Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day / Legislative Update

Best wishes to you and your family for a happy and safe Memorial Day. Let us never forget the brave men and women who offered their life in defense of our great nation. It is their sacrifice that provides us with the freedom and liberty that we enjoy.

NC House Passes Budget

The House passed our version of the budget two weeks ago. It is a responsible budget that keeps spending at a reasonable level while providing more funding for the core services of government. Teachers would receive an average 4.1 percent pay increase as well as bonus pay that would count towards their retirement. Other state employees would receive a 2 percent pay increase along with bonus pay, and state retirees would receive a 1.6 percent COLA increase. Spending is kept within TABOR, which means that growth in spending does not out-pace changes in inflation and population.

The budget passed the House on a strong bipartisan vote of 103-12. It has now gone to the Senate, which is deliberating over the details. The Senate will soon pass the budget back to the House, and then it will likely go to conference, where conferees will be appointed to negotiate a final version.

More Tax Cuts Advanced

The House and Senate are working on a proposal that would increase the standard deduction for all taxpayers. The current standard deduction for a married couple is $15,500 and the standard deduction for an individual filer is $7,750. Current proposals would increase those amounts to $17,500 and $8,750, respectively. This would especially benefit lower-to-middle income earners.

Protecting Firefighters

It was my honor to run an amendment to the budget that added three types of cancer to line of duty death benefits for firefighters. North Carolina is one of only a few states that doesn't provide such benefits for the family of a firefighter who loses his or her life in the line of duty. This is a positive step forward in enhancing benefits for firefighters, who often risk their life to keep us safe.

Supporting Our Aviation Industry

During debate on the budget, there was an amendment offered that would have eliminated a 3 percent tax cut on the sale of air planes and boats above $50,000. If passed, this amendment would have had a negative impact on aviation companies in North Carolina, such as HondaJet. This also would have impacted boating companies that may be looking to locate in North Carolina. I responded by debating the issue and then making a motion to "lay the amendment upon the table," which passed and removed the amendment from consideration.

Unemployment Hits Eight Year Low

North Carolina's mostly recent unemployment rate, 5.4 percent, is the lowest we have had in eight years. Although there is more work to do, this indicates that the economy is continuing to recover. North Carolina has had one of the fastest rates of job-creation over the last few years. Our state GDP is strong and the private sector has been creating jobs faster than the national average.

High Business Rating

North Carolina recently ranked third for business climate in Chief Executive magazine. The magazine claimed that chief executives who "favor pro-growth, low-tax states ranked Texas, Florida and North Carolina as the best states in the U.S. for business." This is good news for our State, but you are unlikely to see this reported in the mainstream media.

Meeting with Constituents

It was an honor to meet with real estate appraisers who visited the legislature to discuss policies related to their industry. I had the privilege of running a regulatory reform bill related to their profession in last year's legislative session.

Meeting with Health Care Professionals

It was a pleasure to visit the staff at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro. They invited me to tour their facility and learn about their operation model. I am impressed by the services they provide to our community.

Summerfield Founder's Day Parade

Earlier this month I participated in the Founder's Day Parade in Summerfield. This is a patriotic parade that celebrates the founding of the Summerfield community. I had my Ford Mustang decorated for the occasion.

More Updates Coming Soon...

As always, I will do my best to keep you updated on developments at the legislature. Our goal is to complete the current legislative session by the 4th of July holiday. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments.

Quote to Remember

"Today is a day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It's a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It's a day to be with the family and remember."
- President Ronald Reagan's 1986 Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia

Rep. Jon Hardister

Thursday, May 12, 2016

NC House Update - May 2016

The 2016 legislative session is well underway at the NC General Assembly. We began session on April 15th. There is no set date to adjourn, but we hope to complete our work before the 4th of July holiday.

Here is an update on recent developments.

