Saturday, December 30, 2006

Greetings From Raleigh 12-29-06

Holiday greetings to you and your family.

For the past month at the General Assembly, we’ve worked to wrap up the recommendations of the interim study committees before the start of the new legislative session just a few weeks away. The House is also in the process of selecting a new speaker and the House Democrats will be meeting on January 10, 2007 to make that decision.

Among the new laws we passed last session, I am proud of the decisions we made with regard to education, health care, our economy, protecting our environment, and reducing crime. Several of the new laws we approved during this year’s session will go into effect January 1, 2007. They are detailed below.

The Legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at noon. During the interim, you can contact me via email at or by calling my Raleigh office at 919-733-5771. You can also find additional information on the General Assembly at


NC Seniors: Sign Up for Prescription Drug Assistance Before Dec. 31st

All North Carolina seniors have been encouraged to sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage programs before the December 31, 2006 deadline. Seniors can call the North Carolina Rx toll-free hotline at 1-888-488-NCRX (6279) for information about whether the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan is an option for them. Low income seniors can also sign up for the North Carolina Rx program, which provides $18 per month to qualifying seniors to help pay the monthly premiums for their drug plans.

Seniors can call the hotline or visit to get information on the federal prescription drug plans and state assistance. The staff at the toll-free phone line are available to answer questions and help seniors navigate the federal Medicare Part D prescription drug plans offered and assist in filling out the paperwork. These plans cost from $17.80 to $85.90 per month, and seniors must have signed up by Dec. 31, 2006 for their coverage to begin on Jan. 1, 2007.

North Carolina Rx helps low-income North Carolina seniors who do not qualify for federal assistance to pay for Medicare Part D coverage. NCRx pays premiums for eligible seniors with incomes up to $17,150 and married couples up to $23,100. The plan also increases the amount of assets seniors may have and still qualify for assistance ($20,000 for an individual and $30,000 for married couples). Approximately 50,000 North Carolina low-income seniors are expected to sign up for this benefit during the next three years.


Updates from the Interim Legislative Study Committees…

Over two dozen different study and legislative oversight committees have been meeting since the General Assembly adjourned in July. These committees, which have looked at issues ranging from high school graduation rates, improving access to quality health care, toughening our state’s sex offender laws regarding the Internet, improving the economies of rural areas, and updating our state’s tax structure, are now in the process of wrapping up their work in order to make legislative recommendations to the entire House beginning on January 24. I have been serving on Environmental Review Commission, the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change, the House Select Study Committee on Capital Punishment, the Joint Legislative Commission on Land and Water Conservation and the House Select Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The House Select Committee on Health Care, which is one of the largest study committees, recently announced its recommendations, which included calling on the General Assembly to appropriate $15 million to various community health clinics that provide primary and preventative medical services to uninsured or medically indigent patients; implementing a high-risk insurance pool, which will provide coverage to many of the 1.3 million uninsured North Carolinians; enacting legislation that would ensure health insurance coverage for all children birth to age 18; providing additional assistance to counties with high Medicaid expenses; increasing the number of school nurses; and addressing the shortage of mental health professionals and nurses across the state.


Below is a list of new laws that take effect on January 1, 2007, which will increase our state’s minimum wage by $1; better protect our children and families and make our neighborhoods safer; help parents save for their children’s college education; reform our state’s ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying laws; and provide tax relief to our valuable small businesses.

For more details on these new laws and many others, go to the General Assembly’s website at or click on the link to the following document created by the legislative research staff: Summaries of Substantive Ratified Legislation

Minimum Wage Increase: Approximately 139,000 North Carolinians will see their paychecks increase in the New Year due to an increase in the state’s minimum wage. The state’s minimum wage will increase from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour starting on January 1, 2007. The increase, which was passed by the Legislature last summer, also ties North Carolina’s minimum wage to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. If the federal minimum wage is raised, which is one of the top agenda items for Congress this upcoming session, employees in North Carolina will receive whichever wage is higher. The federal minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour and has not been raised in nine years by the U.S. Congress. (S.L. 2006-114, HB 2174)

College Savings Tax Credit: Taxpayers will now receive a tax deduction when saving for a child’s college education if they invest in North Carolina’s “529” college savings plan. Beginning January 1, 2007, an individual taxpayer is allowed to deduct from their taxable income a maximum of $2,000 ($4,000 for a married couple filing jointly), which is contributed by the taxpayer to an account in the Parental Savings Trust Fund. The plan lets investors set aside money that can grow tax-deferred. The funds can be withdrawn free from federal tax if used to pay for college. Other states also provide state income tax benefits, but North Carolina previously did not. The new law is effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2006. (S.L. 2006-66, SB 1741, Sec. 24-12)

Assistance for Small Businesses:North Carolina will receive a tax cut starting January 1, 2007, which will result in approximately $28.7 million in tax relief over the next seven months. The assistance for our state’s valuable small businesses is due to a reduction in the income tax bracket from 8.25 percent to 8 percent. (S.L. 2006-66, SB 1741, Sec. 24.2) Small business owners who provide health insurance to employees will also receive a tax credit starting in 2007. Approximately 30,000 small businesses across Following several years of work by the House, legislators approved a new tax credit for small businesses, which will provide needed health care to more workers. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees will get a $250 credit for every employee who earns less than $40,000 and has employer-sponsored insurance. (S.L. 2006-66, SB 1741, Sec. 24.4)

Verification of Legal Work Status of Government Employees: This measure requires all state agencies, departments, universities, community colleges, and public school systems to use a federal database, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to verify the legal status of all new employees or authorization to work in the United States. The requirement applies to employees hired by the State and community colleges on or after January 1, 2007 and applies to public school employees hired on or after March 1, 2007. (S.L. 2006-259, SB 1523, Sec. 23.1)

Increasing Cable Competition, Lowering Bills for Consumers: In an effort to increase new cable programming choices and lower rates, legislators approved the Video Service Competition Act, which deregulates cable television service by replacing the current regulation of cable television service by local franchise agreements with a statewide system. Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, the measure will phase out local franchise agreements between cable providers and city and county governments and open up service areas to competing companies that apply to the state for coverage areas. Any company that wants to provide pay television service over phone lines or broadband Internet can register with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Supporters of the legislation say that it will help consumers by increasing competition among various cable providers, although the final legislation regrettably did not include several measures designed to protect the consumer. The new law also ensures municipalities at least two public access channels to air local or government programming, and money to help with operating costs. The state Attorney General’s Office will investigate complaints about video programming under the statewide franchise bill. Telephone companies have been pushing for such legislation around the country, and several states are considering it, with a few, including South Carolina, approving such proposals this year. (S.L. 2006-151, HB 2047)

Protecting Children from Sex Offenders: Sex offenders in North Carolina now face much stricter registration regulations due to a new law that took effect on December 1, 2006. Starting January 1, 2007, the State takes another step forward as it launches a new Global Positioning System (GPS) Monitoring program, which will track some of the state’s worst predators by using a collection of satellites owned by the United State Government that provide highly accurate worldwide positioning and navigation information 24 hours a day.

