass legislation that improves the ability of local governments to meet their responsibilities. Our inaugural legislation is HB 557, Municipal Omnibus Bill. Among other things, it would streamline budgetary timelines, clarify right-of-way ownership for improved EMS response, and increase opportunities to use Parks and Recreation Trust Funds by local governments in Tier I and Tier 2 counties. After favorable reports in 3 committees, it passed the House unanimously on June 26 and was referred to the Senate Rules committee where it remains.

I’m completing my second year as the governor’s House appointee to the State Health Coordinating Council (SHCC). The SHCC works with a phenomenal DHHS staff to study changing regional needs for acute care beds, operating rooms, technology (like fixed and mobile MRI), behavioral health beds, dialysis stations, home health and hospice; evaluate ‘certificate of need’ applications to expand the number/availability of these services; and annually update the state medical facilities plan (SMFP). This year I’ve attended 3 full SHCC meetings, 2 acute care subcommittee meetings, and a public hearing on the proposed SMFP. It is an honor to serve on this group of 25 knowledgeable and committed individuals.

Coming up

On Thursday, December 12 at 6:30 pm I will swear in Mayor Harold Weinbrecht for his 4th term and Council member Lori Bush for her 3rd term on the Cary Town Council. I had the great pleasure of serving with Harold and Lori before my election to the House. Cary is fortunate to have visionary leaders who serve with integrity.

Rep. Cynthia Ball, Rep. Joe John and I plan a community forum at the Morrisville Town Hall in January. The format will be brief remarks by us with the majority of the time devoted to questions from and discussion with attendees. Stay tuned for an announcement of date, time and other specifics.

Thank you…

…for the opportunity to serve as your representative in the House. I appreciate and benefit from constituent feedback. You may contact me at or 919-733-5602

Yours in service,


March Madness Isn’t Just About Basketball

March is the mid-point of a 3 month NCGA marathon to get policy ideas fleshed out, bills drafted and sponsors lined up—all before a self-imposed legislative clock runs out.

Most bills fit into 5 categories—local bills (affecting 13 or fewer counties); statewide public bills that raise or spend money (one category) and those that do not (a separate category); bills with recommendations from study commissions; and bills with recommendations from state agencies. Each category has a different bill drafting and bill filing deadline spanning the weeks between early February and late April. What begins as a bill filing stroll transitions to a jog and ends as a breathless sprint as each of these deadlines approaches, closely followed by the equivalent of the final buzzer—the May crossover deadline when a bill must pass in at least one Chamber to continue its journey toward becoming law. Some bills are exempt from the crossover deadline by virtue of the subject matter or the inclusion of fees, but most must pass this hurdle or lose eligibility for consideration during the session.

There is actually a method to this kind of madness.

With 35 bill drafting staff and 120 House members (each with the potential to file an unlimited number of local bills plus 15 public, study or agency bills), these deadlines are intended to make staff workload manageable. In the 2017-18 long session more than 1200 House bills were filed. With a little more than a week remaining before this year’s final bill filing deadline, only 736 House bills had been filed. A full court press is underway to make the final filing deadline.  You do the math.

What follows is a sample of the bills I’ve sponsored and cosponsored this session by 3 important categories (I’m a primary sponsor for bills in bold). Clicking on the bill name will take you to a page exclusively about that bill. From this page you can click on a link to read the bill in its entirety or—for a quick overview of what the bill establishes in new law and/or changes in current law—click on the Bill Digest or Bill Summaries links. Other information you’ll find on the page: bill filing date, sponsors and cosponsors, committee assignments, progress from committee to committee, the dates and results of floor votes, and (by clicking the vote count) which Representatives voted for and against the bill. Note: Most bills have not yet made it to a floor vote. Because of a new House rule this session, all bills have a final hearing by the Rules Committee before going to the floor.


HB 56, Arts Education
HB 79, Community College & High School Adjustment
HB 124, Smart Start Funds
HB 194, Community College & High School Calendars
HB 248, Restore Longevity for Teachers
HB 297, Psychology Interjdtl. Compact (PSYPACT)
HB 359, $15/hour for Noncertified School Employees
HB 457, Restore Masters Pay
HB 522, After School Robotics Grants
HB 524, Additional Funds for School Nurses

FYI, I cosponsor all bills that give local school boards calendar flexibility.

