Friday, March 30, 2007

Other Legislative Highlights 3-30-07

  • House Bill 1012* would repeal the State Property Commission which has cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars with no work product to show for this expenditure. The bill has been approved by the Ways and Means Committee and is headed to the House floor.
  • House Bill 1026 would raise the cigarette tax from 35 cents per pack to 40 cents, with the additional money going to build a new cancer hospital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • House Bill 1076* would waive fees at UNC campuses and community colleges for up to six hours in course credit for state residents who are 65 and older.
  • House Bill 1107* would increase district court judges' terms from four to eight years.
  • House Bill 1140 would shift the entire nonfederal share of Medicaid from counties to the state.
  • House Bill 1203* authorizes the issuance of $2 bullion in general obligation bonds for public school construction.
  • Senate Bill 1543 would allow government workers to collectively bargain.
  • Senate Bill 1553 would make computer manufacturers responsible for recycling discarded equipment.

Several appropriations bills have been filed for Guilford County :

I value the feedback that I receive from my constituents in Greensboro and Guilford County. I can represent you more effectively when I know your stance on the issues and the concerns which are impacting you and your family. By working together we will have the opportunity to insure a finer quality of life for all of our citizens.




The North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of which I am a member, shared its hopes for this legislative session this week. The NAACP brought its 14-point plant to the Legislature as part of its People of Color Justice & Unity Legislative Day. The group's agenda calls for greater equality in education, abolition of the death penalty, abolition of mandatory minimum sentencing, support of collective bargaining for public employees, an end to the war in Iraq, and support for community development corporations.


The House Finance committee has approved a measure that would extend affordable insurance to high-risk people who may not otherwise be able to afford coverage, (House Bill 265) which I co-sponsored with Rep. Insko. Anyone who has been refused for coverage for coverage for health reasons by an insurer or who has been offered limited or exceedingly expensive insurance for the person's high-risk medical condition would be eligible for the plan. Premiums for the insurance would be capped at 175 percent of the standard policy cost through a private provider. Establishing the pool is a priority for House Democrats, who say they want to improve access to health care and lower costs.

A vote on a bill, House Bill 259, to ban smoking in public places and businesses has been delayed until next week. House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman has indicated that many House members remain undecided on whether to back the bill. A judiciary committee last week agreed to the measure, which would ban smoking in most restaurants, bars, offices, and factories. Holliman says many lawmakers are weighing health interests versus the rights of businesses to decide what people can do on their premises.

I have filed House Bill 1179, which would allow Greensboro to enact stronger smoking restrictions than are currently provided for by state law. This is a priority of Mayor Holliday and the City of Greensboro. The City of Charlotte has asked for similar authority (House Bill 611)

Environment and Energy

The state's hog lagoon moratorium is set to expire in September and several lawmakers have filed bills dealing with the potentially toxic pits. Reps. Carolyn Justice and Marvin Lucas are the sponsors of legislation, House Bill 1115, that would effectively block most new lagoons, but also help swine farmers willing to experiment with other ways to treat hog waste pay for the new technology. The bill, which I co-sponsored, would create a five-year, $50 million program to help an estimated 100 hog farms. Sen. Albertson has filed a similar bill, Senate Bill 1465. Rep. Dewey Hill has filed a bill, House Bill 1254 to extend the moratorium for the fifth time. Rep. Earl Jones and I will soon be introducing a bill requiring that hog lagoons be phased out by a date certain.

I have filed House Bill 1233 with Representatives Pryor Gibson and Lucy Allen, which would vastly improve landfill siting and operation in North Carolina. The Environmental Review Commission, on which I sit, has been studying the issued for several months and the legislation reflects that work.

I have again filed the "Clean Cars" bill, House Bill 1179, which would require that new cars sold meet the stricter and cleaner California standards (which still rank below those set by China).

Representatives Allen, Wainwright, Haire, and I have introduced House Bill 901, which would authorize a referendum on a $1 billion bond initiative for land and water conservation.

