Bi-weekly newsletter from the office of Representative Mary Belk.
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May 18th was my last radiation treatment! Thank you to the amazing medical professionals who guided me and my fellow patients who continue to inspire me.

Juvenile Justice & Reinvestment Act 

On May 17, the North Carolina House took a major step to bringing North Carolina’s justice system in line with the rest of the country. HB280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, shifts the assignment of 16 and 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies from adult courts to the juvenile court system. I wholeheartedly support this change because there are more diversion, rehabilitation, and mental health care programs that are available to offenders who are convicted in juvenile courts. The move to juvenile court also rightfully requires the participation and accountability of the families of youthful offenders, which is not the case in adult court. 

My colleague Susan Martin noted that punishing children, “with lifelong criminal records and possible prison time with adults, where, as mentioned, they have significantly more likelihood to be physically and sexually victimized and manipulated by gangs, just sets them up for failure.”  

However, we cannot claim victory until the NC Senate passes the same measure. Right now there are rumors that the Senate would prefer to only shift misdemeanor charges over to juvenile courts, but I think that fails to address the basic concern that non-violent adolescent offenders are being housed and influenced by hardened criminals in the adult corrections system. I encourage you to contact your State Senators and tell them that they need to vote for the complete Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, including adolescents charged with nonviolent felonies.
Judicial District Manager Darius Deese (in black) and AJDMs Keith Campbell, Kim Gettys, & Rhonda Walton introduced me to the probation and supervision programs in Mecklenburg County. Congratulations on their recent Beacon Award for exemplary donor leadership and commitment from the State Employees Combined Campaign!

State Budgeting 101

As a freshman legislator, I’m participating in the North Carolina budget process for the first time, and it has been quite the learning experience. You’ve probably read about ‘the budget’ for a few weeks now, but it can be difficult to separate out what people mean when they talk about the different versions of the budget and the process that produces the final budget (which has not been written or presented yet, for those keeping score at home). 

First, it is important to remember that North Carolina budgets for two years at a time. Right now, we’re debating the 2018-2019 budget, but spending money based on the budget passed in 2015. At the beginning, the Governor’s administrative staff looks at the current budget period (2016-2017) and creates a ‘base budget’ of how the State implemented the previous budget and then actually spent the money allocated. This ‘base budget’ is then sent to the Governor, the NC Senate, and the NC House as a ‘current snapshot’ they can use to build new budget plans.

Once the ‘base budget’ numbers are established, the Governor writes up a budget plan for the next two years based on his or her priorities, and sends it to the Legislature. The ‘Governor’s Budget’ is not written as legislation, but more like a list of programs, offices, and services that he would like to fund, increase, create, or cut. As such, it is actually much easier to read than the budget bills created by the House and Senate. Generally, the Governor’s priorities are only shared by the legislature if they’re from the same party. 

The House and Senate take turns producing their budget plans. 2017 is a ‘Senate First’ year, so the Senate Budget was written first. As you might imagine, the Republican leadership of the Senate has very different budget priorities from Governor Cooper, so the budget passed by the Senate last week is very different from the Governor’s suggestions. For reference, here’s a side by side comparison of key points in the Governor’s and Senate budgets this year.

What has been fascinating to me is that the leadership in the NC House, while from the same party as the Senate leaders, is rumored to be drafting an entirely new version that will be debated in the House of Representatives. That should happen over the next two weeks, so stay tuned!

If the House passes a budget that is largely different from the version the Senate passed (as happened in 2015), the leadership of both chambers will appoint a ‘Conference Committee’ to debate the differences between the plans and write a ‘Final Budget’ that can be passed by majorities of both chambers. Then, the Governor can decide if he wants to sign the budget or veto it. With veto proof majorities, the leadership would probably get the last word and be able to get their budget approved. I’ll provide updates as this process progresses.
Advocates for Home Healthcare visited me on the 17th to talk about how we can support professionals and family members who provide these crucial services.

Taking Issue with the Senate Budget

The Senate passed their version of the 2018-19 budget on May 12th. I believe legislators should consider and respect the interests of all our constituents, regardless of whether they support us or our political party. I watched the debate and passage of the Senate budget with a heavy heart as the leadership systematically refused to hear amendments brought by Democratic members of the Senate, then stripped education funding from Democratic districts at 3:00 AM. That was the kind of mean-spirited partisanship that poisons our debate and leads to bad policy.

Commit to Teacher Pay Raises – I came to Raleigh to help the teachers of North Carolina get a fair deal after years of pay cuts and inadequate ‘raises’ that consistently failed to bring them back up to their previous pay levels, much less the national average. Governor Cooper put forward a plan that would boost teacher pay by 10%, and bring us to the national average with across the board base and achievement pay raises. The Senate budget once again provides much less money and leaves entire groups of teachers without any raise at all. Here’s a link to a comparison between the two pay plans for the 2018 school year as proposed.          