Health and Safety

HB 5, Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap
HB 75, School Mental Health Screening Study
HB 114, Prepaid Health Plan Tax
HB 133, Veterans Health Care Pilot
HB 184, Study State Health Plan Design
HB 185, The SAVE Act
HB 269, Carolina Caregivers Act
HB 388, Immunizing Pharmacists
HB 393, Modernize Sexual Assault Laws
HB 480, NC Cancer Treatment Fairness
HB 555, Modernize Telemedicine Policies
HB 725, Strengthen Youth Tobacco Prevention/Funds 

Economic Development

HB 329, Exempt EV Stations
HB 363, Craft Beer Distribution & Modernization Act
HB 387, Electric Co-op Rural Broadband
HB 399, Historic Preservation
HB 479, Study Solar Facility Decommissioning
HB 487, Short Term Workforce Training Funds
HB 549, Matching Funds for Affordable Housing
HB 569, One NC

Other happenings inside the legislature

Along with Representative Stephen Ross (R-Alamance) and Senators Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) and Ted Alexander (R-Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln) I co-chair a new Municipal Caucus supported by the NC League of Municipalities (NCLM). By engaging other House and Senate members with local government experience, our goal is to keep issues affecting municipalities top-of-mind, speaking out against legislation harmful to local governments while promoting bills that assist local elected officials and town staff meet their responsibilities without interference. Following our first meeting Rep. Ross and I filed HB 557, Municipal Omnibus Bill. Representative Ross is the former mayor of Burlington, Senator McKissick served on the Durham City Council and Senator Alexander is the former mayor of Shelby. If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter you likely already know that I served 7 years on the Cary Town Council, the last three years as Mayor Pro Tem.

Senator John Alexander and I co-chair the 16 member Wake county legislative delegation (11 House members, 5 Senators). Since February the delegation has met with Wake county commissioners; Wake county school board members and Superintendent Dr. Cathy Moore; Wake county mayors; representatives of Alliance Behavioral Health (provider of mental health services for Wake county residents receiving Medicaid); Raleigh citizens concerned about a 2015 zoning law change; and the new president of Wake Technical Community College Dr. Scott Ralls.

Around the district

Coming up, a return to Alston Ridge Elementary School to speak to Mrs. Pride’s 3rd grade class about state government and how laws are made; accompanying Apex Meals on Wheels volunteers; and touring the American Airlines call center in Cary. Photos will be included in a future newsletter.

Please stay in touch and give me the benefit of your feedback and input. Call 919-733-5602 or email

Yours in service,


All about the (proposed) budget

The budget process

The biennial budget dance began March 6 when Gov. Roy Cooper rolled out his proposal: $25.2 B for fiscal year (FY) 2019-20 and $25.96 for FY 2020-21, described as containing “visionary investments in education, health care and infrastructure with no tax increases”. In this budget the state’s 10% share of Medicaid expansion is funded by assessments on hospitals and prepaid health plans (PHPs, aka Medicaid managed care companies). Whether and how to expand Medicaid will be a complicated process and likely handled separately from the budget.

The Governor’s proposed budget is just that—suggested spending based on revenue projections and his administration’s spending priorities. It will be followed in coming months by the legislative budget, starting as a House bill (the House and Senate alternate initial budget writing every 2 years). Once the House budget bill passes the Appropriations committee (typically with amendments), is debated on the House floor and passes after two votes on different days (again, typically with amendments), it goes to the Senate where the process is repeated.

Based on history, significant changes will be made to the budget bill in the Senate and a proposed committee substitute will return to the House for a concurrence vote. When the House votes “not to concur” (as it will), a conference committee will be appointed by Speaker Moore and President Pro-Tem Berger to iron out the differences in a conference report. The conference committee will have dozens of appointees and the ensuing budget negotiations will take several weeks. Once completed, the conference report will go to each Chamber for debate and an “up or down” vote—no amendments may be added at that point.

Without the 72 votes needed for a veto override, the legislative majority might pay more attention to the governor’s budget to avoid a veto that could stick and send them back to the drawing board as the June 30 budget deadline draws near.