I have been working with my colleagues, who are committed to passing renewable energy and energy efficiency-related legislation, to provide incentives and set construction standards in government buildings. Some of these measures I have introduced this week are:

House Bill 1073, providing a revolving, no interest loan fund for schools to use for energy efficiency related construction;

House Bill 1074, allowing a renewable energy tax credit for certain contributions to non profits;

House Bill 1075, requiring that all new state government buildings, including those in the UNC system and community colleges, be energy efficient and sets the standards for compliance; and

House Bill 1187, with Rep. Susan Fisher, which prohibits cities and counties from enacting ordinances preventing the installation of, or denying permission to, install energy devices based on renewable resources.


The House Finance Committee has passed House Bill 291 which Rep. Paul Luebke, Rep. Earl Jones, Rep. Lorene Coates, and I sponsored, that would require the state treasure to sell off investments in companies linked to genocide in war-torn Sudan. On his own initiative, State Treasurer Richard Moore has sold holdings in nine companies said to have provided money or military support to the Sudanese government, but we think the state's $70 billion pension fund may still have investments in other companies that benefit from the conflict, and the policy will bind future treasurers. If the bill becomes law, North Carolina would become the first state in the Southeast to require divestiture of companies doing business in Sudan.

The North Carolina Association of Realtors has started a statewide campaign to fight any legislation that would impose a real estate transfer taxes or impact fee. The group has indicated that it will use direct mail, radio, and television ads in the campaign and that it has also established a Web site. Local bills allowing transfer taxes in five counties have already been filed in the General Assembly this year and I have sponsored most of them. Four of the bills would require advisory referendums before they would go into place. No such referendum would be required in Hoke County. House and Senate bills that would tax mortgages have also been filed.


Tourism revenue in North Carolina continues to grow, with more than 45 million visitors spending more than $15 billion last year. The 8.3 percent increase in spending from 2005 is the largest such increase since 1990. Tourism in North Carolina generated about $1.3 billion in state and local tax dollars in 2006, up from about $1.2 billion in 2005. The travel and tourism industry employs more than 187,000 North Carolinians. The data is from a preliminary annual study by the Travel Industry Association of America.


A University of North Carolina study commission has recommended that the system not convert private North Carolina Wesleyan College into the state's 17th public university. The study found that such a conversion would probably cost $207 million over seven years. UNC President Erskine Bowles also said members of the study commission worried that it may be difficult to attract students and faculty members to the school.

The House has agreed to push back the cutoff date for children to enter kindergarten by 2 1/2 months (House Bill 150). The existing law allows children who turn 5 years old by Oct. 16 to enter kindergarten that same year. The provision would set the cut off at Aug. 31 starting with the 2009-10 school year. The adjustment would delay the start of school for 15,360 children in the first year, legislative researchers said. Only seven states had cutoff entrance dates later than North Carolina, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The House Education Committee approved House Bill 359 Thursday that would give school systems more flexibility with their calendars. The state's school administrators and most teachers supported the bill, but the tourism industry opposed the change since it would practically reverse a law passed in 2004. That law bars schools from opening before Aug. 25 unless they get waivers for educational purposes or to allow them to plan for time that would be missed because of bad weather. The new proposal would allow entire school districts to start before Aug. 25 for educational purposes. During a nearly three-hour hearing at the Legislature on Wednesday, parents, teachers, students, and others spoke out about the proposal. Some argue that the calendar requirements make it difficult for high school students to take community college courses. Others contend students need time off in late August to work and to take family vacations.


A House judiciary committee has agreed that the state Supreme Court should examine not just death penalty cases but also cases that result in life in prison when it is trying to determine whether sentences are consistent. So-called proportionality reviews allow courts to compare cases as they try to determine whether someone deserved the death penalty. Existing law only requires justices to review death penalty cases. The change would provide a check on "aberrant" juries, said bill co-sponsor Rep. Rick Glazier. The bill, House Bill 341, which I co-sponsored, now goes to the full House for consideration.


Members of the House have repealed a law (via House Bill 502) that allowed chiropractors to charge patients the same co-payments as doctors. North Carolina is the only state with such a law, which has been enacted as a result of the commission of a federal crime. The equal co-payment provision may be considered and fully debated in a separate bill, which has not yet been introduced.

Greetings From Raleigh 03-30-07

The House moved several significant pieces of legislation this week, highlighted below.