Supporting People Who Have a Developmental Disability

Last week I filed HB 1033 - ID Card Fee Waiver/Disability - which would waive the fee for a special identification card given to a person with a developmental disability. Currently, people who are legally blind, people who have become disabled, and people who are over the age of 70 are able to obtain a special ID card free-of-charge. This bill, which is supported by The Arc of North Carolina, would add people who have a developmental disability to that category.

Economic Growth in NC

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, NC has had the fastest growing economy in the nation since 2013. We have experienced a 13.4% increase in the State's GDP (Gross Domestic Product) over the last three years. NC has created more than 275,000 private sector jobs during this time period, which places our growth in job creation above the national average. The private sector has benefited from $4.4 billion in tax relief, fiscal responsibility and various regulatory reform measures.

NC Ties with Texas for the "Prosperity Cup"

Site Selection's annual competition is called the "Prosperity Cup," formerly known as the Competitiveness Award. This year NC tied for first place with Texas. The ranking is based on an index of 10 criteria that measure corporate project activity and business climate attractiveness. As NC Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla, III expresses, "It's our can-do attitude that shines through. That's an intangible that companies notice about our workforce and mention often."

NC Voter ID Laws

Recently, a federal court upheld NC's common sense photo voter ID law, dismissing all claims in the lawsuit filed by political opponents. In the ruling, the court agreed that, "the changes were based on legitimate and substantial concerns of election integrity and fairness and leave an electoral system that provides generous, fair, and equal opportunity for voters of all races and ages."

State Budget Deliberations Underway

Governor Pat McCrory's budget proposal for the 2016-2017 fiscal year has been released. The next step is for the NC House to pass its version of the budget, which is expected to happen next week. The NC Senate will then proceed to make amendments to the budget and discussions will ensue.

As always, the primary focus of the budget is to adequately fund the core responsibilities of government while ensuring that spending is responsible. We have agreed that there will be no tax or fee increases and that spending levels will be kept within TABOR, which means that spending growth will not out-pace increases in inflation and population. It is likely that public school teachers, public safety personnel and other state employees will see a reasonable pay increase in this year's budget.

Community Involvement with The ARC of Greensboro

It was my honor to participate in an annual event with The ARC of Greensboro called "Dancing on the Diamond." My dancing partner was Addie Sellars. We danced to the tune of Uptown Funk and won first place for "Most Entertaining Dance." The event raised over $11,000 for The ARC of Greensboro, which supports people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

GOPAC Chooses its 2016 Class of "Emerging Leaders"

It is my honor to be chosen to participate in GOPAC's 2016 Class of "Emerging Leaders." I am one of 26 legislators from across the country who have been chosen to attend this conference.

On its website, GOPAC describes its mission as follows:

Since 1978, GOPAC has been a force in America because we realize Republicans must champion the ideas that unite voters around a vision of creating jobs, getting government spending under control, making government more effective, and keeping America safe. This is why Republicans turn to GOPAC for coaching and best practices on effective ways to communicate conservative ideas and solutions.

It is an honor to be chosen by GOPAC to participate in the 2016 Class of Emerging Leaders. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn new ways to enhance government efficiency in North Carolina. I look forward to meeting leaders from across the country and learning from their experience.

School Students Visit the State Capital

These are 4th grade students from Alamance Elementary School. I had the honor of giving them a tour of the legislative building. It is always great to meet with students and explain how the legislative process works.

Industries of the Blind

It was a pleasure to visit the Industries of the Blind in Winston-Salem. I was inspired by the hard work and dedication that was displayed by people who have visual impairment. They produce an impressive amount of goods for the U.S. Military.

Inspiration on the Golf Course

Recently I had the privilege of caddying for my friend Kevin Reinert, who returned to the game of golf after being struck by a car last summer. His return to the game, after suffering serious injuries, is impressive and inspirational. I was honored to be a part of this occasion at Starmount Forest County Club, which was covered by numerous media outlets.

More Updates Soon...

I will be sure to provide more updates as the 2016 legislative session continues. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Quote to Remember

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is always what it takes to sit down and listen."
- Winston Churchill.

Rep. Jon Hardister