Budget negotiations, Medicaid expansion, independent redistricting and ABC reform are among the issues expected to keep the legislature in session well beyond June.

Highlights of the Governor’s budget

  • 9.1% average raises for teachers over the next two years
  • Raises of 1.5% or $500, whichever is greater, in each of the next two years for state employees
  • An additional $500 a year, on top of the state employee raise, for law enforcement and corrections officers, state hospital employees and non-certified school employees such as teaching assistants
  • A one-time 2% cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees
  • Expansion of Medicaid to provide health coverage for low-income working adults
  • A $3.9 billion bond to help fund school construction and local infrastructure projects. This would be on the ballot for voter approval 2020
  • $30 million to pay community college tuition for training in high-demand professions, such as architecture and construction, health sciences, information technology, electrical line work and manufacturing
  • $6.5 million to eliminate the $50 teachers must pay for a substitute when they take a personal leave day
  • Phase out of the Opportunity Scholarships program that pays tuition for K-12 students to attend private or religious schools
  • $5 million to eliminate reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches, providing free meals to all who qualify
  • $12 million to improve prison safety
  • $6 million over two years to analyze untested rape kits across the state
  • $288 million in bonds that don’t require voter approval to pay for moving the Department of Health and Human Services offices out of buildings in Raleigh’s planned Dix Park and to expand a state lab for more air and water quality testing
  • $6.3 million and 37 new state workers to identify and regulate GenX and other emerging chemical compounds found in our drinking water
  • $1.5 million for clean energy programs, including studying the potential for offshore wind farms
  • $15 million in Medicaid funding to expand treatment options for opioid abuse
  • $1 million grants to local food banks 

Broadband in the budget

Governor Cooper’s budget also includes a heavy emphasis on economic development needs in the state’s rural communities, including funding for jobs incentives, water and sewer infrastructure, dozens of specific projects in targeted communities, and broadband internet grants including $30 million added to a $10 million broadband internet grant fund created by the legislature in 2018. Known as the GREAT program, this new grant program helps service providers afford expansion into underserved communities. Another $5 million would create a ‘Homework Gap’ program to help school districts provide mobile internet hotspots and other services for students who lack internet connections at home.

In conclusion

I will send another budget update when the House budget is introduced.

Yours in service,


March 2019 Legislative Update

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. Read more

July 2018 Legislative Update

Raleigh, NC – After the General Assembly recessed in June 2017 what is normally a 10 month break for meetings of study and oversight committees was instead punctuated with extra legislative sessions lasting a few hours to a few days. These extra sessions were called to override gubernatorial vetoes, pass special interest legislation and respond to court-ordered redistricting to correct racial gerrymandering.

Re: redistricting, a final appeal was heard and the final redistricting plan accepted by the Court in mid-February. The redrawn maps mean that this year every legislator in Wake County is running in a differently configured district (some by a little, some by a lot). District 41 lost 3 Cary precincts and acquired all but a couple of precincts in Apex and Morrisville.  Voters in the new 41 are still predominantly Unaffiliated (now 45%) with remaining voters an almost even split of Republicans and Democrats.

Short Session… a.k.a. the ‘silly season’

The short session convened May 16. As surely as July 4th fireworks follow Memorial Day cookouts, certain legislative shortcuts are common practice during this 6-8 week period.  These shortcuts are designed to fast track bills or breathe life into bills that have stalled after passing one chamber in the long session.

A favorite legislative sleight of hand maneuver is bill stripping. Case in point: S99 passed the Senate and House in 2017 with the bill title, DOI to Report Certain CTR Data. Because the House made changes to S99 it was awaiting negotiation by an appointed conference committee. Republican House and Senate budget writers removed the original language,  keeping the bill number, and changed the bill title to Appropriations Act of 2018.

Republican leaders continued to refer to this (actually brand new) bill as a conference report. They skipped committee vetting (required for regular bills) and instead allowed only an ‘up or down’ vote. Legislators could not offer amendments or have meaningful debate. Much of the House budget debate centered on the historic closed door process used by the majority and what was missing, questionable and unexplained in the budget.

