Across North Carolina, the days are drawing ever shorter and fall is on the horizon (although you wouldn’t know it from the heat). Traditionally, the end of July has brought with it the end of the year’s legislative session. In fact, it has gone into September only once in the past 10 years. However, extensive debate looks to extend the current session, and many large issues have yet to be resolved.
My view is that we have spent too many hours debating controversial topics rather than focusing on issues that affect the day-to-day lives of citizens such as a budget, Medicaid expansion, jobs and film incentives, education funding and a transportation plan. While I believe this session has gone on too long, I’m willing to stay as long as it takes to ensure our state’s pressing needs get the time and thought they deserve.
The beginning of the end of the budgetary process has finally arrived, as both the Senate and the House have appointed conferees for the budget negotiations that will take place in the coming weeks. In a laudable show of bipartisanship, the House will be sending a total of 82 representatives, drawn from both parties, to represent the full range of North Carolinians’ values and opinions. I was honored to be named a vice chairman in this process. This role should allow me to have input into the budget’s final form.
While compromise is the nature of politics, rest assured I will not abandon the needs of our district. I am especially sensitive to the plight of school districts, which have to operate tentatively under last year’s budget without being able to accurately project their funding for the next two years. I will try to keep you up to date on the budgetary process as it continues to unfold.
On July 16, State Treasurer Janet Cowell was the guest speaker for the biweekly breakfast meeting of the Main Street Democrats. Her insights into the fiscal state of North Carolina as well as various opinions on the budget fit well with the moderate, pro-business Main Street platform. Meetings like these with leading state officials, regardless of department or agency, give Main Street members an in-depth view of the governing process and are an essential part of effectively implementing laws.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted unanimously not to concur with the Senate’s changes to House Bill 765, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2015. I was pleased to be named to the conference committee that will negotiate with members of the Senate to produce a final version of this bill. HB 765, which passed the House of Representatives as a single paragraph clarification on trucks’ use of highways, now spans five dozen pages and is packed all the way through with modifications on the way our state regulates business, government and the environment.
Although some of these reforms would certainly be good, this is yet another instance of the Senate trying to pass comprehensive legislation by stretching a House bill far past its original intent.
A fitting example of this is a Senate provision to lower the minimum age to drive an all-terrain vehicles to 6 years old. The minimum age of use was raised to 8 only a decade ago, and it defies belief that the Senate would wish to revert the age back to 6 after child ATV deaths have decreased significantly. I would like to thank all of you who have contacted my office to share your concern about this; I assure you I will do all I can to keep our children out of harm’s way.
It is now my responsibility to negotiate with my colleagues until the bill is something that the House would support. I have heard the pros and cons of many of these proposed changes as vice chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee and will continue to support logical, common-sense reforms wherever they are needed.
I am happy to report that House Bill 201- Zoning Changes/Citizen Input, of which I was a primary sponsor, has passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory. This is a common-sense bill that gives citizens a direct voice to the city council on proposed zoning changes, without allowing a small minority of landowners to silence and outweigh the voice of the majority.
I would like to take a moment to congratulate Sheriff Hubert Peterkin, the four-term sheriff of Hoke County, on his installation as the president of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. It was my pleasure to present him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest honor the state can bestow upon a citizen, at his installation at the annual sheriffs’ association convention in Sunset Beach.
Sheriff Peterkin has dedicated nearly three decades of his life to law enforcement, and our community is better for it. Under his leadership, the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office has grown and modernized to better fit the needs of our law enforcement and thus better protect our citizens. His positive influence can be seen in some of the numerous programs he has instituted or modernized, such as the EMS, domestic violence resources, child support enforcement and a gang task force.
He will soon be taking his place as president of the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association that represents North Carolina’s 100 sheriffs. I am confident that he will serve his fellow sheriffs every bit as well and tirelessly as he continues to serve the residents of Hoke County.
State Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, represents Richmond, Scotland, Montgomery, Hoke and Robeson counties in House District 66 and is chairman of the N.C. Main Street Democrats Legislative Caucus.