All offenders must comply with tougher registration requirements, which will give authorities more chances to update addresses and photographs. The new law also prohibits a sex offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center and bars offenders from working or volunteering in a position where they would interact with minors.

Legislators also included $1.5 million in the budget to upgrade the state’s sex offender registry, which will be unveiled in early 2007, implement the global positioning system (GPS), and establish an email notification program so citizens can be notified when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood. (S.L. 2006-247, HB 1896)

8-Year Driver’s License Renewal: Drivers who are at least 18 years old and younger than 54 years old will now be able to renew their driver’s license every eight years. Licenses issued to those 54 and older will expire five years after the date of issuance. Full provisional licenses issued to drivers younger than 18 will expire on the individual’s 21st birthday. A driver’s license issued to a person who holds a visa of limited duration will be issued for the duration of the visa only. The new law will not only be more convenient and efficient for drivers, but will also centralize license production and improve the security of the state’s driver’s licenses by giving DMV officials more time to verify applicants’ identification information.

Starting July 1, 2008, the Division of Motor Vehicles will issue a driving certificate, valid for 20 days, to driver’s license renewal applicants instead of a new driver’s license right away. The temporary driving certificate is not valid for identification purposes. The new license will be mailed to allow officials more time to verify identification information. Those in the military service and stationed outside the state or those who are living outside North Carolina for more than 30 days can renew their licenses by mail. Information about license renewals and other DMV services is available online at or by calling 1-877-DOT-4YOU (368-4968). (S.L. 2006-257, HB 267)

New Crime Fighting Positions: This year’s budget included much-needed funding to reduce crime in our communities and hire additional staff for our courts system. Starting in January, our state’s 41 prosecutorial districts will have additional full-time assistant district attorneys, including three here in Guilford County. And, beginning on January 15, there will be 17 additional district court judges in designated districts across the state, including one in Guilford County. Governor Mike Easley will appoint the new judges, and those judges’ successors will be elected in the 2008 election for 4-year terms beginning on January 1, 2009. (S.L. 2006-66, Sec. 14.3 and 14.4, SB 1741)

New Campaign Finance and Election Laws: Legislators passed numerous campaign finance and election law reforms during this year’s session, which take effect on January 1, 2007. Candidates will now be required to report all contributions over $50 (previously $100) and will only be allowed to receive $50 or less in cash contributions (previously $100), contribution checks must be completely filled out, and all campaign treasurers will now have to go through more frequent training. (S.L. 2006-195, HB 1846)

Several election law changes are also taking effect, including: allowing county boards of elections to begin, but not complete, the process of counting mailed absentee ballots before Election Day; a voter needing to change their voter registration because of a move is not required to provide the date of the move, but only attest that the move occurred at least 30 days before the next election; and except for the envelop, provisional ballots shall not be marked to be identifiable to a voter. (S.L. 2006-262, HB 128)

Third party candidates in North Carolina will now have an easier time getting on the ballot. Starting January 1, 2007, political parties must receive two percent of the total vote in a gubernatorial or presidential race to qualify as a political party and maintain that status for the following election cycle. The previous threshold was 10 percent. A new political party must certify its candidates to the State Board of Elections no later than June 1 preceding the general election, and, to be placed on the ballot, an unaffiliated candidate must present a petition with signatures of two percent of voters who voted in the most recent election for Governor and at least 200 voters from each of four congressional districts. Also, an individual whose name appeared on the primary election ballot is ineligible for nomination by another party for the same office in the same year. A group’s status as a political party will be terminated in the event it fails to meet the two percent test. Even though the percentage was lowered, small parties still face a formidable task in gathering about 69,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Third parties, including the North Carolina Green Party, argued that a better standard would be 17,000 signatures. Only one third party candidate in contemporary North Carolina history has ever met the 2 percent standard. Scott McLaughlin, a Libertarian candidate for governor, drew 4 percent of the vote in 1992. (S.L. 2006-234, HB 88)

Instant Runoffs Coming to North Carolina: North Carolina will take part in a pilot program for instant runoff elections in 2007 and 2008, which is expected to increase turnout and save counties money by not having to hold a second runoff election following a primary. The State Board of Elections will select up to 10 cities for the 2007 elections and ten counties for the 2008 elections to participate in an instant runoff pilot program. No county will be forced to participate. In an instant runoff, voters would be allowed to rank their order of preference among the candidates running in a primary election. The first choices of voters initially would be tallied. If the leading candidate failed to win more than 40 percent, the top two candidates would advance to the “instant” runoff. Election officials would then examine the ballots of voters whose preferred candidate was eliminated. The remaining candidates would get votes for being the highest-ranked alternative choice. Those votes would be added to their original tally and the candidate with the most total votes would win.

Second primaries will now be held seven weeks, instead of four, after the first primary. The new law also establishes procedures for candidates in plurality elections to participate in the NC Public Campaign Fund, and clarifies that if the Fund is insufficient to fully fund all certified candidates, a candidate may make up the difference through private contributions in an amount up to the candidate’s Fund eligibility amount. (S.L. 2006-192, HB 1024)

Stronger Lobbying and Ethics Laws: During the last two years, legislators have reformed and strengthened our state’s lobbying and ethics laws in an effort to require greater disclosure of lobbying activities, ban gifts and campaign contributions from lobbyists, and establish the State Ethics Act and State Ethics Commission. During the 2005 session, lawmakers passed SB 612 (S.L. 2005-456), which requires lobbyists to file monthly disclosure reports during sessions of the General Assembly and quarterly during the interim periods, beginning on January 1, 2007.