Obviously the public was completely shut out of this year’s budget process with little time to react and in reality no opportunity to offer meaningful input. I was dismayed and incensed by the majority’s decision to blatantly circumvent the democratic process. This was my fourth budget and the most frustrating experience I’ve had as a legislator (so far).

Budget Disappointment

The main objective of the short session is to adjust two-year budget projections made the prior year. North Carolina’s economy continues to bounce back from effects of the 2008 recession, but recovery is incomplete and uneven across the state. Wake County, especially western Wake County, along with other urban counties, continues to experience job growth, a strong housing market and population growth. Morrisville, Apex, Cary and other Wake county towns are thriving.

Because the state’s economy is generally improving, this year’s revenue exceeded expectations by $500 M. I anticipated an opportunity for North Carolina to grow the rainy day fund and still increase investments in public education, health care and public health protection. Sadly this did not happen. The insufficiencies in the budget coupled with the secretive process used to craft and pass it meant that I voted ‘no’.

Portions of the budget made the news: raises for some teachers and state employees [but not all], funding for additional pre-K slots [not all and not enough] and an increase in the payment rate for caregivers in the CAP-D program [greatly needed]. But these and other positives did not outweigh misdirected spending, missed opportunities and just plain bad policy in the 266-page budget document.   Many of the worst budgetary decisions will negatively impact Cary, Apex and Morrisville directly and Wake County generally. The budget should reflect a state’s priorities and this budget simply does not do this in many areas.


Jordan Lake. The legislature shelved the Jordan Lake rules in 2013 in favor of solar bees (failed), again in 2015 in favor of mussels (use denied) and again in 2017 in favor of a study. In this year’s budget the rules are once shelved because the study is not finished. This pattern of delay is to appease upstream interests who do not want to comply with  development regulations intended to diminish runoff and improve water quality at the source. The result is that water quality downstream in Jordan Lake continues to be impaired, requiring more treatment than it otherwise would. Western Wake County’s drinking water continues to be a bargaining chip for groups outside Wake County.

Pre-K. The long-term value and impact of pre-K education is widely accepted and legislators give a lot of lip service to eliminating the waiting list. North Carolina received $50 M in federal block grant money ear-marked for pre-K. Instead of adding this federal money to state funds and eliminating the remaining waiting list, the budget writers used the federal funds to supplant state money, leaving a significant waiting list and redirecting   funds intended for pre-K to a non-education expenditure.

Salaries for teachers and state employees. Veteran teachers with 25+ years of experience get no salary increase. While many state employees have their hourly wage increased to $15/hour (which is terrific) there are 36,000 state employees who do not get this salary bump. State employee retirees get only a one-time 1% cost living adjustment.

Light rail. Until the budget technical corrections bill was passed two weeks after the budget bill passed, light rail projects were essentially derailed by budget language requiring that federal money be guaranteed before state funds would be appropriated, although federal transportation funding policy is clear that federal funds cannot be secured until state funds are allocated. This not-so-subtle attempt to kill light rail projects in Wake, Orange, Durham and Mecklenburg counties caused so much furor in the transit and economic development communities that it was fixed in the budget technical corrections bill.

K-3 class size. No funding (and no bond issuance) for capital improvements to build  classrooms needed to meet the state’s mandated smaller class sizes.

School nurses. $10 million for additional school mental health personnel (defiined as school nurses, school counselors, school psychologists and school social workers) and setting up a process for the Department of Public Instruction to fund needed personnel positions. The money is nonrecurring, which makes it an unreliable source for salaries, and is a fraction of what it would cost to provide the recommended number of mental health personnel at each school. It would cost $79 million per year to provide a school nurse in every school.

Disease prevention. For the 8th year in a row the life-saving Teen Tobacco Prevention Program received less than half the $17 M needed to fully fund it.

Public health. Insufficient funding for DHHS and the Department of Environmental Quality ($14.9 M needed) to address drinking water safety and quality.

Health care access. No effort to close the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid. H662, Carolina Cares, would provide coverage for an additional 300,000 North Carolinians, most of whom are working yet cannot afford health insurance, and funded by hospitals.  The language of this bill could have been included in the budget.  Instead H662, a bipartisan bill with 4 Republican primary sponsors, was allowed to die in committee.

