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Newsletter from the office of Representative Mary Belk.
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Putting in some sweat equity with Rep. Beverly Earle & DWMC 1st VP Lisa Ellsworth at the “Women Build” kick-off hosted by Habitat for Humanity & Lowes.

What’s a ‘Short Session,’ anyway?

I’m getting packed up to head back to Raleigh for the “Short Session”, which starts on May 16th. Theoretically, we have a part-time legislature in North Carolina, so our two-year sessions (“Biennium”) are designed to allow legislators to maintain their full-time professions. In odd-numbered years, we are traditionally in session from January to mid-June, and in even-numbered years, like 2018, we are only required to be in session from May 16th to the July 4th holiday.

Recently, these schedules have been altered by the supermajority, with our 2017 Session technically running into February of 2018. The General Assembly has only been able to maintain this schedule in the past by drastically limiting the types of bills that can be considered in even numbered years.

The “Long Session” is when legislators are welcome to write and offer bills on any topic, and are obligated to write and pass a two-year budget for the State. About two-thirds of the way through the Long Session, there is a day designated as “Crossover Day.” On that day, any new legislation must be passed by either the House or the Senate in order to be heard in BOTH Sessions of the Biennium. That means that if a Bill was NOT passed by either the House or the Senate before April 24, 2017, it has almost no chance of becoming law before 2019. After the crossover deadline, all bills MUST have an appropriation clause, which makes it a budget bill, and part of the budgeting process.

The Short Session is traditionally used only to offer amendments and adjustments to the Budget, and consider any bills that were passed by the Crossover Deadline, but not by both houses. (Here’s our filing deadline information.) It is actually not possible to submit a new ‘regular’ bill that is not directly related to the budget during the Short Session.

Usually, the Governor, who is in charge of the Administration, will submit a range of suggested ‘fixes’ to the budget based on circumstances that may have changed since the budget was passed, or based on political priorities they’d like to pursue. As you might imagine, in a divided government, this can lead to some very public friction between the legislature and the Governor.   

Now that you know how all this ‘traditionally’ works, let me remind you that the rules of any legislative body can be waived by a sufficient vote of the members, and my Republican colleagues have a supermajority in both houses. They have issued a list of exceptions to the ‘no new bills’ rule including: NC constitutional amendments, redistricting bills at any level, election law changes, bills to disapprove administrative rules, and several others that suggest we could be in for an interesting 2018 Short Session in Raleigh.

Be sure to stay informed as the Short Session begins and to hold the supermajority accountable for the bills they pass.
Programs that offer affordable health care to all, regardless of their ability to pay, like the CW Williams Community Health Center, would be able to expand their services if we accepted Medicaid Expansion in NC.  

Our Priorities in the Short Session

The Democratic House and Senate Caucuses have been working with Governor Roy Cooper’s office to develop a set of priorities for the Short Session. We want to concentrate our efforts on issues where there might be some bipartisan agreement, while also doing everything we can to thwart attempts to further entrench the political power of the supermajority.

This year, we hope to (i) increase funding for student instruction and teacher pay, (ii) introduce new investments in job training and economic development, and (iii) expand Medicaid to make healthcare more affordable for the citizens of North Carolina. 
(Here is a LINK to the Governor Roy Cooper’s 2019 budget recommendations.)  

At the same time we are working with the Governor to make these positive steps, we are hearing that the leadership is still considering a number of proposals that we intend to fight tooth and nail. These include the wholesale redistricting and gerrymandering of the District and Superior court systems in North Carolina, and/or a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to choose judges at all levels.

There are also proposals to introduce a Voter ID law that would disenfranchise older and low income residents of our State, as well as further attacks on the power of the Governor to oversee the administration of elections through the Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. 

I have real disagreements with the leadership over many of these proposals, but the truth is that everyone up here in Raleigh wants our children to be well-educated and our economy to continue to grow.

When we are able to come to the table together and look for solutions, as we did with the class-size debate, we can reach outcomes that work for our State, even if neither side feels like they got everything they wanted. The truth is that we need to find more of that spirit so that the changes we’ve made in K-3 classes don’t have unintended negative consequences for our 4-6 grade classes as those same children move through elementary school. 

We need to come together to find solutions for training our workforce for a world where skills and requirements are changing almost as fast as workers can gain the knowledge they need to succeed. This is going to require a new focus on apprenticeship programs, stipends for certifications, lifetime learning opportunities, and workforce retraining.

We’re really only going to be in Raleigh working as a full body for six weeks this year. I hope we can spend much of that time working together to solve North Carolina’s pressing needs, rather than engaging in ideological warfare that may rile up our political allies, but rarely leads to sound public policy.
My 2018 Campaign Kickoff at Sugar Creek Brewery was a big hit with the crowd (or at least the micro-brews were)! 