Please remember that you can listen to each day's session, committee meetings and press conferences on the General Assembly's website at Once on the site, select "audio," and then make your selection - House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Other Legislative Highlights 3-23-07

I have been one of the primary sponsors on several bills this past week in the House. House Bill 901 would amend the state Constitution to ensure that all citizens have access to health care. To further protect victims of sexual assault, House Bill 961 would require that facilities providing emergency care offer contraception pills to those victims.

Below is a selection of additional bills that have been introduced in the House or Senate during the last week (those with an asterisk are one that I have co-sponsored):

· House Bill 893* would give the student member of the UNC Board of Governors a vote.

· House Bill 934* would appropriate $350.2 million over the next two fiscal years for mental health, developmental disability and addictive disease programs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

· House Bill 938* would require that schools provide educational information on hpv, cervical cancer, and the virus that prevents them, to students in grades 5-12. Sen. Katie Dorsett has introduced the Senate companion bill.

· House Bill 963* would provide for the election of physician members of the North Carolina Medical Board, supply information to the public regarding malpractice awards or settlements, and require the reporting of sexual misconduct by a doctor or physician assistant.

· House Bill 969* would provide for the licensing of naturopathic physicians

· House Bill 981* would set aside money for a Department of Justice consumer protection specialist to focus solely on military personnel and their families.

· Senate Bill 936 would set aside $12 million each of the next two years to establish a state education data warehouse that would include a database with information about all students in the state from prekindergarten through college.

· Senate Bill 944 would make leaving the scene of an accident where a victim suffers serious bodily injury a more serious grade of felony.

· Senate Bill 972 would require twice as many toilets in women's restrooms than men's restrooms in new bars, public halls, theaters, and arenas and in current buildings where large renovations take place.

· Senate Bill 1002 would extend restrictions on robo calls and other automatic dialing and message players used to make unsolicited telephone calls.

· Senate Bill 1003 would require that DNA samples be taken from people arrested on violent felony or certain other criminal charges.

· Senate Bill 1261 would establish a pilot program in four legislative districts to allow candidates the option of financing their campaigns from a voluntary taxpayer-designated fund.

The House will return to session Monday at 7 p.m.

I am pleased that so many of you feel free to contact me to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina General Assembly and the challenges you and your family are facing each day. By continuing to work together, we can make a difference in Guilford County and all regions of North Carolina, to provide a better place to live, work, and raise a family.



Special Guests

On Monday night the Legislature honored a North Carolina National Guard soldier who received the Silver Star for his courage during a 2004 combat operation in Iraq. Sgt. 1st Class Chad M. Stephens was the first North Carolina guardsman since World War II, and the first African-American guardsman from North Carolina, to ever win the award, one of the nation's highest honors for bravery. Stephens was joined by his wife and son and he received long standing ovations in both chambers. Stephens, who lives in Ahoskie, received his award for actions while leading his platoon in heavy combat in Baqubah, Iraq. During the battle, he fought through two ambushes, led his platoon to a casualty collection point to help treat wounded soldiers, and ran for about 50 yards while being shot at to rescue an injured soldier.

New Member

Tricia Cotham, an assistant principal at East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, was sworn into office Thursday during an afternoon session of the state House. Rep. Cotham, a former Teacher of the Year in Mecklenburg County, replaces former Rep. Jim Black. At 28, she will be the youngest member of the Legislature.


Census estimates show that people continue to leave rural eastern North Carolina even as the population in the state's urban areas grows. According to the estimates, 15 rural counties, 10 of which are in eastern North Carolina, lost population between July 2005 and July 2006. Over that same time period, the rest of the state added nearly 185,000 people to increase the state's population to nearly 8.9 million.


The House committee on election laws on which I sit has given a favorable report on a bill that would allow North Carolinians to register and immediately cast an absentee ballot at one-stop voting sites. At this time, the State law requires that registrations be closed 25 days before an election. This bill would permit voter registration up to four days before Election Day. Prospective voters would have to bring proof of identity and residence to register. If it passes the full House, the bill will take effect prior to this year's local elections. In the seven states that have adopted some form of same day registration, voter turn out has improved significantly.