Suicide Hotline. Completely overlooked in the budget. This oversight—which could have been caught and fixed if the budget process had been transparent and open—was only caught after the budget passed. Funding was added in the budget technical corrections bill.

Some of these slights might be easy to attribute to difficult budget decisions except that there is $107 M in pork spending in the budget. This $107 M for special projects in some Republican districts is euphemistically referred to as ‘member money’—but pork is pork no matter the creative semantics. In my opinion this money could have been better spent.

The budget passed the House 66-44 on June 1 after passing the Senate 36-14 the previous day. Governor Cooper vetoed it on June 6 and on June 12 his veto was overridden.

Good bills torpedoed

Here is just one example of short session craziness.

The number of school psychologists in North Carolina has steadily declined since the 2013-2014 school year. H933, Reciprocity/School Psychologist Licensure was one response to this need. It was a bipartisan bill allowing licensure reciprocity for school psychologists living in states bordering North Carolina.  After passing the House the bill went to the Senate where they added language about controversial ‘health benefit plans’ and sent the ‘new’ H933 back to the House for concurrence.

The problem? These ‘health benefit plans’ are not regulated by the Department of Insurance, they are allowed to ‘rate’ older and sicker people which can price them out of the insurance market, and they do not have to follow the same solvency rules that state-regulated insurance plans must. This means their members have no guarantee that funds will be available to cover their medical expenses when they are sick.

After vigorous debate, the changed-up version of H 933 failed with many Democrats and Republicans voting against it because of shared concerns about these health benefit plans. This meant that the good part of the bill—psychologist licensure reciprocity—also failed.  The following day the language of H933 pertaining to psychologists was added to an unrelated bill so that the initiative would not be lost. This bill passed the House and returned to the Senate where it died for lack of action. A sad, but unfortunately not unusual, end to a good idea.

Constitutional amendments

After vigorous debate and much controversy 6 constitutional amendments passed both chambers. The bracketed wording is what will appear on the November ballot:

  • Voter ID [“Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.”]
  • Right to Hunt and Fish [“Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.”]
  • Marsey’s Law [“Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.”]
  • Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment [“Constitutional amendment to implement a nonpartisan merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence when nominating Justices and judges to be selected to fill vacancies that occur between judicial elections.”]
  • Maximum Income Tax Rate [“Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).”]
  • Bipartisan Ethics & Elections Enforcement  [“Constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority.”]

It will be up to voters in November to determine which if any of these amendments should be added to the state constitution.  Here are my concerns about two in particular:

Voter ID.  This will limit access to voting for people of color, rural and low income citizens, the elderly and people with disabilities. The amendment includes no details about how a photo ID requirement will be implemented. If the amendment passes details are left to the legislature. This means voters will not fully know what they are voting on in November.

Maximum Income Tax Rate.  Since income tax is the biggest source of state revenue, lowering the cap precipitously could make it difficult to fund schools, health care and other public services in future economic downturns. North Carolina works best when policymakers have flexibility to pay for schools, roads, health care programs, and public safety. A 7% cap limits that flexibility, and in addition could jeopardize our AAA bond rating, important because it allows the state to borrow money at lower interest rates for roads and other infrastructure projects.

Some 2017-18 successes

I was a primary sponsor of 6 bills that became law during this biennium: H11 (reduces red tape for drivers who need handicap parking placards), H55 (authorizes Apex police to serve as SROs at Apex High School while it is temporarily relocated to Cary), H357 (updates regulation of licensed nutritionists), H399 (makes posting on social media of sexually explicit photographs by individuals 18 and older a Class H felony; makes it a Class I misdemeanor for those under 18), H550 (adds North Carolina to the enhanced nurse licensure compact making employment easier for relocating nurses, including military spouses) and H741 (authorizes DHHS to study the state’s maternal and neonatal care).

Outside the General Assembly…good news about mental health

WakeMed Health & Hospitals recently announced a collaborative effort to create a connected community to better serve individuals needing behavioral health and substance use services. The collaboration, called the Network for Advancing Behavioral Health (NABH), addresses the need for a coordinated outpatient care system across Wake, Johnston and Durham counties to help patients and families meet their health and wellness needs and improve outcomes.