In 2006, lawmakers passed additional reform measures as part of the State Government Ethics Act (S.L. 2006-201, HB 1843), which was the largest, most comprehensive lobbying and ethics bill passed by the N.C. General Assembly in 30 years and one of the toughest in the nation. The new law strengthens ethics regulations and establishes high ethical standards for elected and appointed officials in the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government, along with boards and commissions. In addition to the new ban on gifts and campaign contributions given by a lobbyist, there is a new six month “cooling off” period, which was instituted for legislators, members of the Council of State, and State department heads who want to become a lobbyist after leaving office.

A new independent, eight-member State Ethics Commission was established on October 1, 2006 and will officially begin its work on January 1, 2007. The group will receive and evaluate financial disclosure forms, investigate complaints, provide advisory opinions, and make recommendations of sanctions to appropriate authorities. The commission has the authority to investigate complaints regarding legislators and may issue advisory opinions, and when appropriate, will refer the matters to the Legislative Ethics Committee for final action. Similarly, the commission has the authority to receive complaints regarding judges and can begin initial investigations, and where probable cause exists refer the matter to the Judicial Standards Commission.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!



Thursday, November 30, 2006

Assistance For Riegelwood Tornado Victims

Governor Mike Easley and other state officials are encouraging all North Carolinians to help the families in Riegelwood who have suffered so much. The November 16th storm, which was the state’s second-deadliest tornado in 50 years, claimed the lives of eight people and damaged or destroyed at least 35 homes, leaving about 100 people homeless.

For those wanting to help the tornado victims, the Community Foundation of Southeastern North Carolina has set up the Riegelwood Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. Tax deductible contributions can be sent to: Community Foundation, 321 North Front Street, Wilmington, NC 28401 or visit the foundation’s website at The Red Cross and Salvation Army are also accepting donations that should be designated “Riegelwood Tornado.” For information about the recovery or how to donate to the relief efforts, the public can also call the Governor’s Emergency Bilingual Hotline, 1-888-835-9966.

Please feel free to continue to contact me on matters of concern to you.

Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful holiday season.



Opportunities For High School Students To Be A Legislative Page

The N.C. House Page program offers high school students (ages 15 to 18 or those currently in the ninth grade) the opportunity to see firsthand how laws are made by participating in the legislative process. I am permitted to sponsor up to five pages from my district for the upcoming session, which begins on January 24. Pages will serve for one week with duties such as participating in daily session and committee meetings. To read more about the House Page program, please visit Interested students should contact my office at 919-733-5771 or for an application. Due to the popularity of the program, it is best to submit an application as early as possible.

Laws That Take Effect December 1st, 2006

Following are brief descriptions of new laws that take effect on December 1, 2006 which will better protect our children and families and make our neighborhoods safer. Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information on these issues or any others that were considered by the General Assembly during this year’s session.

Protecting Children from Sex Offenders (S.L. 1006-181, HB 1896): Sex offenders will face much stricter registration regulation in North Carolina beginning December 1. The new law also prohibits a sex offender from living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center and bars offenders from working or volunteering in a position where they would interact with minors. Some of the worst predators face lifetime satellite monitoring under a new global positioning system (GPS), and all offenders must comply with tougher registration requirements, which will give authorities more opportunities to update addresses and photographs.

Legislators also included $1.5 million in the budget to upgrade the state’s sex offender registry, implement the global positioning system (GPS), and establish an email notification program so citizens can be notified when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood.

Cracking Down on Drunk Drivers (S.L. 2006-253, HB 1048): North Carolina’s drunk driving laws will get tougher beginning December 1. The new law will better protect the public from the dangers of drunk drivers by strengthening existing driving while impaired (DWI) laws and making sure they are applied fairly and consistently throughout the state.

The new law limits a judge’s discretion to find a DWI defendant not guilty if the breathalyzer test results show a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater. It requires prosecutors to document and report their reasons for dismissing DWI cases, which the Administrative Office of the Courts can post on its website. It expands the definition of impaired driving to include the presence of any amount of illegal drugs in the blood.

It also adds to the list of DWI-related crimes, including a new category of charges when an individual who is driving while impaired injures a victim. The law also adds new categories and stiffer penalties for those with DWI convictions who injure or kill others in accidents. The new categories and penalties are:
Felony Serious Injury – A person who unintentionally causes serious injury while driving impaired is guilty of a Class F felony; Aggravated Felony Serious Injury – A person who intentionally causes serious injury while driving impaired and has an impaired driving conviction within seven years of the offense is guilty of a Class E felony; Aggravated Felony Death – A person who unintentionally causes the death of another while driving impaired and has an impaired driving conviction within seven years of the offense is guilty of a Class D felony; Repeat Felony Death by Vehicle Offender – A person who has a previous conviction for causing a death while impaired and is convicted a second time for a felony death by vehicle is subject to punishment under the second degree murder statute, which is a Class B2 felony.

In addition to current bans against under-aged possession and purchase of alcohol, the new law makes it illegal for a person younger than age 21 to consume alcohol. The law previously prohibited only under-aged possession and not necessarily consumption. The bill also requires anyone purchasing a keg of beer to first obtain a permit from the vendor to help trace beer purchasers.

Seat Belt Use Enhancements (S.L. 1006-140, SB 774): All vehicle passengers, including those in the back seat, will now have to buckle up in North Carolina. The new law mandates seatbelt use for all riders in a passenger vehicle. The law takes effect on December 1, but for the first six months – until next July – law enforcement officers will not issue tickets, only warnings. Beginning on July 1, 2007, back-seat passengers who are not wearing a seat belt would get a $10 ticket; however, it would only be a secondary violation, meaning law enforcement cannot stop a vehicle solely for a seat belt infraction.

Supporters of the legislation said 70 percent of back-seat passengers who died in North Carolina accidents in recent years were not wearing a seat belt. Currently, only 36 percent of passengers use seat belts in the back seat, compared with 86 percent in the front seats. Of the more than 1,100 deadly crashes in 2004, seatbelts are credited with saving more than 600 lives. Almost 20 other states, including South Carolina, have passed back-seat belt use laws, which was also a major recommendation of North Carolina’s Child Fatality Task Force.

