As you know, the legislature is in Long Session now. Whenever possible, I try to be in the district because it is important to hear from you first hand, but also because there are so many positive things taking place. Even though we are experiencing difficult economic times, I am proud of the way our communities are moving forward and working hard to improve the quality of life for citizens in our district.
It would be impossible to mention everything but I would like to mention a few highlights. I attended the grand opening of Discovery Place KIDS in downtown Rockingham last weekend. Many people worked hard to make this project a success and it shows what our region can do when individuals, private foundations, businesses, and local governments cooperate and work together. Watching the expressions on the faces of young children, including my 20-month-old grandson, as they enjoyed the museum was something I will never forget. Thanks to all who worked so diligently to make this dream a reality. To date, Discovery Place KIDS has had 3,412 visitors from 104 different ZIP codes.
Donna and I also had the opportunity recently to attend the annual Anson County Partnership for Children’s Barn Blast. Several hundred people enjoyed a great meal and auction to benefit early childhood education programs in Anson County. Congratulations to Elaine Scarborough, her board and staff and the people of Anson County who braved the wintry weather that night to support a very worthy cause.
I met in Scotland County recently with representatives of AARP to hear their concerns and learn about the issues important to senior citizens in our district. Last week, it was good to get out of Raleigh Tuesday night and travel to Norwood in Stanly County. Mayor Beverly Johnson and the town council invited me to be the guest speaker at their county council of governments meeting where I provided an update on activities in Raleigh and then heard directly from local government officials on various issues.
In addition, the N.C. Association of County Clerks were in Raleigh last week and it was so good to spend time with Michael Huneycutt of Stanly County, Mark Hammonds of Anson County, and Vicki Daniel of Richmond County. The Clerk of Court’s office is made up of dedicated professionals who provide many services to our citizens.
Governor McCrory was in the legislative building one night last week and stopped by my office prior to our evening session. It was good to spend a few minutes with him where I had the opportunity to stress the importance of helping our rural counties.
On Wednesday, I joined the N.C. Legislative Motorsports Caucus for lunch. Our guest speaker was Scott Lampe of Hendrick Motorsports, who shared with us the positive impact of the motorsports industry in N.C. I also attended a meeting of the Legislative Agricultural and Rural Caucus and afterwards was pleased to have district visitors in Raleigh representing the N.C. Farm Bureau. After meeting in my office, I joined them for a press conference in front of the legislative building. Almost 17 percent, or $71.6 billion of the $425 billion gross state product is contributed by food, fiber and forestry industries. This accounts for 638,000 employees who derive their income from the agricultural sector. We must support our farmers and agribusinesses. At the end of the week, I met with the NC Manufacturers Alliance, a statewide organization that seeks to support our N.C. manufacturing business community.
Last week I co-sponsored Senate Bill 138 and have heard from many of you about this legislation to allow local boards of education to offer an elective course on Bible education in N.C. high schools. The legislation, primarily sponsored by my friend and colleague, Senator Stan Bingham (R-33) allows for credit to be given for optional courses on the Old Testament, New Testament, or a combination of the two. My faith in God has sustained me throughout my life — as a husband, father, businessman, former mayor and now legislator. I think the opportunity for future generations to gain wisdom and knowledge from the Bible is a real positive for North Carolinians and an issue far above party politics.
A partial list of other bills I have co-sponsored include:
* Senate Bill 98 to require heart disease screenings in newborn children. This was recommended by the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force — it will prevent heart murmurs and other heart defects from going undetected in newborn children.
* Senate Bill 147 to streamline workforce development programs and make them more effective and efficient.
* Senate Bill 140 to increase the recognition and prosecution of those who defraud or financially exploit older adults
Many people have asked me since the legislature has been in session how am I enjoying being in Raleigh. Well, the short answer is I am enjoying it very much. Admittedly, there are many long days and late nights but it is important work and I am honored to serve each of you. I am especially enjoying meeting people from all across our great state, some from large cities and some from small communities and from very diverse backgrounds. We have many challenges before us but as long as everyone works together, respects one another, and keeps an open mind to new ideas and new ways of doing things I am convinced we will succeed in building a better North Carolina.
I welcome your ideas and suggestions. Please contact me at Gene.McLaurin@ncleg.net or by 919-733-5953. If you would like to keep track of what’s going on in the N.C. House and Senate, please visit the NCGA website: www.ncleg.net.