Tax Cuts Before Investments – One of the starkest differences between the Governor’s budget and the Senate budget is the question of tax cuts versus investments. The Governor’s budget uses our current budget surplus to invest in infrastructure, pre-K programs, and community college scholarships. In contrast, the Senate gives a massive $3600 tax break to families making more than a million dollars a year, a number that falls to just $60 for the average taxpayer. The Governor has not proposed raising taxes, but he believes our existing state revenue should be used to invest in our greatest resource - the people of North Carolina.
Allison Arber is our first High School Fellowship participant! She'll spend two weeks working in the office and shadowing Representative Belk.

My Committees

To see a complete list of the bills that I have sponsored or cosponsored, please visit my NCGA ‘Introduced Bills’ page.

You can often tell if a bill has a chance of getting to the floor if it is assigned to a committee other than Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House. I have been assigned to five committees and one sub-committee. You can see the bills currently assigned to my committees using the links below.

My Committees:
State & Local Government I
Judiciary IV

My Sub-Committee:
Appropriations – Justice & Public Safety

Your Schools & Your Government

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board is scheduled to hold a public meeting on May 24, 2017 to take public comments and vote on the Phase II student reassignment plan. I encourage parents who are concerned about the plan to contact our School Board members and respectfully share your concerns. I would also encourage you to attend the public meeting.  

As a state legislator, I don’t have direct oversight of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education or input on their decisions, but my office has received a number of communications from constituents who are concerned about the student reassignment plan as currently written. My understanding is that a number of families have worked in good faith to provide alternative plans and CMS is reviewing those plans in advance of their meeting this week. I will continue to monitor with interest responses and updates received from CMS. I recommend this article as a helpful summary of suggested changes, some alternative plans, and links to a number of the resources provided by CMS.       

Did You Know? You can request free mulch from the city’s yard waste recycling program! Fill out THIS FORM on the Landscape Management website to request your delivery.

Don’t forget! Visit 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 with any questions or concerns
Old friends from Charlotte visit Raleigh! Nikki Herlong chaperoned her daughter Braden's 4th grade class & Shannon Hennessy is in Public Relations for Coke, Inc.

In the News

U.S. Supreme Court agrees NC lawmakers created illegal congressional district maps in 2011
Charlotte Observer

Breaking and Analysis: Supreme Court on 5-3 Vote Affirms NC Racial Gerrymandering Case, with Thomas in Majority and Roberts in Dissent
Election Law Blog

At 3 a.m., NC Senate GOP strips education funding from Democrats’ districts
The News & Observer
Republicans in N.C. Senate cut education funding — but only in Democratic districts. Really.
Washington Post
Cooper criticizes Senate budget provision on food stamps
In the wee hours, NC Senate Republicans act small (Jim Jenkins column)
The News & Observer
133,000 people would lose food stamps under NC Senate budget
The News & Observer
Strict North Carolina Voter ID Law Thwarted After Supreme Court Rejects Case
NY Times
Supreme Court won’t review decision that found N.C. voting law discriminates against African Americans
Washington Post
Editorial:  Hoist a toast to the Supreme Court, but you better drink fast
Charlotte Observer
Gov. Cooper visits Charlotte as Sealed Air officially relocates to Queen City
26 counties will no longer require emissions testing
The NC legislature’s curious anti-union project (Rob Christensen column)
The News & Observer
Cooper vetoes hog farm nuisance lawsuit limits
Gov. Cooper vetoes hog nuisance bill; new court documents show fecal bacteria from hogs on homes
NC Policy Watch
House votes to override Cooper veto on hog lawsuit awards
Some Guilford County schools will see a K-3 class size increase next year
News & Record
Study: Low-income, minority grad rates still lag
Greenville Daily Reflector
Governor proposes stipend for classroom supplies
Gaston Gazette
Editorial: Can you make an ‘F’ and not be low-performing?
Charlotte Observer
Environmentalists are playing defense in Raleigh
News & Record
How much will Duke Energy charge?
Winston-Salem Journal
In N.C. politics, incentives remain a touchy subject
Triangle Business Journal
The Quiet Wave of School District Secessions
U.S. News and World Report
Sleeping on floors and in boarded up hotels. 7 months after Matthew, renters still mired in misery
The News & Observer
Cooper calls lack of Matthew aid from Trump, congress "incredible failure"
'Shock And Disappointment' Over Lack Of Matthew Relief Funding
Cooper sends letter to Trump administration over Matthew aid
Winston-Salem Journal
NC asks for $900M in flood relief, feds give $6.1M, Cooper says
UNCC Graduates Mary Belk & Linda Hunt Williams
Copyright © 2017 Representative Mary Belk, All rights reserved.

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