Cell Phone Use Prohibited for Drivers Under 18 (S.L. 1006-177, SB 1289): Teenagers will now be prohibited from talking on their cell phones while driving. Motorists under the age of 18 caught using a cell could face a $25 fine and an extension to their graduated driving period. Like other graduated licensing rules, this law is designed more as a tool for parents than a tool for law enforcement. The bill makes exceptions for teenagers speaking with parents, law enforcement and spouses. According to supporters of the bill, more than 21 percent of all highway fatalities occur in crashes involving teenage drives. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among North Carolina teens, with more than 400 killed in the past five years. Drivers using mobile phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than those who aren’t. The legislation was recommended by the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force.

Disorderly Conduct During a Funeral or Memorial/Military Service (S.L. 1006-169, SB 1833): Anyone who displays visual images, yells, or uses abusive language within 300 feet of the funeral or memorial site will be guilty of a misdemeanor under a new law aimed at protecting families from protests at funerals. The bill originally targeted military services, but now covers all funerals. The protest ban would begin one hour before the funeral and end one hour after the conclusion of the funeral. According to bill sponsors, 31 states this year have filed similar bills, with 14 signed into law. The federal law, enacted earlier this year, applies only to national cemeteries; state laws would have a broader effect.

Increased Penalty for the Assault of a Handicapped Person (S.L. 1006-179, SB 488): The criminal penalty for a simple assault or battery on a handicapped person will increase from a Class 1 to a Class 1A misdemeanor.

Early Holiday Gift: Sales Tax Cut Goes Into Effect December 1st, 2006

North Carolina consumers will see savings at the checkout counter due to a cut in the state sales tax rate that goes into effect Friday, December 1 – just in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Legislators approved a reduction of the state’s sales tax earlier this summer, reducing it from 4.5 percent to 4.25 percent. It is estimated that this tax cut will save our state’s taxpayers $140.1 million during the next seven months. Additional tax cuts take effect on January 1, 2007. You may remember that a temporary sales tax was enacted in 2001 during the height of the recession; this reduction and the additional cut on January 1, 2007 represent the expiration of that temporary tax.

Greetings From Raleigh 11-30-06

Following the November 7 election, my attention was quickly claimed again by work and responsibilities related to my current term. Interim committees have regained momentum as we work to wrap up the study mandates legislated during the 2006 session. I am sitting on the following study commissions: the Environmental Review Commission; the House Select Committee on Capital Punishment, the House Select Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine; the Legislative Committee on Global Climate Change, and the Joint Legislative Commission on Land and Water Conservation. I have also been working with Representatives Alma Adams, Maggie Jeffus, and Laura Wiley on the Eastern Guilford High School situation, in addition to other local issues including proposed new rules impacting parents who serve as guardians of their disabled adult children.

I’m very proud of the progress we made during the short time we were in Raleigh this past summer on education, health care, the economy, our environment, and reducing crime. Several of the new laws that we approved will go into effect tomorrow, December 1st.

The Legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at noon. I will be hosting a reception in the space adjacent to my office that day prior to the swearing in ceremony.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thank You!

I am deeply grateful for the support of every constituent in the 57th District who went to the polls on November 7 and voted for me to represent them in the North Carolina House for the next two years. I pledge to every citizen my wholehearted attention to your concerns and ideas about how we can make our city, county, and state a better place in which to live.

Needless to say, I could not have succeeded without my friends who worked enthusiastically and tirelessly as volunteers. Their time and energy were awesome and made the difference in the outcome. I am humbled by the number of people who volunteered and the number of hours they gave to my campaign.

I promise to “keep my sleeves rolled up” and work hard so that those who voted for me will be proud they did. It was a solid win and a show of support for the work we started in my first term.

THANK YOU for your support!!


Friday, November 03, 2006

Committee Work Continues

Even though the Legislature is not in session, we’re still busy at work in Raleigh on numerous study committees, which are meeting during the interim and will make recommendations for legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. I’m serving on several interim standing and study committees including the Environmental Review Commission, the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change, the House Select Study Committee on Capital Punishment, the Joint Legislative Commission on Land and Water Conservation, and the House Select Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Topics being studied by other committees include high school graduation and drop out rates, school construction needs, the rising cost of health care and increasing access to affordable care, landfills, Internet predators, and issues related to senior citizens and aging. Below is an update on several recent committee meetings.

Ø The House Select Committee on High School Graduation and Drop-Out Rates has held several meetings in Raleigh, with plans for meetings around the state, as it studies ways to ensure students receive a quality education and graduate. The committee is looking at the benefit of raising the current compulsory attendance age above 16 years old, the effectiveness of high school reform efforts in recent years, effective education programs in other states, and the economic, social, and criminal impact on a student’s life if they drop out of school.

Education Week Magazine recently cited a national study showing North Carolina’s high school graduation rate at 66 percent. Among African American males it is 49 percent and Hispanic males graduate only 47 percent. North Carolina is ranked 45th in the nation in the percent of ninth graders who graduate four years later, with only 41 percent entering college and 19 percent graduating with an associate or bachelor degree within six years. Our state’s dropout rate also has a tremendous impact on our economy and society. A high school dropout in 2000 had less than a 50 percent chance of getting a job. That figure drops to 25 percent for African-American students. The dropout’s job will earn less than half of what the same job earned 20 years ago. Wages are increasing only for those with at least a college education, and a lack of education is increasingly correlated with incarceration and a dependence on welfare.

Governor Easley and legislators have created several new programs in recent years aimed at increasing high school graduation rates and encouraging more students to attend college. The Learn and Earn early college high schools initiative provides high school students the opportunity to graduate in five years with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree or two years of college credit. North Carolina launched the New Schools Project to assist in the creation of small, economic development-themed high schools across the state. The smaller high schools focus on growing economies and job sectors by offering classes in health care, computer technology, biotechnology, and engineering based on a student’s interests and possible future career.

Ø The House Select Committee on Public School Construction is studying ways the state and counties can build the schools needed to accommodate tens of thousands of new students each year. North Carolina will need to spend close to $10 billion over the next five years on school renovations, new buildings and furniture. The $2,372,013 from lottery proceeds recently allocated to Guilford County for school construction will supplement local school construction funds.

