June 11, 2014
There will be a run-off primary election or the office of Sheriff between Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell. Below are the important dates and information.
- Voters who voted a Republican Ballot or a Democratic Ballot in the May Primary must vote that same Party Ballot in the Second Primary.
- Any registered Democrat, Republican or Unaffiliated voter who did not vote in the May Primary may vote in the Second Primary if eligible to do so. Democrats and Republicans must vote the ballot of the party with which they are registered. Unaffiliated voters may choose.
- Any voter who voted a Libertarian Ballot or a Non-Partisan Ballot in the May Primary is not eligible to vote in the Second Primary.
July 3 – Early voting begins at 9am at the Orange County Board of Elections office. Hours will be 9am to 5pm during the week and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays. This will be the only site for early voting.
July 8 – Last Day to request ballots for July 15 Second Primary by mail. Request must be in office by 5:00 p.m.
July 12 – Early Voting for July 15 Second Primary Ends at 1:00 p.m.
July 15 – By-mail Absentee Ballots for the July 15 Second Primary must be returned to Elections office by 5:00 p.m.
July 15 – Election Day. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. ALL 44 precincts will be open.
July 17, 2014
Yesterday, I attended the Board of Elections meeting where they were to approve the early vote schedule for the fall. Though I knew there could be some others in attendance regarding an early vote site on campus (I was part of the informal committee looking for sites and suggested Carolina Hillel as a possibility, which was eventually approved). There were at least a dozen people in attendance speaking, as I did, in support of expanded hours on Saturday and adding Sunday as a voting day. While Orange County exceeded the number of hours required by law in the primary, I believe we should expand hours even more. Because of the response, the Board is delaying their decision next week.
On Tuesday, July 22 at 11:15am, members of the Orange County Board of Elections will consider our county’s early vote plan. They were originally slated to approve the plan at yesterday’s meeting, but due to the number of people present in support of expanded opportunities opted to postpone their decision.
Please sign our petition in support of expanded early vote opportunities in Orange County, including expanded Saturday hours and Sunday voting. Our goal is to have at least 500 signatures before next Tuesday’s meeting. Please sign our petition and forward this email to your friends and family.
Special note: If you plan to attend the meeting, please arrive by 11am. We encourage as many people to speak as possible. The Board will allow individuals to speak up to one minute. The Board of Elections is located at 208 South Cameron Street in Hillsborough.
-Matt Hughes, Chair
June 30, 2014
The first weekend of summer presented several opportunities to attend events in the district. The General Assembly debate continues on budget priorities, compensation for teachers, and local control. Senate Bill 729—known as the “Coal Ash Bill”—passed through the Senate and is now on its way to the House.
Chatham Randolph Megasite Announcement
On Friday, June 20, I attended an event in Chatham County to officially announce the certification of the Chatham Randolph Megasite, hosted by the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation, the Town of Siler City, and the Chatham County Government. The 1,818-acre industrial site is the first certified megasite in North Carolina. Since 2013, the area has undergone a rigorous review process, which was essential in signaling to industries that the area is primed for investment.
Dianne Reid, president of the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation, recently said, “The megasite already has been identified as one of the top three sites in the entire South for an automotive plant.” She cites the area’s “central location, access to reliable power, and available water and wastewater capacity as major assets.” Moreover, experts have deemed that the area is ripe with a large, skilled and productive workforce, therefore, making it more attractive to industries.
This is good news for Siler City, especially since more than 1000 jobs have been lost since 2011 with the closing of the Townsend chicken plant. With full-scale marketing efforts across the country and the globe underway, the future looks bright for economic prosperity for Siler City, Chatham County and the region.
Habitat for Humanity 30th Anniversary
On Saturday, more than 300 persons braved the heat to celebrate the 30thAnniversary of Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.
The event was held at Phoenix Place in the Rogers-Eubanks community. On hand for the event were Rep. David Price, Orange County Commissioners, members from the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, and Bob Kucab of the NC Housing Finance Agency. Over the course of these 30 years Habitat for Humanity of OC has built 249 affordable homes in Orange County, making the dream of home ownership a reality for many families. Congratulations and thanks Habitat!
