The 2019-20 General Assembly gets down to business next week. Without a Republican supermajority, a governor who is all too happy to veto and/or sue and everyone vying for a political advantage in the upcoming 2020 election, the question is will they agree on anything?
There will be disagreements for sure. Medicaid expansion is a high priority for the governor, for DHHS Secretary and many liberal legislators. It’s a bad idea and they shouldn’t do it but there will be heated discussions to be sure. With expected revenue surplus, there will be disagreements on whether to save that money (they should) or spend on new or expanded programs. And expect a battle over redistricting. Perhaps a self-interested power grab from each side will result in a better way to draw the maps. I’m sure there will be other areas of conflict and am equally sure the media will be there to egg both sides on. Headlines sell newspapers, and all that jazz.
But there is certainly room for harmony and agreement.
There’s been movement over the last several years to remove barriers for the burgeoning craft beer industry and boutique distillers to grow, create jobs and opportunities. Alcohol entrepreneurship has led to the bigger discussion of the entire ABC system and the need for comprehensive reforms. Let’s hope 2019 is the time to reform NC’s antiquated system and open the system to real competition and consumer choice.
Many communities in eastern NC have not fully recovered from recent storms. Although over $850 M has been allocated to recovery needs, more needs to be done. In addition to the short term needs, many legislators recognize the need for a comprehensive plan for sustainable recovery from these and future storms. Policymakers will be looking at reforms to flood and property insurance markets as well as repair, renovations and rebuilding of water and sewer systems. Storm recovery is also a good reminder that priority number one must be rebuilding the state’s rainy day fund.
Everyone agrees health care costs are escalating and something must be done. Allowing medical providers to practice within their full scope of training will increase access, particularly in rural NC. Encouraging innovation and technology through hi-tech telemedicine increases access, lowers costs, results in better health outcomes and strengthens the relationship between patient and doctor. Opening up the insurance market so more products, like association plans are available at affordable costs, offering coverage that best meets an individual’s need should appeal to everyone.
Governor Cooper, Speaker of the House Tim Moore and state Superintendent of Education Mark Johnson support a $2B school construction bond. It would come as a referendum that voters would have to approve. How, where and when to build schools is a concern across the state from overcrowded districts, to rural areas without adequate funds. Expect support on this very bipartisan issue to grow over the next few months. And be prepared to vote yes or no – in 2020.
Lawmakers have a responsibility to make good on promises made to state employees and teachers to ensure benefits are there when they need them. Both the pension plan and the state health plan must have adequate funding, fuel transparency and forward thinking options to ensure sustainability. Making good on past promises is not up for debate.
Congratulations to all members of the 2019-20 General Assembly. There’s a lot of work to be done. We’re looking forward to robust debate and exchange of ideas. Disagree where you must but remember, we’re all North Carolinians first.