The goal is to bring together community providers and resources to enhance access to the right care at the right time, to better coordinate existing resources, to address the social determinants of health and, ultimately, to improve the quality of care and outcomes for patients and families suffering with mental health and substance use issues.

January appointment

Governor Cooper appointed me to a 3-year term on the State Health Coordinating Council (SHCC), the one seat open to a member of the NC House. The group drafts the annual State Medical Facilities Plan for approval by DHHS Secretary Cohen and Governor Cooper. I have attended 5 meetings since January and will attend 3 public hearings on the proposed 2019 SMFP in Greenville, Greensboro and Raleigh in July.

Around the district

In addition to meetings with constituents and advocacy groups, since my last newsletter I have attended graduations at Panther Creek and Apex High Schools***read to first graders at Horton’s Creek Elementary on National Reading Day***participated in the annual KIRAN Walk to support domestic violence prevention in the Asian Indian community***met with Moms Demand Action to discuss gun violence***attended numerous Chamber of Commerce events in Cary, Apex and Morrisville***attended the annual Indian Independence Day celebration at the HSNC***discussed the impact of the STOP Act with groups of health care providers***served as a food judge at the Morrisville East Meets West Festival***toured a Duke Energy Coal Ash Operation in Lee county***was video-interviewed for the Institute of Political Leadership***toured the new children’s campus of Holly Hill Hospital***toured Granville Health System in Oxford and discussed challenges for rural hospitals with their leadership***recorded a podcast series on political advocacy for the NC Healthcare Association***attended monthly meetings of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health & Human Services***and celebrated at the groundbreaking of the new Cary Regional Library in downtown Cary.

Until next time

The General Assembly adjourned June 29 to reconvene at 12:00 noon on November 27. During adjournment my Legislative Assistant Suzanne Smith will be in the office Monday through Friday handling calls and emails, managing my calendar and doing research as needed to address constituent issues.

I enjoy meeting with District 41 residents and find that doing this in the district is more convenient for you and more relaxing for both of us.  If you want to chat with me between July and November please email or call 919-733-5602 and Suzanne will handle scheduling.

June 2017 Legislative Update

Budget passes…without my vote

The good in this year’s $23 B budget was overshadowed by missed opportunities, unexplained cuts and a projected $1.2 B revenue decrease by 2020 following another cut to personal and corporate income tax rates scheduled to begin in 2019. I could not vote for it.

Missed opportunities

  • With a $581 M revenue surplus heading into the budget season, the time was right to make significant progress in bringing teacher pay to at least the national average. Instead, while many teachers received an average 3.3% raise, beginning and veteran teachers were completely overlooked.
  • An additional $20 M in 2017-18 and $30 M in 2018-19 were directed to private school vouchers instead of public education. This brings total spending for ‘opportunity scholarships’ to $44.8 M in 2017-18 and $54.8 M in 2018-19 in the revised base budget.
  • No funding to solve the problem created by HB 13, thereby forcing local schools to choose between hiring new K-3 teachers or keeping art/music/PE teachers in order to meet a smaller class size mandate.
  • The rail fund cap was not repealed, hampering RTP transportation improvements needed for a swelling population.
  • The needle barely moved for state employee pay: a $1000 increase across the board for current employees; retired state employees got a 1% cost-of-living (COLA) increase.
  • Jordan Lake rules were once again delayed in favor of the using algaecides. More chemicals in our water instead of upstream mitigations proven to protect water quality.

Unexplained cuts

  • Public protection took a big hit with a $10 M cut to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Curiously this was not in the original House or Senate budgets—it showed up in the conference budget without notice to DOJ. This cut will dramatically impair DOJ’s ability to prosecute criminals, keep criminals behind bars by defending against their appeals, preserve taxpayer money by defending the state from lawsuits (some frivolous), and protect the people of North Carolina. To absorb the cut, 123 positions will need to be eliminated. Budget writers never responded to questions about why this was added to the budget.
  • The Governor’s office was cut by $1 M.  Again, no reasons given.