Hog Day 2014
Saturday was also the second day of Orange County’s annual Hog Day festival.Despite the heat, hundreds attended this historic annual event, held at the Efland Ruritan Club. As always, there was music, food, arts and crafts, games and of course, the BBQ cook-off. This year, for the first time in 31 years, the festival was not sponsored by the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce. Congratulations to the newly formed Optimist Club of Orange County for a successful fun event!
Coal Ash Bill
On Wednesday the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 729, the Coal Ash Bill. The bill, which is now on its way to the House, still maintains all of the core elements that were previously reported.
However, some additions to the bill were made before its passage. In fact, I offered two amendments to the bill. The first amendment would have added the Cape Fear Power Plant to the four high priority sites. Unfortunately, the Senate majority did not agree with my insistence on the matter. However, my second amendment did manage to make its way into the bill. The amendment would require Duke Energy to notify state officials as soon as practicable—not to exceed a period of 24 hours—of any unpermitted discharges. Though the bill is not perfect my amendment and others that were added on Wednesday, represent a substantial step in the right direction.
Please continue to contact my office to share your concerns on issues or if my office can be of any assistance to you. Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Raleigh.
June 20, 2014
General Assembly Update
The “Short Session”
The General Assembly is currently in the “Short Session” that happens in even-numbered years (2014). We began meetings in mid-May and should finish business around the end of June. There is no official date for the end of the session. We vote to adjourn after completing the budget and any other business before us. This year’s “Short Session” is supposed to have a limited scope, mostly focused on amending the two-year budget passed last year. Of course, whenever politicians are at work, they have a hard time putting limits on what they are doing, and there are hundreds of bills up for consideration. It has already been a wild ride and promises to get even more so.
Changes to Tax Laws
Perhaps the most important bill the House has passed so far did not get much attention. An omnibus revenue bill (HB1050) made changes to the state’s system of taxation that build on the massive tax overhaul implemented after last years’ legislative session. The biggest change this year was the elimination of municipalities’ ability to levy a privilege license fee on businesses operating within their borders. This will significantly reduce the amount of taxes that towns and cities can collect from businesses, and will likely mean that they will have to increase property taxes if they want to keep their current level of municipal services. I did not support this provision because I think that we already rely too heavily on property taxes for providing local services.
I was able to help make one positive change in the taxation bill. The original bill changed the way farmers can become eligible for an agricultural sales tax exemption that helps them be able to afford equipment and supplies. The proposed bill would have made it more difficult for small farmers to claim the exemption during their startup phase, when most farmers need the exemption the most. Although the House was not able to adjust that clause, some concerned members from the House joined with some farm advocates to work with the Senate to come up with a fix. Now startup farmers will be able to claim a special status that grants the exemption for three years.
The bill to allow fracking (SB786) moved too quickly for my taste. In the House, Republicans denied committees the ability to make any amendments to the bill and then used parliamentary procedures to dismiss nearly every amendment that Democrats brought to the floor. The result is a bill that was written behind closed doors by a handful of legislators and representatives of the fracking industry. The bill has gaps in it where we need safeguards for landowner and environmental protections. Unfortunately, the Mining and Energy Commission will be set many of the rules for fracking without further review from the General Assembly. Given that North Carolina has only enough gas to supply the United States with five days’ worth of energy, I could not support a bill that had so many environmental risks for the promise of very little reward. Because my family depends on well water for drinking and bathing, it scares me that someone drilling near my home could poison the water in my well. Passing this bill means fracking is likely to begin in the spring of 2015.
A Small Victory
I was pleased that a bipartisan group of House members passed a bill (HB725) that will raise the age for prosecuting misdemeanor crimes in adult courts from 16 to 18. North Carolina was one of only two states that still treated 16 and 17 year olds as adults in the court system. The Senate must still hear and approve the bill and then the Governor must sign it before it becomes law. However, it was gratifying to take this step towards assisting teens get help through a more caring juvenile system rather than punishing them in adult courts.
Updating the Budget
The Senate passed their budget (SB744) in record time, squeezing it in with a late night Friday session and then a final vote just after midnight on Saturday morning. I wondered, “why were they rushing, and why the extreme measure of a midnight session?” It concerns me greatly that they never discussed any provisions of the budget in committees and allowed only a few amendments to be made before taking a vote on a massive piece of legislation. Things will proceed somewhat differently in the House, where the budget will be broken into parts and heard in Appropriations subcommittees before being voted on as a whole. I can’t yet predict how our version will differ from the Senate budget, but I am hopeful that we can make some improvements to the education and health care plans passed by the Senate.
