Last week in the North Carolina General Assembly we were not in session, but we had many committee meetings in Raleigh, two of which I am a member, I had a chance to meet with the Speaker of the House, and I had time for meetings back home in the district.
On Wednesday the House Select Committee on N.C. River Quality met in Raleigh. As one of the Chairs, I was in attendance. It was an interesting meeting, being in the wake of our recent session in which we were unable to agree on short-term measures to speed up the testing and remediation of our drinking water. I expressed my concern over the way that occurred, and my hope for the immediate future. There was some heated discussion, but also some positive testimony from the Department of Environmental Quality(DEQ) on some of the actions being taken in regard to the chemical companies and other polluters. We also heard from UNCW and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority on the actions they have been taking in response to our previous allocations of funds to them for testing and analysis. Near the end of the meeting there was a suggestion that the committee change its name to “Water Quality” instead of “River Quality” to include the scope of ground water in our wells and aquifers, as well as surface water in our rivers across the state. I agree that all sources should be included to insure the quality of our drinking water.
Early Thursday morning I was able to accompany House Speaker Tim Moore when he spoke to the N.C. Press Association. It was interesting to meet the publishers, editors, and others in attendance. I was lucky to run into a local publisher of the State Port Pilot, Mr. Ed Harper.
Thursday was the meeting of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform. The main subject of the day was the handling of funds to public charter schools. There are mixed opinions on whether or not the funds should flow through the local school districts, as they do now, or being paid directly to the charter schools. The majority of opinions from experts on all sides of this issue appears to be that they should continue to flow through the districts, but be better accounted for in some way. It was a consensus that the system is now overly complicated and confusing.
Returning Thursday night, I was able to attend the annual awards banquet of the Cape Fear Council of Governments, which provides services to a five county region. It was good to see so many of our Mayors and other elected local officials from Brunswick County there, and was surprised to see I was the only legislator in attendance.
Having Monday, Friday and Saturday back in the district, I was able to meet with local citizens on a variety of issues. On Monday I met individually with the advocate for the project to move the railroad crossing from downtown Wilmington to the Brunswick side of the river and across into the port area to the south. Also, I was able to meet with an advocate for clean water in the Leland area, and plan a meeting soon with engineers working on the water issue.
Friday saw a meeting with a couple of citizens interested in our record of election reform, voter rights, and redistricting. It is always good to have a civil discussion of issues, even if you don’t agree on everything. We found some on which we could agree. Saturday was the official day for precinct meetings in my political party. It was good to see new people getting involved. Later, one gentleman met with me in Shallotte because of the urging of his industry advocates to get to know their local legislators. I have always said one of the benefits of being involved as I am is the chance to make new friends with differing opinions.
This week should be relatively quiet, but the calendar for the balance of March is filling up quickly.