The legislative panel, as well as other organizations across the state, has held several recent meetings to discuss possible options for financing school construction projects, bond referendums, public-private partnerships, lottery funds, and the possible use of alternative facilities, such as empty buildings like grocery stores, for schools. Since 2000, the rate of enrollment in the state’s high schools has increased three times faster than in elementary and middle school, but experts expect the trend to change in the next five years. Elementary enrollment in the next five years is expected to grow twice as much as middle schools and eight times larger than high schools, according to a state survey. According to a recent facility needs survey, North Carolina has more than 7,000 mobile units and temporary classrooms, which act as classrooms for about 178,000 students.

Ø The Joint Select Committee on Environmental Justice, a panel created to evaluate the impact of present and future landfills on minorities and the poor, recently heard testimony regarding a study on the location of landfills across our state. Adjusting for population density, the report found solid-waste facilities were twice as likely to be located in a community where more than 10 percent of residents were minorities. The odds of a community having a landfill were 40 percent higher in an area with average home values less than $100,000 compared with more than $100,000. However, since 1990, landfills were permitted less often in low-wealth housing areas without landfills.

The Select Committee on Environmental Justice was created by legislation passed this summer, which I pushed for, that placed a one-year moratorium on permitting new landfills in North Carolina. The ban, which took effect August 1, delays development of at least four proposed mega dumps that would expand the state’s narrowing landfill capacity. The panel is expected to recommend early next year how to ensure that human health concerns and citizen equity are protected when landfills are considered. The Environmental Review Commission, on which I sit, is examining how to improve rules on permitting landfills.

Please be in touch if you have questions or comments.



School Saftey Measures To Be Reviewed

In the wake of recent school violence across the nation, Governor Mike Easley has asked Secretary Bryan Beatty of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety and Attorney General Roy Cooper to coordinate a comprehensive review of North Carolina’s school safety programs. They will work with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the State Board of Education, and the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to assess current efforts and determine if additional measures should be taken to better protect the state’s school students.

As part of the effort, Easley also asked the State Board of Education and DPI to ensure that school superintendents across the state begin an immediate review of their district’s safety plans for completeness and coordination with local emergency response agencies. Governor Easley also asked Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker-Odom to provide assistance due to the emotional impact the recent school violence incidents may have on students. In addition, the Governor urged Messrs. Beatty and Cooper to examine the use of technology and protocol measures, student and faculty response, as well as the communication between classroom and administrative offices to perceived problems. Governor Easley has asked Messrs. Beatty and Cooper to report back to him with recommendations for needed improvements as quickly as possible.

I look forward to reviewing the reports for our local schools and will work with the Governor, his administration, and other legislators to implement any needed school safety measures to ensure our students are safe.

Prescription Drug Assisstance For Seniors: North Carolina RX

Governor Mike Easley has announced a new prescription drug assistance program for North Carolina senior citizens. The program, funded for 2 years with $24 million from the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, aims to help qualifying seniors pay some or all of their Medicare Part D premiums. It also hopes to encourage some of the estimated 240,000 eligible seniors in our state who have not signed up for Part D to help them navigate the federal drug program and its medication management program involving pharmacists identifying potentially adverse drug interaction.

Under the new federal Medicare Part D program, which began last January, North Carolina seniors can choose from a variety of prescription drug insurance plans. For 2007, there will be 51 plans offered to North Carolina seniors. To participate in Part D, seniors must select a plan and pay the monthly premium. Plan premiums range in cost, from $17.80 to $85.90 per month for 2007.

North Carolina Rx will help pay premiums for seniors with incomes up to 175 percent of the poverty level ($17,150 for an individual and $23,100 for married couples). The plan also increases the amount of assets seniors may have and still qualify for assistance to $20,000 for an individual and $30,000 for married couples. Qualifying seniors who are at least 65 years old and on Medicare will receive a credit of $18 per month to help pay their premium. Approximately 50,000 North Carolina low-income seniors are expected to sign up for this benefit.

A special web site, and a toll-free hotline, 1-888-488-NCRX (6279), have been set up to provide information about the new North Carolina Rx program and coverage.

Also, Wal-Mart has announced that it is now selling generic prescription drugs for $4 in North Carolina. The plan, which covers generic, or non branded, drugs for a 30-day supply, is open to anyone with a valid doctor’s prescription. No insurance is required. Pharmacies in both Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores will offer the low-cost prescriptions on 314 medications. To view a complete list(PDF File) of eligible medications, go to: Target stores will match the $4 Wal-Mart prescriptions and Kmart is offering 184 generics for $15 for a 90-day supply.

Education Programs Receive First Lottery Money

The new N.C. Lottery made its first ever transfer of proceeds to education on October 19, seven months after the games began. The state lottery commission will make periodic transfers to the Education Lottery Fund. At least 35 percent of net lottery revenues must be used for education initiatives such as pre-K programs, reducing class size, school construction, and college scholarships for needy students. The recent $95 million transfer represents 35.6 percent of the $233.1 million total the lottery collected since July 1 and another $12 million generated before that date. The lottery also made a $50 million transfer in late June, but that went into a reserve account.

Guilford County’s public schools and other counties across the state will begin receiving these new funds in the near future. Guilford County is expected to receive approximately $2,372,013 in funding for school construction and $2,572,028 for pre-K education as part of this first installment of new education funds from the lottery. Funds for reducing class size and college scholarships will be announced in the future.

State law requires that at least 50 percent of the total proceeds from the lottery be paid out in prizes, no more than 8 percent for administrative costs, 7 percent to retailers, and the remaining 35 percent to education. Of the funds for education, 50 percent goes to cutting class size in early grades to 18 students per teacher and to the More at Four program for at-risk pre-kindergarten children, 40 percent for school construction, and 10 percent for need-based scholarships for college, university, and community college students in North Carolina. North Carolina’s lottery dedicates a higher percentage of lottery proceeds toward education than most others in the nation.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will manage the distribution of the funds for the various education programs except the college scholarships, which will be handled by the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.

Greetings From Raleigh 11-03-06

It’s appropriate at this time, I think, to thank you again for your support during my first term as your House representative. Your concerns, ideas, and suggestions have been fundamental, important considerations in all of the decisions I’ve made on behalf of my constituents. I hope I will be honored again with your mandate and support as we look forward to the new legislative session scheduled to begin on January 24, 2007. Please continue to provide your wise counsel on issues that concern you.

