Bi-weekly newsletter from the office of Representative Mary Belk.
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Governor Cooper was accompanied by Attorney General Josh Stein and members of law enforcement at the STOP Act signing. Photo courtesy of

Governor Cooper Takes Action

The flurry of legislation we passed in the closing weeks of the Long Session created a pile of over 200 bills on Governor Cooper’s desk and, though he has signed many of them, he has already issued a few vetoes since we left Raleigh. As I’ve mentioned before, partisanship makes for good headlines, but most bills we debate and pass enjoy broad bipartisan support. The Governor held his own signing event to underline his support for the STOP Act to fight the opioid epidemic, and I’m sure you’ve seen stories about SB155, a.k.a. The Brunch Bill, going into effect in counties and localities across the state. There are a number of other bills I supported that have now become law.

I am particularly proud of the work the legislature did this session to strengthen our Domestic Violence laws. I supported all three bills, SB600, HB343, and HB399 , that Governor Cooper signed into law. According to the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 82 people lost their lives due to domestic violence last year in North Carolina. HB343 allows domestic violence protective orders granted by a judge to take full effect even when under appeal. Advocates and law enforcement expect this new law to bolster protective orders that can help protect survivors from ongoing domestic violence. HB399 closes a gap in existing law that will allow law enforcement to combat the sharing and posting of private images without victims’ consent. SB600 will create a rebuttable presumption of premeditation, elevating a homicide to a first degree murder, if there is malice and the defendant has a certain prior conviction involving the same victim.

One other bipartisan bill that I think deserves special mention is HB21, which directs the DMV to start providing driver instruction on how to safely and appropriately interact with law enforcement during traffic stops.  I hope that better education and awareness will help drivers and law enforcement, leading to more positive outcomes and relationships between individuals, the community, and law enforcement.

For information on all laws that will officially go into effect between July 1st,  2017 and January 1st, 2018, you can check out this summary provided by the NCGA staff.
Thank you to the University City Chapter of the Charlotte Chamber for their 'Future of Transit' program exploring opportunities arising from the Blue Line extension. 

What About Those Vetoes?

When we left Raleigh before the 4th of July holiday, we knew we may have to come back as soon as August 3rd to consider any bills vetoed by Governor Cooper. As of today, Governor Cooper has vetoed three bills, so we are definitely heading back up on August 3rd for veto override votes. I’m 100% behind Governor Cooper on sustaining his vetoes of HB576 and HB205, while I’m looking forward to hearing more about his concerns on HB511.

HB576 is popularly known as the “garbage juice bill” and it is the kind of bill that reminds me that unconstitutionally gerrymandered supermajorities pass legislation that lacks common sense. In short, landfills produce a wastewater liquid that must be treated because it’s full of decaying garbage. Someone has invented a ‘treatment’ method that involves spraying the wastewater in the air with snow blowers.  The inventor claims the harmful stuff falls back into the landfill (apparently immune to the wind or basic physics) and  the ‘not harmful’ stuff drifts away in the air.  That’s the idea, anyway. HB576 not only legalizes this method of ‘treatment,’ but requires the Department of Environmental Quality to approve this new method for lined landfills. I wish I could cast two ‘No Override’ votes on this one.

HB205 started its life as a perfectly reasonable and necessary adjustment to the state Workmans Compensation Insurance law that would help the work training programs function better in our Prison Industry Enhancement Program. However, in the back and forth between the House and Senate, unrelated provisions were added to the bill that targeted the newsprint media of Guilford County, where Greensboro is located. By changing the public notice requirements to only require web postings of foreclosures and public sales, the newspapers, especially small town papers outside Greensboro, would suddenly lose sizeable chunks of their regular advertising income. When asked, no one was able to reasonably explain to me why Guilford County should be singled out for this treatment, so I believe it to be legislative payback for stories critical of some legislators. Governor Cooper was right to veto this bill.

HB511 is an interesting case for me. Ostensibly, this is a bill that is intended to allow non-profits to operate “game nights” where games of chance are played for prizes, including alcoholic beverages in their original manufacturer’s containers.  The bill also allows nonprofits to do four raffles a year (up from two) and increases the maximum raffle prize from $125,000 to $250,000. I originally supported this bill because I believe many nonprofits throughout the state are currently holding similar events in a ‘grey area’ of the law and HB511 would create a reasonable legal structure for the practice. However, the Governor, in his veto message, indicates he believes this law could be use to expand video gambling parlors throughout our state. I am not a fan of these operations that prey on our citizens, so I hope the bill can be adjusted to remove any loopholes identified by Governor Cooper or his staff.

To see a complete list of the bills that I have sponsored or cosponsored, please visit my NCGA ‘Introduced Bills’ page.
I attended the 'Break the Majority' event with friends Jane & Kenneth Schorr, and Mike Rizer. We're supporting Governor Cooper's effort to crack the Supermajority at the ballot box.  

There’s No Place Like Home

Working as your legislator in Raleigh has been an exhilarating experience, especially for someone like me who spent years behind the scene as an activist, working to advance causes important to my community and to get people elected who share my values. However, I was not quite expecting how much time I was going to spend away from my family and community. It has been rejuvenating to spend quality time with my husband (who swears he missed me terribly) and reconnect with my brothers and sisters as we celebrated the 4th of July. After spending so many Wednesday nights away, I forgot how much I enjoyed the fellowship at our monthly Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County meetings, but last week’s meeting was like a fresh breeze on a muggy July day. Now that my batteries are recharged, I’m already getting back to work.
If you are a part of a community group, neighborhood association, or issue advocacy organization, I want to hear from you. What are some things that you want to change or improve? Are there issues that you’d like to hear more about from me as your legislator? Would you like me to come to one of your regular meetings to let you know what happened this year in Raleigh? My favorite meetings these past six months were with groups of constituents from Charlotte who were taking their own private time to visit the legislature and advocate for issues dear to their hearts. I’m planning to return the favor while I’m working in Charlotte between sessions.

