A few weeks ago I decided to contact young leaders from my five-county senate district and invite them to come together. Many of them are taking on leadership roles within their communities in business, in government, in education, within the legal field and in various nonprofit agencies. Frankly, I hoped maybe a dozen would show up for our organizational meeting. I thought they might benefit from meeting one another and I knew from my experience that problems in our rural communities can best be solved by working together, across county boundary lines and in a collaborative manner. Well, I must admit I was inspired by the positive response from over 40 young people who braved rain and wind and busy schedules to not only show up but to actively participate and share their ideas this past Tuesday evening at my first Young Leaders Advisory Council Meeting, held in downtown Wadesboro at Southern Medley Wine Cellar. The true purpose of forming this group is to enable young leaders in our communities an opportunity to meet one another, discuss issues of concern, and share with me their thoughts and ideas on state policy and budget concerns.
Some of the topics discussed were providing incentives for small businesses, the importance of creating good jobs in rural communities, providing equal educational opportunities for every child, providing mentors for our children, and rewarding our teachers with competitive pay and most importantly, with the respect they deserve. One example given by an educator at the meeting was that of a local teacher who could take a similar position in South Carolina where she could make about $9,000 more each year. It is simply unacceptable for North Carolina teacher compensation to be so far behind. In N.C., we need to set our sights on being No. 1 in education and make sure our policies and state budget reflect our priorities and our values. If we fairly compensate and respect our teachers, then they will not be tempted to leave our state’s schools or the teaching profession. Other topics discussed included support for early childhood education and intervention, support for veterans, foster homes in our region, and more. I am excited to meet with the group again following the upcoming short session.
Interim legislative committees are finalizing reports in the next month and will be making recommendations to the entire legislative body. I serve on the following committees: Energy Oversight Committee, Workforce Development Reform Committee; Economic Development Oversight Committee; Environmental Review Commission; Affordable Care Act Implementation Committee; Committee on Health Care Provider Practice Sustainability, Training, and Transparency.
Normally during the primary season, voter turnout is extremely low. I encourage you to get out and vote in the primary. Early voting will start April 24 and end May 3. Please do your research on local, state, and federal candidates. Voter guides are being mailed to homes and can be accessed by clicking on the following link: www.ncvoterguide.org/. The primary is May 6.
As we approach Easter Sunday, I want to wish you and your families a Happy Easter. I hope you and your family will join with other Christians to renew our faith in our risen Lord. One of my favorite hymns is “Because He Lives.”
Finally, if you have concerns about state legislative matters or need our help to resolve a problem with a state agency, please feel free to contact my office at 919-733-5953 or email Gene.Mclaurin@ncleg.net.