The General Assembly convened this past Wednesday for its regular “short session.” As always, the primary purpose of the short session is to tweak the budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1, but there are several other important issues either still rattling around from last year or being newly introduced. Because we have colleagues working on many of these issues, this edition of Raleigh Report will be made up mostly of information from others. But before we move to specific issues, we start with a tribute to one of our own.
Honoring B Holt
Bertha “B” Holt was a state legislator for 19 years, a recipient of the NC Council of Churches’ Faith Active in Public Life Award, and a member of the Council’s Governing Board (representing the Episcopal Diocese of NC) at the time of her passing in 2010. A legislative resolution memorializing her life will be read and voted on Monday evening, May 21, in the House session that starts at 7:00. In addition, her children have invited B’s friends and colleagues to a reception at 5:45, just prior to the House session. It will be held in the 2300 Court of the Legislative Building. For a map showing parking near the Building, click here. On-street parking will also be available after 6:00. Just be sure to pay attention to areas around the Legislative Building where parking is restricted to those with special legislative plates and parking stickers.
Click here for a video from Together NC about the need for additional revenue and potential sources of more than $1 billion. Together NC is organizing phone banking. If you are in the Raleigh area and interested in helping with phone banking, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information.
Eat in Peace is a campaign being organized by North Carolinians Against Gun Violence to oppose House Bill 111. This is the wacky bill that would allow people to bring loaded, concealed handguns into bars and restaurants, including establishments which get up to 70% of their revenue from alcoholic beverages. NCGV’s focus right now is to get the NC Restaurant and Lodging Association to oppose H 111. If you think guns and alcohol are a bad combination, please sign a petition to the Association by clicking here.
H 503 is scheduled for discussion and possible vote in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, May 23, at 10:00. This bill would require food sold by school stores, in school vending machines, and at on-campus fundraisers to meet minimal nutritional standards. It would NOT impact foods sold through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. For more information from the NC Alliance for Health, click here.
Eliminating Boards and Commissions
The Joint Regulatory Reform Committee is recommending the elimination of a host of board and commissions, including the Child Fatality Task Force, the Governor’s Crime Commission, the Committee on Dropout Prevention, the Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Taskforce, the Legislative Taskforce on Childhood Obesity, and the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change. How’s that for a great collection of issues we’ve fixed and no longer need to worry with?! For a complete list, click here. Additional boards and commissions are targeted for downsizing. For that list, click here.
Cutting Unemployment Benefits
The NC Chamber of Commerce is about to release a study with recommendations that call for the General Assembly to reduce the maximum weekly unemployment benefit payment from $506 to $350 and to reduce the maximum length of state-funded benefits from 26 to 20 weeks. These changes would not apply to those already receiving unemployment benefits but to all newly unemployed people if legislation were to be adopted. For an article from the Raleigh News & Observer, click here.
What to do?
Because this session is expected to move rapidly, you should contact your senator, your representative, and the Governor on each of these issues that is important to you. Here’s how to contact them:
By telephone: All legislative offices can be reached through the legislative switchboard – (919) 733-4111.
By e-mail: Legislative e-mail addresses follow the pattern of <first name dot last email@example.com>. (Example: Speaker Thom Tillis’ address is Thom.Tillis@ncleg.net.) If you have any question about the spelling of your legislator’s name or whether your legislator’s e-mail address uses a nickname, you can confirm addresses at the General Assembly’s web site: www.ncleg.net. Look for Member Lists for the House and Senate.
By postal service mail: All legislators can be addressed at: North Carolina General Assembly, Raleigh, NC 27601-1096.
To find out who your legislators are, click here. You will find a variety of ways to search, including through your nine-digit ZIP Code. (And there’s a link to the Postal Service if you don’t know yours.) For those without Internet access, local Boards of Elections can be asked for assistance.
By phone: (919) 733-4240
By Fax: (919) 733-2120
By mail: Governor Bev Perdue
Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
–George Reed, Executive Director