After the short session ended this summer, members and staff organized and prepared for interim studies that will fill our time during November and December. Out of the studies will come proposals for legislation to be considered in 2007. Under the following topic entitled, “Committee Work Continues”, you will find my assignment to various studies, so please “weigh in” with your views on any of those topics.

During the interim, you can contact me via email at or, or by calling my Raleigh office at 919-733-5771 or in Greensboro at 336-274-5574. You can also find additional information on the General Assembly at

Please visit my new web site, WWW.PRICEYHARRISON.ORG for news and information.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Legislative Recap

The following is a list of some new laws that took effect on October 1, 2006, which will make our neighborhoods safer, reform our campaign finance laws, and better protect our schoolchildren and consumers. Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information on these issues or any others that were considered by the General Assembly during this year’s session.

Schoolchildren’s Health Act (S.L. 1006-143, HB 1502) – As of October 1, 2006, the “Schoolchildren’s Health Act” requires several environmental health changes benefiting children in public schools in North Carolina: schools must come up with a plan to keep buses from idling too long; schools will have to limit the use of pesticides, mercury, and arsenic-treated wood; and, schools will have to notify parents within 72 hours of spraying in and around schools. Also, schools must notify parents of the existence of mold and mildew in schools. Further, schools are banned entirely from using arsenic-treated wood on playgrounds. The “Schoolchildren’s Health Act” uses common-sense, low-cost, and even cost-savings measures to reduce student and staff exposure to hazardous contaminants in school buildings.

First Phase of Video Poker Ban Takes Effect (S.L. 2006-6, SB 912) – Video poker machines will be banned in North Carolina beginning on July 1, 2007, and the estimated 10,000 current machines were required to be reduced by one-third on October 1. The new law requires machine owners or businesses to downsize from their current maximum of three machines to two, and from two machines to one machine by March 1, 2007. Current machine owners must sell their machines to individuals outside of North Carolina or to the Cherokee Casino in western North Carolina, which will be allowed to continue operating under the new ban.

Protecting Consumers Against Identity Theft (S.L. 2005-414, SB 1048 & S.L. 2006-173, HB 1248) – Legislators approved far-reaching identity theft protections during the 2005 session, most of which became law previously. On October 1, the remainder of this new law took effect, which will provide additional protections of an individual’s social security number. Businesses will no longer be able to: (1) intentionally communicate or make available to the general public an individual’s social security number; (2) intentionally print or imbed a individual’s social security number on any card required for the individual to access products or services provided by the business; (3) require an individual to transmit his or her social security number over the Internet, unless the connection is secure or the social security number is encrypted; (4) require an individual to use his or her social security number to access and Internet website, unless a password or unique personal identification number or other authentication device is also required to access the website; and (5) print an individual’s social security number on any materials that are mailed to an individual, unless the state or federal government requires the social security number to be on the document to be mailed.

During this year’s session, legislators also approved a bill (S.L. 2006-173, HB 1248), which requires local and state governments that suffer a security breach that could lead to identity theft to inform citizens of the breach. The new law will require governments and public agencies to follow the same requirement as businesses and must alert customers when confidential information is compromised. The corporate requirement passed in 2005 as part of a broad identity theft prevention law (Identity Theft Protect Act of 2005; SB 1048). The Secretary of State’s Office will have one year to meet a requirement to keep personal identifying information off of its website, which currently contains an estimated 500,000 online records. During that time, the office will be required to study how to remove personal data from documents already available through its website.

Safety Training Required for ATV Drivers (S.L. 2005-282, SB 189) – A new law took effect last December that prohibits the operation of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) by people less than eight years old, requires eight to fifteen year old ATV drivers to only ride on vehicles with smaller engines, and makes it unlawful for a parent or legal guardian of a child under 16 years of age to permit that child to operate an ATV without constant supervision of a person 18 years old or older. Now, every ATV operator born on or after January 1, 1990, must also have a safety certificate indicating successful completion of an all-terrain vehicle safety course sponsored or approved by the All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute.

Permitted Uses of Campaign Funds (S.L. 2006-161, HB 1845) – Candidates and campaigns will only be able to use campaign funds for expenses related to their campaigns and office-holding duties and will be prohibited from using the funds for personal use under a new law that took effect on October 1. Under the new law, campaign funds may be used for the following campaign purposes: ordinary expenditures made in connection with the candidate’s campaign or with fulfilling the duties of elected office; donations to certain charitable organizations (not one where the spouse or child of the candidate is employed), to a political party, or to another candidate; to return contributions to a contributor; or for the payment of penalties assessed against the candidate’s campaign committee by a board of election or court. The bill also prevents heirs of deceased candidates from inheriting campaign money.

Citizens Beware: Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams on the Rise

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper recently issued a warning to consumers and banks about lottery and check scams. Nearly 400 people have told state officials about losing money in lottery schemes this year – just under the total for all of last year. Lottery-scam complaints to the Charlotte-region Better Business Bureau about lottery scams are up 80 percent from a year ago to more than 1,400. Lottery scams have been around for years, usually aimed at the elderly, but complaints are growing because crooks now also target younger victims, hoping to take money from less experienced consumers.

The schemes usually start small, such as a letter requesting a processing fee of $25 to $50 in order to win $1 million, but they can escalate and cost some unwitting consumers well into the thousands with bogus checks meant to cover fees. Some people have lost more than $100,000. More elaborate scams often require victims to send more money to receive their winnings, but offer to repay them with a check. Victims send the scammers the fee, usually around $1,000 to $5,000, and then try to cash the bogus check they receive later at their bank.

Here are some warning signs that the check you got in the mail is a fake:

  • You’ve been told that you’ve won a lottery called “El Mundo,” “El Gordo” or from a foreign country such as Canada, Costa Rica or Australia.
  • You’re told to wire, send, or ship money immediately to a large U.S. city or abroad, especially to England, Canada, or Nigeria.
  • You’ve posted an item for sale online and receive a check for more than your asking price.
  • You’re told that you can receive a commission for transferring money through your account.
  • You get an email or telephone request to confirm, update or provide your personal account information.

North Carolinians who receive what they suspect is a counterfeit check or get a call or letter claiming they’ve won a phony lottery should not respond. Instead, report the scam to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina.

Thanks for sharing your ideas and suggestions during the past two years. I deeply appreciate your support. Please continue to call on me if I can assist you in any way.