New State Employee Pay Scales

The North Carolina Office of State Human Resources recently rolled out a new unified system for the classification, description, and pay scales of all public employees in North Carolina.

Previously, the State was using two separate systems, depending on the department, and many of the official job descriptions did not adequately describe the responsibilities of the positions or translate to similar positions in the private sector. You can learn more about the five-year project from this helpful video released by the OSHR.

The new system should make it easier for budget writers in departments and the legislature to make more effective comparisons with administrative positions across the State. It should also make it easier for employees to recognize opportunities to grow their pay and compensation within their chosen position, or to see where other similar opportunities might exist both in government and in the private sector. Aligning the public and private job descriptions will allow employees and managers to get a much better understanding of how much they can make or how much they should be willing to spend for any given job.  

I hope this will lead to a mutually beneficial arrangement for our departments and employees. It is no secret that many careers today are spent at multiple employers over many years, as prospects change and chances for advancement present themselves. The State of North Carolina needs to proactively offer competitive salaries to people at every level, so we can get talented people in the door, help them grow their skills and move their careers forward, safe in the knowledge that future opportunities will be open inside and outside government.  

For more information on the rollout that happens in June, you can check out this FAQ from the NCOSHR. If you are a state employee and have specific questions about your situation, you should contact your Department or Agency Human Resources Office.
Bright Blessings volunteers bring birthday surprises to homeless children & infants.

Our Community in Action

I was recently introduced to the outstanding work of the non-profit group “Bright Blessings,” which specializes in providing birthday celebrations for children who are homeless or shelter-insecure in our community. The group was founded by a family in Mint Hill who started their work by hosting birthday parties for children in local homeless shelters. Over the years, they have grown to offer some amazing services for the homeless children in our community. 

They put on monthly shelter birthdays at all the major Charlotte shelters so that everyone who has a birthday that month is celebrated (adults, too!). They partner with CMS to identify students who may be transient or in foster care and deliver ‘Birthday Packs’ to the students on their birthdays. They even work with the women’s shelters to identify prospective mothers and gift them a ‘Bless a Baby Basket’ to provide some of the many necessary baby accessories other families might take for granted. 

If you’d like to learn more about Bright Blessings, please visit their web site at BrightBlessingsUSA.org.

Domestic Violence Hotline: If you or someone you know is trapped in a domestic violence or partner abuse situation, please call Safe Alliance at 704-332-2513 and they can help you.

Mecklenburg Compost & Mulch are now available for purchase from the new Compost Central Recycling Disposal Center. Visit their web page for details and pricing.

Property Tax values and histories in Mecklenburg County can be searched on this site that includes links to Polaris and information about the reassessments that occurred in 2011. You can find more detailed information on real estate values on the Mecklenburg Modria site. 

Charlotte 311 is your connection to city services, including Animal Control, Street Maintenance, Bulky Trash Pick-up, Parking Enforcement, and all other non-police related matters. Dial 311 or visit their website to fill out a form and have your issue addressed as soon as possible.    


Voter Information: You can find your current information on the NC Voter Lookup page. You can also find interactive versions of the new House & Senate maps HERE.   
 
Don’t forget! Visit NCCash.com today to see if you have unclaimed property under the supervision of the NC Treasurer’s office.

My office is here to help you navigate any issues you may have with state services. Please call myself or my legislative assistant, Ralph Belk, at 919-733-5607 or email me at mary.belk@ncleg.net with any questions or concerns

In the News

Why both sides are wrong: NC’s teacher pay ranking is even worse than it appears
NC Policy Watch

We really do have a solution to the opioid epidemic — and one state is showing it works
Vox

Are teachers losing their grip on the middle class?
The Hechinger Report

Teachers To Take Demands To Raleigh On May 16
WFMY

Teacher walkouts could be the next #metoo movement (column by high school teacher)
Charlotte Observer

Cooper calls for $60M in new job training money
WRAL

Exclusive neighborhoods, exclusive recovery: High demand in sought-after Zip codes fuels an uneven recovery and widens economic inequality.
Washington Post
 
Gov. Cooper Seeks $60M in New Job Training Money
WWAY
 
'Red flag' law could take guns from those deemed dangerous in NC
WRAL

Third Grade Can Be A Stressful Year For Students, And Their Parents
WUNC

Stealthily, Gov. Cooper visits tech's biggest giants in San Francisco
Triangle Business Journal

Chemours plans $100M in upgrades, pushes back against regulators
WRAL

NEA rankings are in: Where North Carolina falls on teacher pay and per-pupil spending
EdNC

Pay ratio gap widens between chief executives, rank-and-file employees
Winston-Salem Journal


 
Mecklenburg County NC House Districts Effective for the 2018 Election 
Copyright © 2018 Representative Mary Belk, All rights reserved.


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