Citing environmental and economic concerns, House Speaker Joe Hackney joined with Gov. Easley and Senate leader Marc Basnight this week to oppose the construction of a practice landing field the Navy wants to build in Washington and Beaufort counties. Our US House delegation has also been outspoken in its opposition, but unfortunately Senators Dole and Burr are supportive of the proposal continuing. The outlying landing field, or OLF, would cover 30,000 acres near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge where more than 100,000 snow geese and tundra swans spend the winter. The land is also home to two endangered species: red wolves and bald eagles. The Navy's plan would also hurt the economy of the area by preventing farming of soybeans, corn, and wheat on 25,000 acres surrounding the core of the landing field. The navy's solution to the danger that birds present to the jets is to poison and shoot them if the mandated crop changes don't work to drive the birds away.

As mentioned briefly last week, I proposed a ban (House Bill 838) on the sale of incandescent light bulbs in North Carolina effective Jan. 1, 2016. This ban would coincide with the recent announcement that Phillips, the world's largest maker of incandescent light bulbs, would phase out its manufacture of such bulbs by 2016. Although there have been improvements over the past century, the basic design of incandescent bulbs has remained largely unchanged since the late 1800s. They produce light by running electric current through a metal filament. Compact fluorescent bulbs cost more but last longer and use less energy, although they do contain mercury, and we must provide for their safe disposal.

Criminal Justice

Legislation introduced in both chambers proposes to increase the age at which young offenders are automatically treated as adults from 16 to 18, and establishes a task force to examine how to treat older juvenile offenders. North Carolina is one of only three states that automatically treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in court. Rep. Alice Bordsen, chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee and sponsor of the House measure, said changing the law wouldn't take away prosecutors' ability to try teenagers as adults in the most serious cases. State law allows someone as young as 13 to be tried as an adult on a felony charge, if a judge agrees. The proposals follow recommendations made in December, 2006 by a legislative study commission that found older teens sent to adult prisons had a higher rate of repeat offenses and were more likely to commit more violent crimes.


The House judiciary committee, on which I sit, has approved a broad ban (House Bill 259) on smoking in public buildings. The measure prohibits smoking in most restaurants, bars, offices, and factories. It now goes to the full House for consideration. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Hugh Holliman, a lung cancer survivor, exempts private residences; tobacco shops; tobacco manufacturing facilities, including their offices; designated smoking rooms in hotels; private, nonprofit clubs; and research labs conducting experiments on smoking or tobacco products.

Military Matters

Several of my colleagues are proposing new laws to help protect members of the military from financial fraud. During a news conference Wednesday, they described a variety of scams - including life insurance policies that don't cover death in combat and companies with representatives who use vague, military-style titles to make young, naïve soldiers believe their services are endorsed by the military. One proposal would ban the sale of "predatory policies" to the military. Another would establish a new consumer protection specialist job in the Department of Insurance to help military members who are the victims of fraud.

Greetings From Raleigh 03-23-07

Work in the House moved steadily this week with the introduction of bills to protect our children and our environment, improve access to health care, and to make voting more convenient. We also continued our work to support members of the military and their families from financial fraud. We welcomed a new member to our chamber and celebrated a war hero.

Please remember that you can listen to each day's session, committee meetings, and press conferences on the General Assembly's website at Once on the site, select "audio," and then make your selection - House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room, or Press Conference Room.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Other Legislative Highlights 3-16-07

This week I introduced several bills with Rep. Beverly Earle and other members of the House Select Committee on Capital Punishment which would reform the administration of the death penalty.

· House Bill 784 would change the age from 17 to 18 for which a person can be convicted of first-degree murder.

· House Bill 785 would require law enforcement officers to provide more information to district attorneys for discovery.

· House Bill 787 would eliminate capital punishment for conviction of felony murder.

· House Bill 788 would try to eliminate racial bias in death penalty cases.

I also introduced HB 838, which would ban incandescent light bulbs as of January 1, 2016. Energy consumed by these light bulbs in the U.S. is equivalent to the output of 80 coal fired power plants.

HB 837, which I filed for funding for the State Energy Office, will enable the continuation of projects on renewable energy and energy efficiency. These projects have been operating out of NC A&T, ASU, and across the state.

Below are several additional bills that have been introduced in the House or Senate during the last week (the * indicates that I was a co-sponsor of that Bill):

· House Bill 583 would modify the requirements for participation in a community college lateral entry program.

· House Bill 625 would add more personnel who may treat patients under the mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services statutes.

