As we now move into the month of June and summer heats up, so have our committee schedules at the N.C. General Assembly. We are set to pass a balanced budget, hopefully by June 30, 2014. Mark Twain is often given credit for this quote “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe when the legislature is in session.” Actually, the quote was by a former judge, Gideon Tucker, who said it over 100 years ago. Regardless, it is still a true statement and I hope we can get out of Raleigh soon.
The Environment, Agriculture, Natural Resources committee that I serve on met to consider and discuss the Governor’s Coal Ash clean up proposal. After hearing more about the proposal, it became glaringly obvious that this proposal falls short of setting a firm timetable for future clean-up efforts. We learned during the meeting that the concrete industry has need for coal ash if it can be treated properly. We must protect our water supply. Many of the 33 existing coal ash ponds in our state are very close to our rivers that provide safe drinking water. I can assure you that I will be working toward a more comprehensive plan so we can avoid another accident like the Dan River coal ash spill.
A bill to modify the 2012 Read to Achieve law has passed the Senate. The Read to Achieve program seeks to identify children who are not reading at grade level by the third grade. If a child is not reading by third grade, they then may go to a summer reading camp to reinforce the fundamentals and ensure that they are proficient readers going into fourth grade. Because of our efforts, we were able to work with the Department of Public Instruction, teachers and parents to reach a bi-partisan plan to make these improvements.
Through passage of Senate Bill 3, the Job Maintenance And Capital Development Fund (JMAC) will now recognize Tier 2 counties as eligible for some of these incentives, should a company locate and offer a certain number jobs and meet additional criteria. There are no changes to the current eligibility of Tier One Counties — liked Anson, Scotland and Richmond. I supported this legislation because Stanly and Rowan Counties stand to benefit under certain conditions. Our priority must be to attract good jobs to our region.
Senate Bill 743 has passed and been sent to the House in a final effort to set up the newly created N.C. Economic Development Partnership Board — an entity charged with marketing our state to businesses looking to expand their operations. This will hopefully increase our competitive edge in N.C. by converting to a public private partnership model for purposes of job creation through expanding existing business and industry and other new job recruitment efforts. In agreement was Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker, originally from Stanly County, who worked out the details of this bill with those of us in the legislature and the governor. The bill was tabled last year toward the end of session in an effort to further develop this plan in a more transparent way. Serving on the Commerce committee, I worked with others to obtain bi-partisan support.
I was able to spend time with our city managers, council men and women, and mayors this week when they came to Raleigh for the N.C. League of Municipalities Advocacy Day. It was great to sit down and discuss local issues and statewide concerns for our communities in Rockingham, Laurinburg, Badin, Norwood, Albemarle, and Dobbins Heights.
I met with folks from our district who work in the recycling industry to hear about their exciting work and job opportunities in our area. Right here in our Senate district, we have Fiberon in New London, Umicore in Maxton, Blue Ridge Plastics and Cascades Tissue Group in Rockingham, and Von Drehle in Cordova. I also met with representatives from the renewal energy industry to discuss the impact of renewables in our state. I am proud of these employees and businesses for making our state a better place to live.
This weekend marks the Anniversary of D-Day, which is a day to remember the bravery, sacrifice and patriotism of our military when they invaded France on June 6, 1944. We enjoy a free country because of the service of our veterans. I hope you will pause this weekend to remember those who made it possible for us to live in a great country like America.