Greetings From Raleigh 10-02-06

As you know, the 2006 short session of the North Carolina General Assembly ended two months ago, but the work continues in the district and in Raleigh. I was recently appointed to the Land and Water Study Commission which will consider the Land for Tomorrow initiative. I am also serving on the following interim committees: the Environmental Review Commission, the House Select Committee on Capital Punishment, the House Select Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the Legislative Committee on Global Climate Change, and the Study Commission on Land and Water Conservation.

I’m very proud of the progress we made during the short time we were in Raleigh this summer; some significant changes occurred in education, health care, the economy, and reducing crime. Several of the new laws went into effect on October 1, 2006, and others will take effect in the coming months. I will update you on those in future posts.

The Legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at noon. During the interim, you can contact me via email at or, or by calling my Raleigh office at (919) 733-5771, or in Greensboro at 336-274 5574 You can also find additional information on the General Assembly at

Friday, August 18, 2006

Recap Of Important Legislation- 2006 Session

Below is a short recap of some of the most important legislative accomplishments of the 2006 session. Feel free to contact me if you would like additional information on these issues or any others that were debated by the General Assembly during this year’s session.

Education remained the #1 priority throughout this year’s session. I’m extremely proud of our many accomplishments, which will improve education from early childhood through adulthood. We were able to dedicate more funding to our children’s education than ever before. (The budget included $10.8 billion in resources dedicated to improving education and increasing teachers’ salaries. This total represents more than $943 million above last year’s budget and is in addition to $425 million in expected revenues from the new North Carolina Education Lottery.) We gave teachers the substantial pay raise they deserve (an average of 8%), which will bring them closer to the national average and will help us reduce our teacher shortage. We dedicated over $75 million to address the on-going Leandro school funding lawsuit, which will help our low-wealth schools and disadvantaged students and provide additional funds for literacy coaches and high school reforms. We also eliminated a $44.3 million recurring reduction in public school budgets ordered annually since the 2003 budget shortfall, a priority of our Guilford County School Board.

We continued our investment in outstanding universities and community colleges, which educate North Carolina citizens at all stages throughout their lives. UNC campuses across the state will receive $185.7 million to help build new classrooms and buildings, including projects at UNCG and A&T. The budget also substantially increases financial aid available for students attending our state’s universities and community colleges, and we gave parents a new tax deduction when they save for a child’s college education.

We established a new lottery oversight committee, which will ensure that all lottery proceeds go to early childhood education, reducing class size, school construction, and college scholarships. And, schools will be required to set aside time when students can recite the Pledge of Allegiance.


I worked hard to push for good environmental bills and fight bad ones this session, and overall we had a decent session. The best news comes from the budget where I pushed for legislation to provide funding for testing and emergency drinking water supplies for North Carolinians obtaining their drinking water from sources located near known contaminated hot spots. I also successfully pushed for funding for shellfish protection programs, and for restoring funds for the pesticide disposal program. I was not as successful in seeking funding for farmland preservation, despite gathering 93 cosponsors for funding, or for getting additional sedimentation and erosion control positions funded. Our biggest water quality problem is runoff, largely from sediment, and NC has not adequately funded that program for years. Additional provisions in the budget provide for expanding the state park at Hickory Nut Gorge, funding testing for new private drinking water wells, and fully funding Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

We vastly improved groundwater protection for those 2.7 million North Carolinians drinking from private wells. In addition to the funding listed above, we established comprehensive well construction standards statewide.

I worked hard for a much needed twelve-month landfill moratorium. Six proposed mega dumps in eastern NC counties would have resulted in NC importing an additional eight million tons of trash annually, becoming the fourth largest trash importer in the US. The moratorium puts a halt to that for twelve months while we consider the impact and establish an environmental justice study to look at the practice of landfills being sited in low income, often minority, communities.

We passed the School Children’s Health Act, which reduces students’ exposure to toxins in schools, including mercury products, arsenic in treated wood products, and emissions from idling buses.

We took a small step toward a sustainable energy policy, by enabling government buildings to finance energy efficiency measures with future energy cost savings. A comprehensive Energy Independence Act was pared down to include measures involving studying and planning for energy efficiency. I had pushed for the state’s adopting a renewable energy portfolio standard, as twenty two other states have done, but it seems we will wait until the Public Utilities Commission finishes its study on this subject next year. I had also pushed for an energy future use study, which would have accounted for public health and environmental impacts in arriving at the cost of energy generation, but the bill was killed by the utility lobbyists.

Bad bills that passed included a bill that will let Duke Energy emit more pollution than NC’s regulations allow at its Cliffside, NC plant. Several of us fought that hard, but lost. Another bad bill will allow for inadequate mitigation for development in the nutrient sensitive Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds.

We did manage to stop several bad environmental bills. Risk –Based Environmental Remediation would have lowered groundwater cleanup standards and enabled polluters to walk away from future liability with a small fee. Another bill would have allowed for weakened protection for trout waters. Finally, the billboard industry had pushed legislation that would have doubled the area of tree clearing in front of billboards and made the public foot the bill.

Unfortunately, there were also several good bills that did not pass, including many I had introduced. In addition to those mentioned above, I had also pushed for clean cars legislation to reduce emissions from those mobile sources. I had also pushed for better tax treatment for land held for conservation purposes. I tried to require better disclosure of coastal hazards in real estate transactions on the coast. I pushed for better management of the waste from our hog industry. And I supported the land for tomorrow bond initiative, which has been turned to a study I hope to participate in. I also pushed for the reduction of products containing mercury, which will be studied by the Environmental Review Commission, on which I sit.

Improving health care in North Carolina by making it more affordable and accessible for all of our citizens was another top priority during this year’s session. As stated on opening day, most House members believe that health care should be a part of the job – if you work, you should have health insurance. Unfortunately, half of the 1.3 million uninsured North Carolinians work full-time jobs. To help address the problem, we passed numerous bills this session that will improve and expand health care and services in communities across our state.

The House Select Committee on Health Care, and its six subcommittees held numerous meetings prior to May and made recommendations for legislation on issues including access to health care, ways to decrease the number of uninsured North Carolinians, and the state’s increasing costs associated with Medicaid.

After three years of work and passage by the House several times in recent years, we finally approved a new tax credit for small businesses that offer health insurance to employees. The new $250 tax credit will go to small businesses that offer health coverage to employees making less than $40,000. This credit is intended to help our valuable businesses with one of their fastest growing expenses, plus allow more North Carolinians to get or keep health insurance.