The Big Task
We need a budget that gives the people of North Carolina what they truly need in support for education, health care, or environmental protection. Many people have been asking me what you can do to make an impact on the budget this year. Here are my suggestions:
1. Write to the members of the House Appropriations Subcommittees. Each of these committees will be taking up a specific part of the budget. While legislators usually are most responsive to constituents from their own district, these legislators are writing a budget for the entire state and need to hear from everyone. If there is a specific issue that you care about, write to the committee that oversees that portion of the budget.
2. Write to the members of the full House Appropriations Committee. This is the most powerful committee in the House, and its members will stitch together the subcommittee budgets and make final changes before sending the budget to the full House for deliberations and a vote.
3. Visit us at the General Assembly this week and make your opinions known in person. The Appropriations Subcommittees will be meeting Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The full Appropriations Committee will meet Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. Then the full House will start debating the budget on Thursday at noon. Things are going to move very quickly…
Advice for Visiting the General Assembly
When to Visit
The legislature generally meets each week beginning on Monday evenings and continues through mid-day on Thursday. There have been very few Monday meetings this Session so the best times to visit are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
What Happens During the Day?
No one day is like another at the General Assembly, but in general, there are committee meetings in the morning and the House and Senate meet in full session in the late afternoon. We start sessions in the late morning on Thursdays. You can find an up-to date calendar for each day here.
Trying to plan ahead can be difficult, because each day’s calendar usually is not announced until the day before. So use this website to find out what is scheduled, and check it regularly because things can change at a moment’s notice.
If there is a specific committee you are interested in visiting, each committee has a standing meeting time listed on its webpage, but I find that the times are not set in stone. Perhaps more helpful is an email service that will alert you to when the committee meeting is officially scheduled and to any changes in the schedule. However, be forewarned that the meetings are often scheduled less than 24 hours in advance.
There are many activities going on throughout the day that you can observe. There are lobbyists everywhere (there are more than 700 registered lobbyists), and most days there is some advocacy activity going on where a group brings their participants. This can be fun if they have exhibits, food to share, or other interactive opportunities. They welcome the public stopping by to learn more about their cause.
When the House or Senate goes into session, visitors are welcome to observe the proceedings by watching from the third floor gallery.
How to Talk with Legislators
You are welcome to visit the office of any legislator. Contact their office in advance, if you want to schedule an appointment, but you can also just stop by. In either case, you are more likely to talk with their legislative assistant than with the legislator him or herself. We are often in meetings, and part of our legislative assistant’s job is to collect information from those who come by and share it with us.
Legislators are most interested in hearing from those people who live in the district we represent, but we also regularly talk with people from all over the state about issues that are important to them. If you visit a legislator who does not represent you, be prepared to talk about a specific issue and to tell them how it affects the residents of their district. Keep your visit brief (around 5 minutes is great), and keep any handouts or materials you bring to something that can be reviewed in a quick scan. If a legislator wants more in-depth information, I am sure he or she will let you know.
The other great way to talk with legislators is to catch them in between things. Many lobbyists use the trick of waiting outside of a committee meeting that a legislator is in and then talking with that person as they leave the room and walk to their next appointment. One trick I recommend is to wait outside the front of the Legislative building after the day’s session has ended. Most nights there are industry-sponsored receptions across the street at the museums, and therefore you are likely to find dozens of legislators walking out of the building on their way to one of the events.
A Few More Tips:
· To prepare yourself for the visit, utilize the resources online at www.ncleg.net . The handy Citizen Guide and advice for Visiting the Legislative Complex are particularly useful.
· If you get hungry, the legislative building has a great cafeteria and a snack bar as well. I like the cafeteria quite a bit. Try the fried chicken on Tuesdays and the fried squash whenever they have it. Pro tip: a cashier rings up your tab and gives you a ticket when you get out of the cafeteria line, but you do not pay until you visit another cashier on the way out the door after dining.
· For individualized assistance for your visit or to schedule an appointment with me, feel free to contact my office. My legislative assistant, Daphne Quinn, is available to greet you and help you get oriented. Feel free to call Daphne at 919-715-3019 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 13, 2014