My Legislative Priorities for 2019
The N.C. General Assembly has convened and I am ready to get to work. I would like to share 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.
Having spent my entire career working in public education, it should be no surprise that this committee is the 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 completed a study of school safety that 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. Along with other important education-related spending priorities, I will be pushing hard for this one.
Alcoholic Beverage Control
ABC is one of two committees, along with Regulatory Reform, that is new for me this year. I am excited about it, 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 believe there is bipartisan interest in reducing regulation that restricts industry growth and improves consumer options.
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 common-sense and necessary regulations protecting clean air and water and ensuring safety. 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 the adoption of renewable energy while also strengthening our rural economies. On rural broadband, I hope this committee will decrease the cost of expanding broadband by allowing governmental organizations and electric co-ops to lease their unused fiber to broadband providers.
Homeland Security, Military, and Veterans Affairs
Although North Carolina has a large military and veterans presence, most of the work done on these issues takes place at the Federal level. Thus, this committee is not particularly active. But there are some important things that we can do for the tens of thousands of veterans living in our state. One is addressing veteran suicide. I hope that we can improve access to mental health care and provide better pipelines to meaningful jobs. We also need to support our special veterans courts that keep vets out of jail and get them substance abuse treatment and other resources 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 that every time someone asks for more spending they also need to consider how we can generate more revenue. Republican tax policy since 2011 has cut billions of dollars of revenue from our budget. 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 and benefit only the already well off.
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 bipartisan efforts to institute independent redistricting so that we can end gerrymandering once and for all. I am also working closely with business and agriculture leaders on expanding growing and processing industrial hemp, which could be a major economic boon for rural areas.
And I’m always open to hearing your 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.
This article originally appeared in the News of Orange.