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation creating a new high-risk insurance pool, which would cover people who can’t afford health insurance or qualify under traditional plans. Unfortunately, the Senate did not take it up prior to adjournment. Supporters of the bill said this was a first step toward providing affordable health care to our state’s 1.3 million uninsured.

This year’s budget provides more than $4.2 billion for health and human services. As part of an on-going reform effort that began in 2001, we dedicated $95 million in new funds for mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse programs, including $14.4 million for the Mental Health Trust Fund. We provided $27.4 million in relief to all 100 counties to freeze the counties’ portion of Medicaid expenses at the 2005-06 year’s level. More than $30 million is provided for child care services and subsidies, which will maintain the current 2,650 child care slots, remove 3,096 children from the waiting list, and create 3,100 new slots.

North Carolina’s economy has steadily improved during the last few years; however, some communities continue to experience job losses and unemployment rates higher than the state or national rate. In an effort to strengthen our economy and create new jobs, my colleagues and I were successful on numerous fronts. We approved a $1 increase in the state’s minimum wage, which will increase the salaries of approximately 140,000 North Carolinians from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour starting January 1, 2007. We provided substantial pay increases for our valuable teachers and state employees – teachers received an average 8% increase and state employees received a 5.5% increase.

We approved legislation to vastly improve job creation programs, like the One North Carolina Fund and Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG), which have created over 33,000 new jobs across our state since 2001. The budget provided $15 million for the One North Carolina Fund and $5 million for the One North Carolina Small Business Fund. Legislators also made major improvements to the William S. Lee Act, which was created 10 years ago and has created more than 130,000 new jobs across the state during the past decade. Under this program, companies receive tax credits based on the location of new jobs – companies receive higher credits if jobs are located in the more economically distressed or impoverished counties of the state.

We provided close to $200 million in tax cuts for all North Carolinians, including a reduction in the state’s sales tax, effective December 1, 2006 – just in time for the holidays, and a reduction in the personal income tax rate, which will help approximately 30,000 small businesses. We also capped the state’s gas tax to ensure it does not increase further even if oil and gas companies continue to raise prices at the pump for consumers.

Legislators took numerous important steps during this year’s session, which will reduce crime and better protect our families and communities. We strengthened our laws regarding sex offenders, DWIs, identity theft, and the production of meth, which is a dangerous drug impacting many of our rural communities. Legislators also approved vital funding in the budget for our courts, new judicial and law enforcement positions including several in Guilford County, and our state’s emergency preparedness efforts.

Following work by the House Select Committee on Sex Offender Registration Laws, the General Assembly passed numerous measures that crack down on sex offenders, which will better protect our children. Sex offenders will now be prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center and will not be able work or volunteer in a position where they would interact with minors. Some of the worst predators face lifetime satellite monitoring under a new global positioning system (GPS), and all offenders must comply with tougher registration requirements, which will help authorities to update addresses and photographs. DMV is also instructed to search the national database of sex offenders prior to issuing a new driver’s license, which will help ensure criminals from other states also register and are monitored in our state. Legislators also took aim at human trafficking and sexual servitude by increasing penalties, especially for those individuals who harbor children. We included $1.5 million in the budget to upgrade the state’s sex offender registry, implement the global positioning system (GPS), and establish an email notification program so citizens can be notified when a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhoods.

Lawmakers approved legislation to create a first-in-the-nation Actual Innocence Commission, which will help ensure the wrongfully-convicted are not in prison and the guilty are. The commission will be focused on examining questions of innocence, while the current criminal appeals process is geared toward ensuring fair trials.

After three years of work, the state has overhauled and toughened our DWI laws. The new laws will impose tougher penalties for those who cause fatal accidents and limit the discretion of judges, which in the past has resulted in many DWI charges being reduced or completely tossed out of court. The DWI changes create three new felonies – and stiffer penalties – for automobile accidents that involve impaired driving and result in serious injury or death. The measure will also require merchants to keep records on keg sales and make it a misdemeanor for anyone younger than 21 to drink an alcoholic beverage.

The General Assembly also passed legislation to ban video poker. The new law, which was supported by the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, requires current machine owners or businesses to downsize from the current maximum of three machines to two machines by October 1, 2006, and from two machines to one machine by March 1, 2007. A complete ban of the machines will take effect on July 1, 2007. The phase out of video poker will allow the more than 1,700 current employees in the industry to find new jobs while ridding the state of the controversial games.


House members spent close to eight months drafting various ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying reform proposals. I was appointed to the House Select Committee on Ethics and Governmental Reform, which was established at the end of last year and looked at numerous issues and ultimately recommended ten pieces of legislation.

Prior to adjourning, legislators approved some of the toughest and most far-reaching campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics reforms and regulations in the nation. We strengthened ethics regulations for the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government, and for boards and commissions. We established an independent, eight-member State Ethics Commission, which will conduct inquiries on complaints filed against all three branches of government. Following last year’s passage of tougher lobbying regulations, lawmakers went further this year by enacting additional reforms including a gift-giving ban and a ban on lobbyists contributing to political campaigns.

Legislators also approved bills that provide more control over the use of campaign funds and prohibit the use of funds for personal expenses, improves required training for campaign treasurers, bans the use of “blank payee” contribution checks, and requires stronger reporting requirements on campaign finance reports as well as efforts by lobbyists and politically active “527” groups. Unfortunately, we did not approve the public financing pilot project for four legislative races.

My colleagues and I approved several measures intended to combat illegal immigration in North Carolina. Driver’s license applicants will now have to produce a Social Security card or valid visa when applying for a North Carolina license. In recent years, illegal immigrants had used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) as identification to obtain a driver’s license. Another new law would require state government, including the UNC system, community colleges, and public school systems, to use a federal database to ensure new hires are legal residents. The House also passed a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to enact meaningful immigration reform, including locating a new immigration court in Charlotte and allowing local authorities to be able to work with federal agencies to deport illegal immigrants who are caught driving while impaired or for other serious crimes.


I plan on spending the next three months splitting my time between my campaign for reelection and my work on interim committees, including Global Warming, Death Penalty, Environmental Review, and Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Thanks to all of you for your continued communications and advocacy on the issues. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of help.