Current, pending policies discussed at Legislative Breakfast
SPRUCE PINE – Elected officials or their representatives were joined by Mitchell County Manager Kathy Young Friday, March 15, at the Spruce Pine Fire Department to discuss current and pending legislation moving through the North Carolina General Assembly and the United States Congress during a Legislative Breakfast sponsored by the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce.
“We are going to hear some good information today form the federal level, the state level and the local level,” said Patti Jensen, executive director of the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce. “I encourage you to stay connected – stay connected to us at the Chamber, stay connected to your elected officials.”
Martha Peterson, field representative for four-term Republican United States Congressman Mark Meadows in his Spruce Pine office, said one of Meadows’ top priorities is creating an economic-friendly environment that will spur growth and help rebuild the economy in Western North Carolina.
“The Congressman encourages job creation by keeping taxes low, paying down our national debt, controlling spending, and eliminating waste and fraud within our government,” Peterson said.
Republican United States Sen. Richard Burr’s western field representative Robin Ramsey said Burr and the rest of the Senate are currently focusing on confirming nominations for judges and she touted the passing of a lands package.
“The lands package will really change to look of America for the better,” Ramsey said. “It had Sen. Burr’s baby in it, called the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was a huge legislative win for him. It means a lot to him, to America and North Carolina. A lot of funds come here through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
Regional Representative for Republican United States Sen. Thom Tillis Jordan Barnes said North Carolina is “open for business” because the Senate’s de-regulatory and pro-growth policies are working.
Barnes also stressed the importance of broadband internet and trade.
North Carolina District 47 Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, has been in the state legislature for nine years and said he believes Mitchell County can be proud of its representation and leadership in Raleigh.
“The state was having a tough time when I went to Raleigh nine years ago,” Hise said. “Unemployment in the 47th District was at 15 percent; now it’s 4 percent.”
Hise also touted the state’s expected 2019 budget surplus, which he said is $115 million.
“We changed the formula, and we’re changing the outcomes,” he said.
Hise also spoke about the proposal to eliminate the state’s franchise tax, calling it the “No. 1 issue” when recruiting companies to locate in North Carolina. He also spoke about SB 86, also known as the Small Business Healthcare Act, which would create opportunities for small employers to provide employees more access to health insurance by decreasing the number of employees required to cover small employers from 26 to 12.
Hise said North Carolina now ranks No. 29 in the country in average teachers’ pay. The North Carolina Association of Educators, however, ranks North Carolina at No. 37 and an October 2018 study by the U.S. Labor Department and 24/7 Wall Street reviewed the median annual salary for elementary, middle and high school teachers in every state and ranked North Carolina at No. 46 with a median salary of $45,195.
North Carolina District 85 Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell, has served in the state legislature since 2010. In that time, he said healthcare had been his focus, such as getting behavioral health integrated with Medicaid and SB 360, which revises the laws about involuntary commitment to improving the delivery of behavioral health services.
“Childcare and public education are two other areas I like to focus on,” Dobson said. “We will continue paying our teachers and investing in public education.”
Dobson said the claims there are no jobs available is a “false narrative.”
“We need a trained workforce,” he said. “There are places right now that need workers. We don’t have a lack of jobs; we have a lack of trained workers.”
Mitchell County Manager Kathy Young closed the meeting and spoke about the new 911 center being built, the establishing of a drug court, the county’s litter problem and current and future economic development.
“We have a lot going on in the county,” Young said.