· House Bill 630* would allow leftover tuition assistance program funds to be used to help pay outstanding student loans for members of the North Carolina National Guard.

· House Bill 668 would appropriate funds for a grant program to renovate former school buildings for use by lower income communities.

· House Bill 675* would authorize the Legislative Research Commission to study the definition of child care and the potential need to regulate after-school programs.

· House Bill 693* would give teachers credit for the excess personal leave time that they earn and ensure that teachers can take personal leave with five days' notice.

· House Bill 694 would appropriate funds to create a free online homework help program for all North Carolina students in the fourth through the twelfth grade.

· House Bill 702 would amend the state constitution to increase General Assembly members' terms from two to four years.

· House Bill 718* would appropriate funds to implement an awareness program on youth suicide.

· House Bill 760* would allow the regulation of smoking at University of North Carolina campuses and other facilities.

· House Bill 764* would require that sex offenders register their e-mail address or other online identifiers in the statewide sex offender registry.

· House Bill 773 would protect members of the United States Armed Forces from dishonest and predatory life insurance and annuity sales practices.

· House Bill 853 would ban corporal punishment in all public schools.

· Senate Bill 706 would appropriate $7.1 million over the coming two fiscal years to the Office of Rural Health to help recruit obstetricians and other physicians to practice in underserved parts of the state.

· Senate Bill 709 would encourage public schools, community colleges and the University of North Carolina system to offer American Sign Language as a for-credit modern foreign language class.

· Senate Bill 712 would require insurers to cover extra prescription refills during states of emergency or disasters.

· Senate Bill 812 would require that all public school buses purchased, leased, or contracted for use after July 2008 be equipped with combination lap-shoulder seat belts.

I look forward to the comments and concerns my constituents express each week regarding the work in the North Carolina Legislature. I will continue to be diligent in my efforts to improve the quality of life for those of you in District 57, Guilford County, and across the state.



North Carolina's Tax Burden Is Among The Lowest In The Nation

North Carolina's business tax burden is among the lowest in the nation, according to a study prepared by tax experts at Ernst & Young. The report found that combined local and state taxes paid by North Carolina businesses amount to 3.9 percent of the gross state product, which is one of the reasons our state is one of the fastest growing in the nation for new people and businesses relocating here each year. That rate tied North Carolina with four other states - Connecticut, Delaware, Oregon and Virginia - as having the lowest U.S. business tax burden. The highest burden in 2006 was carried by Wyoming businesses, which paid taxes equivalent to 10.8 percent of the state's gross state product. The 50-state study used public information to estimate the business share of a variety of 26 taxes at the state and local government levels.

Tax Reform Committee Continues Work

The State and Local Fiscal Modernization Study Commission, which has been meeting during the last several months, continues to look at ways to update and reform our state's tax code. The commission began their work with three major objectives - 1) to recommend ways to update and reform our state's tax code that would be revenue neutral, so there would be no overall increases in taxes; 2) foster a stronger partnership between the state and our 100 counties, which currently pay for different services and programs; and 3) find ways to afford to be able to invest in needed infrastructure, which will help our state and local economies grow.

Many legislators, local elected officials, and various groups across the state have highlighted the need to reform and update our state's tax system. North Carolina's tax code, which has not seen a comprehensive update since the 1930s, has been based on an economy that centered on farming, textile, and manufacturing jobs, which needless to say, have reduced dramatically in recent years. Today's economy, however, relies more on services and Internet sales.

On Monday, the committee heard recommendations from its five subcommittees. The suggestions included updating the sales and income tax base while lowering the overall rates and creating a "tax menu" or more options for local governments to use when paying for roads, school construction, and Medicaid.

One subcommittee recommended changes to the sales tax that consumers pay on tangible goods to include services. In exchange, the overall tax rate - currently at 6.75 percent in nearly 100 counties - probably would be reduced by more than half. Another subcommittee suggested lowering the corporate income tax rate from the current rate of 6.9 percent to about 5.5 percent and the top marginal income tax bracket from the current 8 percent to 6 percent.

Responding to complaints and suggestions from cities and counties, another subcommittee suggested giving local governments the authority to assess several optional taxes or fees on real estate transfers, new subdivisions, or automobiles. The money would help supplement property and the local share of sales taxes, particularly in areas where elected officials have raised the rates several times in recent years to pay for new roads, school construction, and their local share of Medicaid. Similar local "tax menus" have failed to gain support in the General Assembly.

