Three NC Legislators Discuss Current Issues at Sanford
North Carolina’s recent controversial voting law, the effectiveness of the Moral Monday protests and the future of the state’s education funding were among the prominent issues discussed by House Representatives Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), Grier Martin (D-Wake) and Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) at the Sanford School of Public Policy on Tuesday.
All three legislators agreed that Moral Mondays have not resulted in policy change, and have sometimes exacerbated conflicts.
“I’ve been disappointed in Moral Mondays… it’s all a public thing and it’s not about building relations with legislators,” said McGrady.
However, Glazier said the series of protests against a wide range of GOP legislative initiatives in health, education, voting regulations and fiscal policy have had positive effects – bolstering the energy within the Democratic caucus and creating national awareness of North Carolina issues. The Democratic Party sees Moral Mondays as a demonstration of constituent concerns, he said.
The comprehensive voting law signed by Gov. Pat McCrory that stirred national controversy began as strictly a voter ID bill, an initiative with wide public support, Glazier said. But revisions in the Senate resulted in a frenzy of tacked-on provisions that returned to the House with no avenue for submitting amendments, only an up or down vote. Even McGrady, who co-sponsored the House bill, acknowledged that the revisions led to two lawsuits already filed, and another expected.
“This bill represents North Carolina heading backwards,” said Martin. The long march of history has been to expand voting rights to previously disenfranchised groups, while this measure restricts access to the voting booth for purely partisan reasons, he said.
The officials also touched on the cuts to state education spending. With recession-related cuts in 2008 and 2009 followed by more this year, “I think in K-12 schools, we are no longer meeting our constitutional responsibilities,” said Glazier.
The functioning and make-up of the General Assembly may be ripe for change, the officials said. Legislators are limited by the fact that the job remains “part-time,” despite North Carolina being the tenth most populous state. McGrady joked that all three were “kept men” – able to hold public office because their wives financially support their families. Glazier said he earns only $13,900 annually as a lawmaker and expressed the difficulty in maintaining a family and second job under this system.
The consequences of time intensive yet poorly compensated public positions means many legislators do not feel obligated to reply to all constituent emails, said McGrady. The unappealing aspects of public servant duties “don’t give the broadest opportunity for people to do these jobs,” he said.
The three representatives were invited to campus by Jenni Owen, lecturer and director of policy initiatives for the Center for Child and Family Policy. They spoke to her class and then to a wider campus audience.