Q&A: Local Priorities For Legislature's Short Session
The North Carolina General Assembly is back in session today. Governor McCrory and Senate leader Phil Berger have laid out their priorities. They include teacher raises that average 5 percent, and leaving HB2 mostly intact - although the governor does want a provision repealed that deals with the right to sue. But what about the priorities of lawmakers in the Charlotte area? Morning Edition host Marshall Terry talks to WFAE's David Boraks.
MT: So we know HB2 will come up, and we’ll talk about that. But what are local lawmakers talking about.
DB: All kinds of things, some statewide issues and some very local.
Raising pay for teachers and all state workers is a top priority for Rodney Moore, the Democratic representative from Charlotte.
MOORE: We need to make sure that all of our state employees, including our teachers, are treated with dignity and respect and that we can raise them up to a wage where they can have livable wage and be able to do their jobs.
The budget also will include money for public health. Senator Jeff Tarte of Cornelius wants that to include money for a new program to fight addiction to opioid painkillers. It could start first in the state’s prisons ...
TARTE: ... because of the addiction problem we have there. In a polite way, it’s a controlled population, so we have the ability to ensure that the program’s followed and help these guys and gals get off that addiction."
Tarte also wants to set aside money to study a high number of cases of eye cancer around Hopewell High School in Huntersville, something that’s gotten a lot of media attention lately.
MT: What’s happening with teacher pay?
DB: The legislature raised teacher pay a couple of years ago, and the governor wants to see another round of raises. He’s proposing a 5 percent increase, with a goal of getting the statewide average salary up over $50,000. He’s also calling for bonuses.
Most lawmakers I’ve spoken with like the idea. Senator Jeff Jackson of Charlotte says there is a consensus on the idea of raising teacher pay. But he says McCrory’s proposal falls short of what teachers are asking for - 10 percent. He doesn’t think it will go far enough to keep teachers from leaving the system.
MT: We’re hearing that the movement against toll lanes on I-77 is still in the news, and might come up.
DB: That’s right. Representative Charles Jeter plans to file a bill calling on NCDOT to cancel the contract to build toll lanes on I-77 north of Charlotte. That’s a popular cause in the Lake Norman area during a year when he’s up for re-election.
But it’s not clear if that will go anywhere. The senate leader, Phil Berger, says he doesn’t see a need to touch the contract. Even Tarte, who lives in Cornelius and supports Jeter’s idea, says it could be an uphill battle.
MT: And what about HB 2?
DB: That’s certainly still in the air. Lots of groups want it repealed. If Senate Leader Phil Berger has his way, it won’t come up at all.
Democratic lawmakers like Senator Jeff Jackson of Charlotte think it should be the top priority in the session.
JACKSON: So we’re gonna put forth legislation to fully repeal HB 2. Right now, the senate leadership has indicated they’re not going to receive that favorably. But we think that situation is deteriorating.
On the other side of the aisle, Senator Tarte says repealing HB 2 is “completely off the table,” but he thinks it’s hard to comprehend that it won’t come up.
Tarte thinks lawmakers need to look for a compromise that will protect women and children in bathrooms but also address concerns that the bill is discriminatory.
Governor McCrory signed the bill, but he’s now calling for at least part of it to be revised - the section dealing discrimination lawsuits. So that could come up, too.