Ban On Paddling In Schools

Legislators, school officials and child advocates held a press conference on Wednesday to call for a ban on corporal punishment (House Bill 853) in all public schools, which they said would improve, not hurt, school discipline. North Carolina is one of 21 states that allow corporal punishment, though many of those states let local school districts set policies against it. Across our state, 48 school districts already ban corporal punishment, while 67 - or 58 percent - allow it, according to a survey by the School of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill. However, the survey found that in many of those districts where it is allowed, students are paddled infrequently or not at all. In 15 districts where it is permitted, no instances were reported during the survey period.

Seven districts have banned corporal punishment within the past half-dozen years, the UNC report said. They included Avery County, which abolished the practice about six years ago, and Hertford County, which ended it last spring.

Reducing Domestic Violence

Legislators are working on numerous bills, which seek to reduce domestic violence across our state. This week, the House unanimously passed legislation (House Bill 42), which would add stalking to the list of offenses a judge must consider before granting a pretrial release and would increase the reporting requirements on homicides where the victim and perpetrator have a personal relationship.

The House has also passed two other bills. House Bill 46 would determine whether security guidelines are needed for domestic violence shelters operated by state-funded agencies and to provide, where feasible, private areas for domestic violence victims who are needed for any court proceeding where the defendant will be present. House Bill 47 would make it a felony for some suspected abusers to violate a protective order and contact victims while possessing a gun, knife or other deadly weapon. These bills are now being considered by the Senate.

The newly-created Joint Legislative Committee on Domestic Violence made 16 recommendations just prior to the start of the session and come on the heels of sweeping changes to North Carolina's domestic violence laws in 2004. Bill sponsors point to recent statistics that also call attention to the growing problem of domestic violence and the need to enact these new laws. The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported Wednesday that at least 79 people were victims of homicide related to domestic violence in 2006. The number, based on reports from advocates and family members from across the state, was 70 in 2005 and 82 in 2004.

Budget Update

Members of the House and Senate continue their discussions this week about the two-year state budget, which will set spending levels for state programs such as our public schools, universities, community colleges, health care system, and roads. As a reminder, the House and Senate will pass their own budget proposals over the next few months, in hopes of working out the differences and passing a final budget before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2007. We are currently considering spending recommendations by Governor Easley, individual lawmakers, and advocacy groups. We are also going through the various state programs to determine what can be eliminated or made more efficient.

Members of the House and Senate finance committees also received a briefing from State Treasurer Richard Moore, who described his office's debt affordability study and urged lawmakers to keep North Carolina's high bond rating and financial security by issuing bond funding conservatively. Several legislators and groups across the state have called for passage of bond packages related to school construction, water and sewer improvements, protecting land and open spaces from development, and road construction. During questioning, Moore told lawmakers they can issue more than the report's recommended $384 million in new debt each year over the next decade if they find a way to match any increase with new revenues that maintains the recommended 4 percent ratio of debt service to revenue.

House Democrats Announce Legislative Agenda For 2007 Session

On Wednesday, after weeks of discussion and working on specific legislation, my colleagues and I in the House Democratic Caucus announced our legislative priorities for the 2007 session. The title of the agenda, A Plan for One North Carolina, was a theme that legislative leaders stressed throughout our press conference in calling on all legislators to improve the lives of the men, women, and children in all regions of North Carolina.

The House Democratic Caucus Agenda focuses on seven larger priorities for the 2007 session:

1. Strengthen people's confidence in a government that works for them.

2. Provide the opportunity of a lifetime - a quality education.

3. Create jobs that support strong, healthy, and more prosperous families.

4. Improve the health of our citizens - young and old.

5. Support out military families, bases, and communities.

6. Ensure safer and more prosperous communities.

7. Protect North Carolina's air, water, and land for future generations, and promote a new energy economy.

Our legislative agenda detailed numerous issues under each of these seven categories, which will serve as the basis for legislation that will be debated and passed in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned as we make progress on these important issues.

