Meeting of the minds

Published 11:14 am Thursday, April 6, 2017

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Commissioners held a work session with state government representatives on Monday, April 3 before their regularly scheduled meeting. Senator Erica Smith-Ingram and Representative Michael Wray were in attendance.

The purpose of the session was to open a dialogue between the commissioners and the state’s legislators, so that they could discuss goals for the future and how best to accomplish them.

Senator Smith-Ingram spoke before the Board first, expressing a desire to work together with the local government for Northampton County. Her focus in particular was on education improvement.

Smith-Ingram cited statistics concerning low teacher and principal pay compared to surrounding states, as well as other concerns about educational support in North Carolina. She has filed several bills to help rectify these problems, including one that would help turn teacher assistants into qualified teachers in several counties in her district, including Northampton.

The senator stressed the importance of working together to secure funding for the county in regards to educational improvement programs, such as the early college program. She and Representative Wray stated that their goal is to look at the county’s needs in order to more effectively match up with what is available to help.

“We’re in a unique situation in North Carolina,” Representative Michael Wray said as he began to address the Board.

He spoke of the importance of working together, citing the newly elected Democrat governor and the Republican majority legislature.

Wray’s remarks summarized different matters they were working to address in Northampton County, and he said that he was still keeping an eye on the recent coal ash issue.

The Board of Commissioners asked questions of the two legislators. Chairman Robert Carter asked for clarification of the recent HB2 repeal.

Senator Smith-Ingram explained the main points of HB2 and the bill to repeal it, HB142. In addition to the much discussed bathroom portion of the bill, HB2 eliminated the ability to file discrimination complaints. It also prevented local governments from changing the minimum wage.

The new law, HB142, essentially restored the law to how it was before HB2 was put into effect. People are able to file discrimination complaints again and local governments regain the ability to regulate minimum wage. The bill also included a provision that prevents local governments from passing any new non-discrimination ordinances for the next four years.

“This bill stops the bleeding,” Smith-Ingram said in regards to businesses who had left or threatened to leave the state due to HB2.

The session concluded with Smith-Ingram asking the Board for their opinions on two new bills, both concerning retirement for law enforcement officers and state employees, so that she will know what stance to take.

Representative Wray and Senator Smith-Ingram both expressed a desire to hear back from the Board at any time.