The Legislative Review
From the Office of Representative Charles Graham
I hope that you are doing well as we get into mid-February. The North Carolina General Assembly convened for what is billed as a three-day session, with no votes to be taken, according to the leadership.
I will fill you in on details as they become available. Committee meetings may be scheduled, and I want to be available for any of my committees that may be asked to meet. I also want to be prepared to represent your interests if a vote is scheduled quickly, as happened during a recent session.
On Feb. 9 we held an Employment Opportunities/Jobs Fair at the Regional Center for Economic, Community, and Professional Development (COMtech) in Pembroke. It was well-attended, and attendees were able to get some good information from presenters: Myra Beatty of the N.C. Department of Commerce; Don Miller of the N.C. Rural Center; Shelby Rogers of the Lumbee Regional Development Association; Harvey Godwin of Two Hawk Employment Services; Sallie McLean of the Center for Community Action; Bridgit Bass of the Robeson Church and Community Center; Christine Powell of the PipelineNC System; Victor Galloway of the N.C. Institute of Minority Development; and Tony Hayes of the N.C. Indian Economic Development Initiative.
In addition, representatives of Southeastern Regional Medical Center, Alamac Knits, R & R Security, Native Angels Home Care, Companion Home Care, and Steven Roberts Original Desserts spoke with attendees about employment opportunities.
Another upcoming event will be held on Saturday, March 24. This event, Veterans Helping Veterans, is a follow up to an event held last year.
Representatives from various agencies will provide information for veterans and their families about possible benefits for which they may be entitled due to their military service. Veterans Helping Veterans will be held at Robeson Community College from 10:00 am till 3:00 pm.
I will look forward to seeing you on Saturday, March 24, but in the meantime, if I may be of service to you in any way, please feel free to contact my office.
On Monday, February 13, I filed to seek re-election to the District 47 seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives. I have tried to represent the fine citizens of our district well during the 2011 long session and will continue to try to do so during the short session which convenes on May 16. As always, I appreciate your sharing your concerns with me.
The last few weeks have been tumultuous as a number of candidates have announced their intentions for this next election cycle. I want to wish my retiring colleagues well in the future and know that they will continue to contribute to our state.
While I know that the filing period can cause distraction, please know that I remain committed to working on the serious policy issues facing our state.
There has been some good news in recent weeks as the unemployment rate nationally and locally continues to improve slowly. North Carolina unemployment remains higher than the national rate, however, largely because of the huge layoffs in education jobs this year.
The lawsuit challenging the redistricting maps that lay out the Congressional, state House, and state Senate districts continues, and I will share some information with you about that effort in this newsletter.
There is also an ongoing court hearing in the first test of the state’s Racial Justice Act, an effort to ensure that racial prejudice does not play a role in the administration of the death penalty. The case in Cumberland County will help to determine what happens in other appeals filed under the act. No one will ever be released from prison under this law.
A three-judge panel ruled this week that two lawsuits challenging redistricting plans drawn by the majority party can proceed. The lawsuits filed by citizens, elected officials, and civil rights and election watchdog groups allege the maps are unconstitutional because of racial gerrymandering and boundaries that break up too many communities. No hearing date has been set for the case. The judges ruled two weeks ago that North Carolina’s primary will be held on May 8th as scheduled, despite the lawsuits.
Members of elections boards in 87 counties have asked the legislature to appropriate more money to the state election board so that it can receive millions of dollars in federal money to prepare for this year’s election. The local board members said in a letter to legislative leaders that increasing the state budget by $660,000 would allow the state to get $4 million in aid through the federal Help America Vote Act. The money would help pay for early voting sites and voting machine maintenance. Officials say they need the money because they are expecting high turnout for this year’s presidential election and will also incur costs as a result of redistricting.
Dr. William Harrison, the chairman of the State Board of Education, is asking his board members to share more information about the value of public education and challenge legislators who have attacked the institution. Dr. Harrison delivered an online message about the subject recently, saying, “When you talk to local teachers, principals, and superintendents, you will most likely hear about students sharing textbooks, fewer course offerings, longer bus routes, a lack of funds for professional development, and the list goes on…. It is a shame that some have chosen to claim that they have supported public education while they ignore the many struggles our schools are facing today.”
Please remember that when the General Assembly is in session, you can listen to each day’s session, committee meetings, and press conferences on the General Assembly’s website at www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, select “Audio,” and then make your selection – House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room.
I do consider it an honor and a privilege to serve as your voice in the North Carolina House of Representatives. Please feel free to contact my office with your questions, concerns, and comments.