Revenue reduction   

Intentionally slashing future state revenue when we are so far off the mark in adequately funding public education, rural broadband access, child care subsidies and mental health and substance abuse treatment is a mystery to me. Raising the standard deduction to $20,000 in 2019 will help lower income families—especially since the elimination of the earned income tax credit. This particular tax cut is a good idea. But it does not seem wise or reasonable to give the highest earning North Carolinians a tax cut 85 times greater than average working families as the result of another drop in the tax rate. In the end I could not support the budget.

Read the entire budget bill, SB 257.

Other bills of interest

A sampling of other high profile bills that saw action during the last month of the long session:

HB 55, School Bus Cameras/Civil Penalties, authorizes school systems to use video or photographs to capture images of drivers who pass a stopped school bus, establishing citations and fines for this offense. I voted for this and it passed 74-30.

HB 581, Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws, would have stripped local governments of their authority to zone appropriately for their communities by allowing billboard companies to arbitrarily choose new locations for existing billboards. The number of distracting dynamic billboards would also have had the potential to skyrocket. This was a bad bill for our towns, our environment and for public safety. I’m happy to report it failed 48-67.

SB548, Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws/Study, ensures that public information is provided at targeted locations where human trafficking is believed to be most prevalent. I voted for it and it passed 106-4.

HB 243, Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention Act, passed both Chambers unanimously. Among its many provisions are significant changes in how opiates are prescribed for acute pain, a mandate for provider use of the controlled substances reporting system (CSRS), increased availability of naloxone for overdose reversal, and stepped-up regulatory oversight of risky prescribers—all intended to decrease the prevalence of opioid addiction, overdose and deaths.

SJR 36, Convention of States, would have called for an Article V constitutional convention. This idea proved to be very controversial on both sides of the aisle. It initially failed 53-59; I voted no. After a successful parliamentary move to reconsider it, the bill was referred to the Rules committee which means it could see action in the 2018 short session.

SB 155, ABC Omnibus Legislation (aka the Brunch Bill), among other provisions allows counties and towns to pass local ordinances for the sale/serving of alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays. It passed 73-40 and I voted for it.

We’ll be back

The House adjourned at 2:09 a.m. on Friday, June 30 and will reconvene August 3 to take up gubernatorial vetoes, on September 6 to address other issues and once more between September 6 and October 15 to consider new legislative district maps. New maps are mandated as a result of an ongoing court battle about racial gerrymandering. Most observers expect new maps to be in place before the primary election next March. Read SB 686, Adjournment Resolution, for full details of these special sessions.

Around the district

Since my last newsletter I have attended graduation ceremonies at Green Hope, Apex and Panther Creek High Schools; met with Sierra Club members about legislation adversely affecting water quality; participated in a budget press conference; attended an education policy discussion with UNC system president Margaret Spellings; offered remarks at a Cary event sponsored by Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence; breakfasted with the Cary Chamber of Commerce; attended a Go Red for Women legislative luncheon; hosted a press conference recognizing Aphasia Awareness Month; participated in the dedication of Cary’s new downtown park; and was interviewed by Morrisville Councilman Steve Rao on the 98.3 FM radio show ‘Leaders and Legends’.

During the interim, Suzanne will be in the office reduced hours but your phone messages and emails will be returned.

As always thank you for your calls, visits and emails. Keep them coming!

Yours in service,

Rep. Gale Adcock
1213 Legislative Building
16 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC 27601

May Legislative Update

Click your way through District 41
I’m excited to announce my newly launched constituent website at  Access web pages for Cary, Apex and Morrisville, Wake county government and the NC General Assembly. See a list of bills I have sponsored and co-sponsored this session and click on live links to read those of particular interest to you. There are archived legislative newsletters, photos and a quick link to contact me. Let me know what you think of it!
Senate budget lacks vision, heart 
The Senate passed a budget along party lines in the wee hours of May 12. Here are just a few of the significant differences between Governor Cooper’s recommended budget and the Senate’s budget bill (SB257):
  •  Governor:  $20 million for rural broadband access; Senate:  $250k for the Department of  IT
  •  Governor:  $30 million for infrastructure “ready sites”; Senate:  $0


  •  Governor:  $20 million for NC GROW community college scholarships;Senate:  $0
  •  Governor: 5% teacher pay raise this year and next year; Senate:  Teacher pay raise is    2/3 of Governor’s proposal
  •  Governor:  Every teacher gets a pay raise; Senate:  New and veteran teachers do not get  a raise
  •  Governor:  Eliminates pre-K wait list and provides first new funding for Smart Start in a decade; Senate:  Does half of what Governor’s budget does

