So much happened during the General Assembly’s short session this spring.
Some of it was positive, much of it was not.
But what is most troublesome about the recent short session is what didn’t happen.
Legislators came to Raleigh with pressing issues that deserved our full attention. Gen X continues to threaten drinking water in the eastern part of the state; aging school buildings need immediate repairs; outdated gun violence laws need to be addressed to keep families safe; school counselors and psychologists are severely understaffed in our public schools; and, several hundred North Carolinians die every year waiting for the legislature to expand Medicaid.
Most legislation filed by Democrats this session was never reviewed in committee or made it to the Senate floor for a vote. In this toxic and divisive age of politics, that isn’t particularly surprising.
Bills filed by my Democratic colleagues in the Senate calling for universal voter registration, collaborations between local farms and public schools, and making North Carolina the final state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment will remain little more than a pipe dream without balance in the General Assembly.
But even bipartisan efforts were shot down so that Republican leaders could spend their brief time in Raleigh amassing as much power as possible for themselves ahead of the November elections.
As a result, thoughtful and effective legislation that would have a positive impact on North Carolinians was left on the table.
Last year, I was one of the primary sponsors of the Public School Building Bond Act – a ballot initiative that you won’t see on the ballot this year. It asked voters to approve a $1.9 billion bond for critical school infrastructure needs across the state.
These needs will continue to go unmet in 2018.
Republicans have made alarming cuts to the Department of Environmental Quality over the past several years, which included the elimination of more than 70 water quality permitting positions. Now, we have a public health crisis on our hands with the discovery of Gen X in drinking water and even food across Eastern North Carolina. Yet, the bipartisan Water Safety Act remained untouched by the time we adjourned in June.
As gun violence continues to rise at an alarming rate across the country, state leaders need to be proactive in protecting our schools and our families. A domestic violence protection bill was tabled that would have given North Carolina courts the authority to remove guns from gun owners that could hurt themselves or someone else through an extreme risk protection order.
A similar bill called for investing in public safety with $25 million for safety measures in our public schools and $20 million each to the state’s community college and university systems; $7 million for more SROs; $40 million for more school counselors and psychologists.
An amendment was approved in the House to study the impact of Medicaid expansion. Senate Republicans defeated it.
We could be doing so much more for North Carolina families. The people’s agenda was not a priority for Republicans during the short session.
It is clear that the Republican super-majority is not working for the people.
They are so concerned with keeping their jobs that they are not doing their jobs.
That ends in November. We need to elect a legislature that actually works for North Carolina families.