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

Redistricting
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:

Events

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.

Partnerships

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.

Students

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 www.ncleg.net in January each year. They may also contact my legislative office at 919-733-5602 or suzanne.smith@ncleg.net. 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 gale.adcock@ncleg.net or 919-733-5602

Yours in service,

Gale

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.

Education

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 431, FIBERNC
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 gale.adcock@ncleg.net.

Yours in service,

Gale

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,

Gale

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.

Examples:

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 gale.adcock@ncleg.net 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
Gale.Adcock@ncleg.net
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 https://adcock.nc.house/.  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):
Infrastructure
  •  Governor:  $20 million for rural broadband access; Senate:  $250k for the Department of  IT
  •  Governor:  $30 million for infrastructure “ready sites”; Senate:  $0

Education

  •  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!

April Legislative Update

At the beginning of each 2-year legislative session the House and Senate establish formal rules. Most are procedural (committee structures and processes, floor motions, etc.) but two in particular target the legislative calendar.
Read more

HB 2 Repeal and More

HB 2 repeal

The March 30 vote on HB 142 (Reset S.L. 2016-3) was one of the most gut-wrenching votes I have taken since being elected to the House.  After hours of caucus deliberation, introspection, and after talking with and listening to many people including the Governor, I voted for the bill which passed the House 70 to 48 after passing the Senate 32-16.  I recognize that it is an imperfect compromise.  It was endorsed by Governor Cooper and he asked for and needed our support.   I respect his leadership and his refusal to give up negotiations until we found a way forward for our state.

I believe that all members voted their conscience.  I respect the struggle that each of us faced.

Repealing HB 2 means:

  • No more statewide law telling individuals which bathroom to use.
  • No more restriction on a person’s right to recover in state court when they are fired for their race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, and religion.
  • No more restrictions on localities enacting local minimum wage ordinances and other economic issues.
  • No more restrictions on localities enacting family leave policies, child welfare protections, or other policies of this type.
  • No more statewide law banning local ordinances that existed prior to HB 2.
  • No more restriction on localities’ ability to contract on terms that include protections for all individuals.
  • Beginning the process of rebuilding North Carolina’s reputation and brand.
  • Bringing back the NCAA, ACC, NBA, and other sporting events.
  • Putting North Carolina back on the list for many businesses and job creators who refuse to consider us because of HB 2.

440 million reasons

Unclaimed funds from bank accounts, insurance policies, safe deposit boxes, etc. are escheated (turned over) to the State when citizen owners cannot be located. The current escheat fund balance is $440 million.  Check if you or a family member have unclaimed cash at  https://www.nctreasurer.com/Claim-Your-Cash/Claim-Your-NC_Cash/Pages/default.aspx. Escheated funds are used for need-based higher education scholarships.

Serve the State

Did you know that North Carolina has more than 400 Boards and Commissions with 1000+ seats available for citizens to give back by stepping up? The Office of the Governor consults with all interested parties, including Department Secretaries, Board members, elected officials and the general public when filling Governor’s appointments. Learn more about North Carolina’s Boards and Commissions, see which Boards and Commissions have openings and apply online at https://governor.nc.gov/application-boards-and-commissions

Visitors at the General Assembly

The legislature has visiting groups or educational displays in one or more of our four courtyards almost every day. This month one of the most colorful, engaging and touching displays was sponsored and staffed by the wonderful volunteers at Gigi’s Playhouse. Gigi’s Playhouse is the only nationwide network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers—changing lives through free, results-driven programs for individuals of all ages, families and communities. Raleigh’s Gigi’s Playhouse is located at 2887 Jones Franklin Road, Raleigh, NC  27606. Check out the group photo in this issue and find out more at www.gigisplayhouse.org/Raleigh.

New caucuses

I attended the first meeting of the Life Sciences Caucus on March 16. As a nurse practitioner who has practiced in this area for 30 years I knew that the RTP is home to dozens of these cutting edge companies but I did not know there are more than 42,000 Life Sciences jobs in our area or that North Carolina has the most Contract Research Organizations (CROs) in the world. I look forward to learning more about how we can support these businesses and seeing what they do first hand on some local field trips. The caucus is bipartisan, with members from the House and Senate.

