Notes from the Capitol: January

Union County Pulse

Much has been accomplished this past year, and much is left to be done. Although the legislature did not meet as a body in December, committee meetings continue. I also spent much of December meeting with organizations, individual constituents and various interest groups (teachers, businesses and politicians) across Union County.

Gov. Perdue has called for the legislature to reconvene on Wednesday, Jan. 4, in Raleigh to deal with her recent veto of Senate Bill 9 concerning the reformation of the Racial Justice Act of 2009. The RJA, passed in 2009, allowed for the appeal of certain death penalty cases asserting that a verdict was allowed based on racial bias. Presently, only two states in the country have such a law: North Carolina and Kentucky. As one might imagine, this is a complex issue and will have a costly and dramatic impact on our judicial system. Although I am sensitive to claims of racial bias, I believe death-penalty verdicts should be overturned only on the basis of evidence in the case itself and not based on a index created from data that is well outside the case. I plan to vote to overturn the veto.

The legislature will convene again in February and in April before beginning our constitutionally-mandated “short session” on May 16. There is much work that can be accomplished during these interim sessions. We still have the issues of voter ID and energy jobs, among others, remaining on the agenda from the last session. I continue to hear from constituents about the importance of the photo ID to vote bill in North Carolina. I believe every effort must be made to protect the sanctity of the vote and the integrity of the system. In spite of the recent court decision forcing South Carolina to rescind its photo ID to vote bill, 29 of our 50 states require some type of ID to vote and half of those require a photo ID whereas North Carolina has no requirement for a voter to prove eligibility before casting a vote.

Clean, low-cost energy is critical to our nation and our state. We must pursue every option toward energy independence and the jobs that go with it. We still lead the world in technological innovation, and we must put that knowledge and ability to work in North Carolina now! I will vote to override the Perdue’s veto of the Energy Jobs Act while diligently protecting our environment.

Contrary to press reports, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a cap on the gasoline tax in November. Unfortunately, the Senate adjourned and went home without acting on this bill.

Consequently, the state gasoline tax went up again Jan. 1. As a result of a law passed in 1989, the gasoline tax in North Carolina is indexed to the crude oil price. The adjustments are made twice yearly in January and July. North Carolina now has the highest gas tax in the Southeast and is among the highest in the nation. I am hopeful the Senate will act soon to cap the gas tax.

The top three issues in Union County are education, education and education! We are justifiably proud of our public schools and public charter school. We lead the state in achievement but we cannot take this for granted. We must improve teacher pay and benefits if we are to retain top quality educators, and we must drive unnecessary costs out of the system, not just shift those costs to another pocket. More of us must be involved in our schools with our kids and supporting our teachers. We are a generous citizenry. Throwing money at our challenges is not the solution; it is ourselves who must be thrown into the mix. We are frequently reminded to thank a veteran for our freedoms. We must also thank a teacher for showing us the way to take advantage of our freedoms: the freedom to read, the freedom to wonder and the freedom to look more deeply into ourselves.

We must move forward to reform how we do business in this state. Our education system, our tax system and our judicial system need fundamental reform. We cannot continue to implement 1950 strategies and only change the titles, colors and curtains of our systems. Digital learning, vocational education, how we pay for what we do and how we deal with those that won’t play nicely with others must be changed. Most certainly, “What Got Us Here, Won’t Get Us There.” It is time for a change, a real change, a fundamental change and not just new lipstick on the old cow. Your ideas and opinions are important in identifying these necessary changes. Please stay in contact with me. I will again be having town hall meetings in my district. Come out and express your ideas, your concerns and your criticisms. We learn much more from those who don’t agree with us than we ever do from those who do. Call my office at 919-733-2406, email me at Craig.Horn@ncleg.net, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and on the web at www.CraigHorn.com.

We wish you a safe and happy New Year. Please be involved in your community and your state.

Craig Horn

Representative, District 68

North Carolina General Assembly

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