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