Sen. Ford (D-Mecklenburg), Sen. Meredith (R-Cumberland, Rep. Setzer (R-Catawba) and I have agreed to co-chair the new Municipal Government Caucus, composed of more than 3 dozen legislators who served in City or Town government before their election to the General Assembly. I am grateful every day for the 7 years I served on the Cary Town Council. That experience is invaluable to my understanding that as the government closest to the people, local governments must have the authority necessary to meet the unique needs of their citizens. I thank the NC League of Municipalities and Liz Johnson, Morrisville Town Council, for asking me to serve in this leadership role.

First veto—first veto override

HB 100, Restore Partisan Elections, Superior & District Court, passed the House 65-51 on February 22 after a spirited and often emotional debate. It passed the Senate 32-15 on March 8 and was vetoed by Governor Cooper on March 16. The House voted to override the veto on March 22; the Senate did the same on March 23 and these partisan judicial elections are now law. I voted against HB 100 and voted to uphold the Governor’s veto.

Bills I have sponsored

HB 270, the Haley Hayes Newborn Screening Bill.  Adds to 3 deadly diseases to routine newborn screening so that early treatment can improve affected children’s quality and length of life.

HB 276, Strengthen Youth Tobacco Use Prevention/Funds. Appropriates $17 M for adolescent tobacco and e-cigarette use education and prevention.

HB 298, 0.00 Alcohol Restriction – All DWI. Establishes a zero tolerance for drinking and driving after a DWI conviction.

HB 338, Establish New Nurse Licensure Compact.  Streamlines regulations and allows nurses to more easily cross state lines for employment (I voted for a similar bill for physical therapists).

HB 357, Modernize Dietetics/Nutrition Practice Act. Updates regulations for the practice of dieticians/nutritionists.

HB 399, Stop Images Taken W/O Consent From Dissemination. Protects individuals from  Internet harassment.

HB 479, Appropriate Funds for Future Health Care Jobs. Appropriates $47 M to the NC Community College system for health care job training.

All of these bills are bipartisan.

FYI, I support school calendar flexibility and am a co-sponsor of 17 bills that grant this important authority to different school systems across the state including Wake County.

Long Session Begins, Early Bills I Support

The LONG session begins

Legislators were sworn in en masse Jan 11, then returned Jan 25 for the official start of legislative business. The odd-year legislative session (aka the long session) typically starts in late Jan and ends in July. Legislative sessions have been anything but typical for several years and it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll approve the biennial budget—our most important business—and adjourn. Expect a monthly newsletter from me until we go home!

Early bills I support

HB 2, Provide Certain Property Tax Relief, adds a property tax exclusion for the surviving spouse of an emergency personnel officer killed in the line of duty who is also a North Carolina resident and who has not remarried. Referred to State & Local Government.

HB13 Class Size Requirement Changes, fixes class size restrictions included in last year’s budget but not accompanied by funding flexibility. Although an unintended consequence, this lack of flexibility threatens arts and physical education budgets in schools across the state. Class size restrictions in early grades are crucial to students’ success, but must include adequate funding for teachers and give counties sufficient time to build the necessary classrooms. When the bill was filed, I contacted WCPSS Superintendent Jim Merrill and several WCPSS Board members for their input. They shared the devastating financial impacts to WCPSS that would occur if the bill did not pass. HB 13 is also supported by NCAE and the NC Association of School Boards.  I co-sponsored HB 13, spoke on the House floor in support of the bill, and urged members to vote for it. It passed the House unanimously Feb 16 and is now in the Senate.

HB 54, Protect the Hardworking Taxpayers Act, removes the current $20,000 limitation on the income tax deduction for mortgage expense and property tax. Referred to Finance.

HB 55 Cary/Apex/Police Assistance on School Grounds, allows the Apex school resource officer (SRO) to continue to serve Apex High School students and staff during their relocation to Cary while Apex High is demolished and rebuilt.  I am a primary sponsor along with Reps Linda Hunt Williams, Nelson Dollar and Duane Hall (each of us represents Cary and/or Apex). Referred to State & Local Government.

My committees

Health; General Government Appropriations; IT Appropriations; Full Appropriations; Homeland Security, Veterans and Military Affairs; Wildlife Resources

A small move 

I’m one office down from my previous location. The new office number is 1213, in the main Legislative Building that faces Jones Street, and my phone number is the same. Please come by and say hello when you visit the General Assembly.

Please stay in touch

Let me hear from you at gale.adcock@ncleg.net or 919-733-5602.  I’m fortunate to have Suzanne Smith continuing as my Legislative Assistant.  Suzanne is the smiling face in our office and the friendly voice on the phone.  If we miss your call please leave a message.