The rules of the General Assembly dictate that most bills for our biennial session be introduced before mid-April of 2019. I am ready to get to work and I would like to share a little bit about what my legislative agenda will be for 2019-2020. I will share a few ideas related to the five House committees I serve on and add a couple of other big picture items at the end.
Since I have spent my entire career working in public education, it should be no surprise that this committee is most important to me. As in previous years, the biggest issue facing our schools is funding for teacher pay, student resources, and school building needs. Last year the House of Representatives had a study of school safety which recommended increasing the number of student support professionals in our schools. As a social worker, I know that we have too few counselors, nurses, and school psychologists to meet our students’ complex needs. Among many important spending priorities, I will be pushing hard for this one.
Alcoholic Beverage Control
ABC is one of two committees, along with Regulatory Reform, that are new for me this year. I am excited about this one, because I believe that our alcohol laws are in drastic need of modernization. I have talked with many local brewers, distillers, and restaurateurs about things we could do to help grow our economy through the production and sale of North Carolina beer, wine and spirits. This is an incredibly complicated and controversial issue, but I am excited to engage on it.
This committee has been a catch-all for Republican efforts to reduce business regulations. Sometimes that has been good for the economy, and other times those changes have come at the expense of regulations protecting clean air and water. Two issues likely to come in front of this committee that are of particular interest to me are renewable energy and rural broadband. After years of growth, our renewable energy economy has stalled, and I am working with solar and wind energy producers to push legislation that will speed up our adoption of renewable energy while also strengthening our rural economies. Addressing our rural broadband gaps will take work from several different directions, and one effort I hope to support in this committee would make it easier for governmental organizations and electric co-ops to lease their unused fiber to broadband providers, thereby reducing the costs necessary for the expansion of broadband service.
Homeland Security, Military, and Veterans Affairs
Although North Carolina has a large military and veterans presence, most of the work done on these issues happens at the Federal level and this committee is not particularly active. But there are some important things that we can do in this area, especially for the tens of thousands of veterans living in our state. One issue that I care about is trying to address veteran suicide. I hope that we can improve access to mental health care, provide better pipelines to get veterans into meaningful jobs, and support our special veterans courts that keep vets out of jail and get them substance abuse treatment and other resources that they need in times of crisis.
The Finance Committee oversees the state’s taxation and revenue generation. Recently when fielding questions about how we can increase support for schools, health care, infrastructure and more, I have been pointing out to people that every time someone asks for more spending they also need to consider how we can generate more revenue. Republican tax policy over the last few years has cut billions of dollars of revenue from our budget, and consequently we have fallen behind on many crucial investments. Because Republicans still hold legislative majorities, I do not think we can reverse that trend this year. However, I will use my voice in this committee to fight against additional tax policy changes that make it even harder to meet our growing state’s needs.
There are many other issues that I will work on beyond what might come before me in committee. My top priority for 2019 is expanding Medicaid to give more health insurance to more than $500,000 North Carolinians and provide more than 30,000 jobs statewide. I will also be supporting bi-partisan efforts to create a process for independent redistricting so that we can end gerrymandering. I am working closely with business and agriculture leaders on expanding the growth and processing of industrial hemp, which could be a major economic boon for rural areas.
And I’m always looking for additional good ideas, so please feel free to reach out if there are additional issues that should be on my agenda. I look forward to hearing from you.
Graig Meyer is the State Representative for House District 50. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.