The following item was written by Kelly M. Alexander Jr., who represents Mecklenburg County in the N.C. General Assembly. believes government should be accessible to voters. Therefore, we offer this space to all elected officials, regardless of office, race or party affiliation. — Glenn Burkins, Editor/Publisher

This week marked the first full week of the 2009 legislative session and I and other legislators used this time to prepare for the difficult decisions ahead of us.

The Fiscal Research Division of the General Assembly held two important meetings this week to brief lawmakers on the status of the budget and the State Health Plan. These briefings confirmed what we have known for several months – the poor national economic situation has come to North Carolina and will cause us to lose an estimated $2 billion in revenue this fiscal year and at least that much next year. We also learned that the health plan will need an estimated $300 million this year and that we will either have to change the plan or put in hundreds of millions more in the years ahead for it to remain solvent.

We also renewed our training in the state’s ethics laws and continue to meet with advocates for a variety of causes.

So far, House members have already filed more than 70 bills. I want to share some of their ideas with you and I hope that you’ll let me know what you think about them.

As always, I look forward to working with you in the months ahead.

Intellectually gifted students under the age of 16 would again be allowed to attend North Carolina community colleges under a bill (HB 65) sponsored by both Republican and Democratic members of the House.

House Bill 56 would increase funding for the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching by $1 million a year for the next two years. The center serves as a resource to teachers throughout the state.

Parents would choose whether their children are taught only abstinence or an abstinence-based comprehensive sex education curriculum under a bill (HB 88) introduced this week. Existing North Carolina law requires the teaching of only abstinence until marriage and school boards must hold public hearings before they are allowed to teach more comprehensive curricula.

Lawmakers have filed a bill (HB 55) that would appropriate $1 million to support the Defense and Security Technology Accelerator. The center is a business incubator focusing on economic development opportunities in the industries relating to homeland security and national defense.

Members of the House have filed a bill (HB 22) that would enhance youth employment protections by requiring the Commissioner of Labor to report on enforcement activities. A separate bill (HB 23) would increase the penalties for violations of child labor laws.

A bill (HB 26) has been filed that would impose a temporary stay on insurance rate increases statewide on homes valued at $150,000 or less. The bill would also impose a stay on deductible and surcharge increases for permanent residents in coastal communities.

Lawmakers have filed a bill, commonly known as “Davie’s Law,” which would require humane euthanasia of animals in animal shelters (HB 6).

Another bill (HB 27) would regulate the euthanasia of animals and prohibit specified methods of euthanasia of animals.

A bill has been filed (HB 28) that would establish a Legislative Research Commission to study whether farms should be granted greenhouse gas credits as part of any government program that would limit the emission of such gases.

Lawmakers have filed a bill (HB 54) that would appropriate $50,000 to help pay for the monitoring and cleanup of groundwater contamination and other damage at the Texifi plant site in Fayetteville.

Cell Phones
Lawmakers have filed legislation (HB 9) that would make it illegal to text message while driving.

Legislation has also been filed that would make cell phones illegal in North Carolina prisons (HB 8).

Lawmakers have filed a bill (HB 68) that would make using a mobile phone or accessing additional technology against the law while operating a motor vehicle on a public street, highway or public vehicular area.

Term lengths
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have sponsored legislation (HB 71 and HB 72) that would increase legislative terms to four years instead of two. The change would require a constitutional amendment, which would have to be approved by voters before becoming law.

To contact Alexander M. Kelly Jr., click this link to the N.C. General Assembly website.

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