Please contact me or my Legislative Assistant, Ralph, at or 919-733-5607 and we will work out the details.
This comparison map from a recent court filing shows how the preliminary 2017 County Groups compare to the existing 2011 County Groups.

Redistricting: Deep ‘Inside Baseball’

As everyone knows, there is a major redistricting case (NC v. Covington) pending that will require the NC General Assembly to draw new district lines for some House and Senate seats before the next election. The big outstanding questions are the timing of the actual election (a 2017 special election seems less possible as time passes), and by extension, the districts that will be changed, and when the new maps must be complete and passed by the legislature. Unfortunately, I do not have any information about these ‘headline’ questions, but a recent court filing sheds a bit of light on the leadership’s current thinking about how the lines might be different from the current lines.

This is all new to me, but I’ve been learning a lot from my colleagues and the caucus staff over the past few months. I will try to explain what the preliminary maps in the court filing mean and why they’re important. There’s much more to it than this (more info on the process), but basically, to arrive at district sizes that are approximately the same population, while also respecting federal laws that protect minority voting power, there are two ‘rounds’ of grouping that happen during redistricting. The first round creates ‘County Groups’ that are either single counties where the population is large enough to require multiple districts (like Mecklenburg), counties that are just big enough for one district (like Lincoln), or multiple counties that will need to be combined to create one or more equally populated districts. Right now, it looks like this round of grouping has been published without objection from the plaintiffs in the case, so we may have our first look at what will definitely be different and what probably won’t change from the current lines. 

Here are the proposed County Group maps for the House and here is a map of the current House Districts with the current County Groups overlayed. The ‘comparison map’ at the end of the County Group shades groups that will see court mandated changes (like Mecklenburg) yellow, and places that will probably not see much change (like Western NC) green. The white groups are ‘new’ compared to the previous map and districts in those areas will probably also change. Sadly, this doesn’t give us any clue about how they are planning to draw new districts in the urban centers, but you can see where some current districts in the East, like 1 and 21 will have to change to conform to the new group lines.  
Here is the map set for the proposed Senate County Groups as well as a current district map with the current groups overlayed. You can see a similar pattern repeating here, with Eastern districts like 4, 5, and 7 definitely changing, but very little information on how they will divide the large urban centers.

In truth, these maps create more questions than they answer, but everyone, including yours truly, is starving for redistricting information right now and this felt like something I should share. I’ll keep looking out for news on this. There is a public hearing set for July 27th where the scheduling questions will be argued. Keep an eye on my office Twitter feed @BelkRep for breaking news!
I may be enjoying my time in Charlotte, but I miss the measured commentary and sober analysis my seatmate Rep. John Autry was always willing to provide in session. 

Your State and Your Government

Every year, North Carolina offers and directs millions of dollars in grant money to organizations, school districts, healthcare facilities, and nonprofits to provide services and improve communities throughout the state. Much of the money comes from the Federal Government and it is mandated to be spent on specific education, healthcare, or environmental agencies of the state, but a good number of grants are designed to be awarded to smaller organizations or projects of local interest. 

If you are a part of such an organization, visit the Community Resource Information System to see a list of grants currently being offered by state agencies and who to contact for more information about how to apply. My office is here to assist you with any questions you have on the grant application process.

You can also look up information on existing grant programs and how they’re being administered on       
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.        
Don’t forget! Visit today to see if you have unclaimed property under the supervision of the NC Treasurer’s office. A constituent, Suzanne, found out NC was holding $300 dollars in her name, and they informed her New York had another $3000 due to some housing issues she’d experienced decades ago. No guarantees you’ll be so lucky, but it’s worth checking out!

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.

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
Yes, this is a milk chugging contest (sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of NC), and yes, I beat Representatives Ager and Meyer hands down ! 

In the News

Analysis: New budget creates a $1B shortfall
The Robesonian
NC projections show future state revenue shortfalls
The News & Observer
NC House overrides budget veto, making the spending plan law
The News & Observer
Senate leader defends deep cuts to AG's office
Editorial:  A bad NC budget earns a veto
The News & Observer
Editorial: N.C. legislature sets foundation for 21st century inquisition
Capital Broadcasting Company
House: Marshall impeachment probe will have to wait
Republican regime pursues partisan revenge (Susan Ladd column)
News & Record
Editorial:  Republican move to impeach Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is blatantly political
The News & Observer
Editorial:  In North Carolina, what a political witch hunt really looks like
Charlotte Observer

House panel OKs judicial boundary line changes; Dems say GOP trying to rig courts
Greensboro News & Record
Judicial, DA boundary line changes approved by House panel
The Charlotte Observer
Analysis indicates partisan gerrymandering has benefited GOP
Associated Press
Susan Ladd: A gerrymandered judiciary is GOP's next goal
News & Record
Judicial maps won’t be redrawn this session
News & Observer
Convention of States idea fails at legislature
Associated Press
Push for constitutional convention falters in House
Capitol Affairs: Republican law blocks candidate from running for re-election
Fayetteville Observer
Who killed the dinosaurs? A state budget mystery
Pork, the other budget meat
I’m Republican, but N.C. legislature went too far (column by former NC Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr)
Charlotte Observer
UNCC Graduates Mary Belk & Linda Hunt Williams
Copyright © 2017 Representative Mary Belk, All rights reserved.

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