Health & Safety

  • Governor: Expanding Medicaid to cover 624,000 more people and inject more than $4 billion into our economy annually, without additional state costs;Senate: $0

Mental Health

  • Governor:  Provides $12 million in mental health funds and $2 million in law enforcement to fight opioid abuse; Senate:  $250k pilot project in Wilmington

The Governor’s recommended budget invests in a better educated, healthier and more prosperous North Carolina, puts $300 M in the Rainy Day Fund and does not raise taxes or fees. The Senate budget further lowers personal and corporate tax rates, reducing future revenue and the state’s ability to fund its priorities.

This is a more detailed side-by-side comparison of the Governor’s recommended budget and the Senate budget:

Remember that the Senate budget is not the final budget. After the House votes on its version of the budget (expected June 2) differences will be negotiated in a conference committee and [if things go smoothly] the conference budget will go to both chambers for a final vote by June 30.
STOP Act passes House with my amendment
The state’s opioid problem affects small and large, rural and urban, poor and affluent communities across the nation. Close to home, Wake county opioid deaths jumped from 35 in 2005 to 62 in 2015 and Wilmington leads the nation in opioid deaths. Community leaders, health care professionals, law enforcement, the Attorney General and the General Assembly are scrambling to address this public health crisis. There is consensus that strategies must be multifaceted and address opioid prescribing and dispensing, addiction treatment and law enforcement. As a nurse practitioner in primary care I see the problem ‘up close and personal’ and have a keen interest in crafting effective solutions.
HB243, Strengthen Opioid Abuse Prevention (STOP) Act passed the House April 10 with no dissenting votes. I successfully ran an amendment that strengthens the bill by requiring all prescribers to execute a pain management agreement when opioid use will exceed 60 days. Such agreements are a best practice that decreases provider over-prescribing, patient abuse of opioids and ‘provider shopping’. Obviously I voted for this bill.
House quickly overrides 4th veto
HB 467, Agriculture & Forestry Nuisance Remedies was vigorously debated in the House on April 10 before going to the Senate where a slightly different version passed. The House subsequently voted to concur with the Senate version and the bill went to the Governor who vetoed it on May 5. Five days later the House voted to override the veto with a vote of 74-40 (72 votes were needed to override). The following day the Senate also passed a veto override. This bill (now Ch. SL 2017-11) limits the financial damages property owners can receive when they sue these businesses for negative impacts on their homes and property. Interest in this bill was driven by current litigation by homeowners living adjacent to commercial hog farms in eastern North Carolina.  I voted against HB467 and against the veto override.
Raise the Age
HB 280, Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act passed the House 104-8 on May 17. This initiative has broad support from the ACLU, the John Locke Foundation, law enforcement, the NC League of Municipalities, religious groups, Chief Justice Mark Martin and many others.
HB280 would:
• raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 16 and 17 year olds, except in the case of A-E felonies
• provide a victim the opportunity to request review of a decision and to file a juvenile petition
• increase the information available on juveniles to law enforcement and for court proceedings
• authorize school-justice partnerships statewide to reduce school based referrals to the juvenile court    system
• require regular juvenile justice training for law enforcement officers
• provide for gang assessments and enhanced sentencing for offenses committed as part of criminal  gang activity

• establish the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee

I voted for HB280.

Around the district
Since my last newsletter I have met with hospital administrators, Duke University Medical School residents, home builders, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and representatives of NC Sound Economy (coastal fisheries), the Triangle chapter of the Apartment Association of North Carolina, Wake County Retired Teachers, the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, Well Care Home Health, and the Triangle Down Syndrome Network. I have breakfasted with the Cary Chamber of Commerce, attended Cary’s second annual ‘Fest in the West’ and hosted my first Town Hall meeting (redistricting reform). For the third consecutive year I was the guest speaker at the Cary Chamber’s Business of Women ‘end of Chamber year’ luncheon.
It has been another busy month at the General Assembly and in the district. I appreciate the emails, phone calls and visits. Keep them coming!