Greetings From Raleigh 03-16-07

Work in Raleigh continues to pick up speed as more bills are introduced and considered by the committees - and quite a few have already gained final passage by the House or Senate. Legislators on the House and Senate appropriations committees and subcommittees also continue their discussions about the budget and are considering spending recommendations by Governor Easley, individual lawmakers, and advocacy groups. We're also going through the various state programs to determine what can be eliminated or made more efficient.

On Wednesday, my colleagues and I in the House Democratic Caucus announced our seven major priorities for this year's legislative session. Our agenda includes an "initial blueprint" of how we will work to improve greater access to education and health care, create more jobs, offer tax relief, ensure safer communities, and protect our environment, while strengthening the public's trust in their government. In the coming weeks and months, legislation will be debated and passed on all of these topics, so stay tuned as we make progress on these important issues.

This week, legislators introduced bills on a wide range of topics, including teacher training at community colleges, tuition assistance for members of the National Guard, increased energy efficiency, and reforms to the administration of the death penalty.

Please remember that you can learn more about the General Assembly by visiting Our newly updated website allows citizens to listen in on each day's legislative session, committee meetings and press conferences, learn more about introduced legislation, and view each day's schedule and list of bills to be voted on. The House will be back in session on Monday night at 7 p.m.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Other Legislative Highlights 3-9-07

I have introduced the following additional bills this week:

House Bill 446 (with Bill Faison, D-Orange), which would direct the legislative study commission to study contributory negligence. North Carolina is one of 4 states in the US that follows the contributory negligence doctrine.

House Bill 461 (with Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth), which would prohibit the advertising of the NC Lottery during athletic events, in compliance with NCAA regulations.

Rep Alma Adams (D-Guilford) has filed appropriations requests for two Guilford-based organizations, which I have cosponsored: House Bill 495 (United Arts Council) and House Bill 482 (Greensboro Symphony Orchestra),

Below are several additional bills that have been introduced in the House or Senate during the last week (an asterisk indicates I co-sponsored the bill):

· House Bill 485* would require high school students to receive annual health instruction including information about how a parent may lawfully abandon a newborn baby.

· House Bill 486* would provide a property tax exclusion for disabled veterans and their surviving spouses, and to reimburse local governments for the resulting revenue loss.

· House Bill 492* redefines "delinquent juvenile" as someone who is between the age of six years and eighteen years. Currently, that definition only applies to children up to age sixteen.

· House Bill 493 would ban gay marriages through a constitutional amendment. North Carolina has a law in place that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

· House Bill 502* would repeal the chiropractic special provision that was enacted as a result of what has been determined to have been a federal crime.

· House Bill 516* would reinstate participation goals for businesses operated by minorities or women in Department of Transportation contracts. I have cosponsored this bill.

· House Bill 526* would provide corporate and individual income tax credits for taxpayers that build or manufacture energy-efficient homes. The taxpayer must document the home's energy efficiency. The amount of credit is $1,000 for a new federally qualified energy-efficient home, or $2,000 for a new state-certified energy efficient home, but not both.

· House Bill 527* would make it illegal to use a hand held cell phone while driving a motor vehicle on a public street or highway. I have cosponsored this bill.

· House Bill 547* would allow funds in the National Guard Tuition Assistance Program to be used to provide grants to members of the National Guard to pay outstanding student loans.

· House Bill 554* would increase punishments for some assaults on patients in a health care facility or residential care facility that causes bodily injury.

· Senate Bill 495 would set aside 3 percent of the lottery profits to pay for emergency repairs to public schools in counties with lower-than-average wealth.

· Senate Bill 563 would authorize counties to levy a one-cent local sales and use tax for public school construction, road construction, mental health programs, or other capital infrastructure needs.

· Senate Bill 591 would give consumers the option to stop delivery of local telephone directories to their home or office, patterned after the "Do Not Call" registry.

· Senate Bill 653 would create the North Carolina National Guard Death Benefit and Higher Education Fund, which would provide $250,000 to the family of a guard member killed in the line of duty and a free college education to the victim's dependent children.

Legislators have until March 28th to introduce local bills and May 9th to introduce bills related to the budget.

I value the feedback that I receive from my constituents in Greensboro and Guilford County. I can represent you more effectively when I know your stance on the issues and the concerns which are impacting you and your family. By working together we will have the opportunity to insure a finer quality of life for all of our citizens.