Visiting our Raleigh Legislators
CCTA Legislative Action Committee Report of 4-3-15
Yesterday’s visit to Raleigh was a little different. Instead of setting specific appointments with every person we wanted to see, we took “pot luck” and stopped in to see fourteen legislators from eastern North Carolina (after having sent them an email “heads up” about our coming). At first I was disappointed, but it ended up being a productive day.
First, of our Legislative Action Committee members, only Kim and Glenn Fink and Hal and I were able to go. (There was no one problem, just a variety of things. A wife’s birthday [excused!], an unexpected visit from grandchildren [excused!], an impromptu and quickly called work meeting [excused!], etc. You get the drift – the stars were improperly aligned.)
Second, the legislative schedule was changed so that instead of the House and Senate sessions beginning at 2 p.m., they started at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Bummer. Where have all the legislators gone? They’re in session, of course.
Fortunately, since this was an introduction of CCTA to many, I had written a letter to each person we hoped to see and had them with us for hand delivery. My reasoning was, if written “snail mail” letters are useful, wouldn’t hand delivered letters be even better?
The legislators whose offices we visited and the counties they represent (all or part of the county) follow.
Senator Harry Brown, Jones and Onslow
Senator Norman Sanderson, Craven, Carteret, and Pamlico
Representative George Cleveland, Onslow
Representative John Bell, Craven, Lenoir, Greene, and Wayne
Senator Bill Cook, Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, and Perquimens
Representative Paul Tine, Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, and Washington
Representative Phil Shepard, Onslow
Representative Chris Millis, Onslow and Pender
Representative Pat McElraft, Jones and Carteret
Representative Brian Brown, Pitt
Representative Michael Speciale, Craven, Beaufort, and Pamlico
Representative Larry Pittman, Cabarrus
Representative George Graham, Craven, Lenoir and Greene
Representative Marilyn Avila, Wake (especially wanted to thank her for her work on a CON Reform bill)
The final paragraph in the letter given to each reads…
“As you can imagine, there are several bills currently being considered that we support because they move toward accomplishing our goals. Examples include Senator Norman Sanderson’s NC Firearms Freedom Act (a good beginning, but we’d like to see it strengthened), Senator Bill Cook’s Property Insurance Fairness bill, and Representative Marilyn Avila’s bill to Amend Certificate of Need Laws. There may be others that have not yet come to our attention. We are very willing to work to support any bill that is in alignment with our beliefs about good governance. If we can help you by supporting something we mutually agree is worthy of it, please let us know how.”
The first person we met with was Representative Pat McElraft. She is a very pleasant person. We discussed the three things in the paragraph above with her. She reacted positively to two of them, but was negative about the need to reform Certificate of Need (CON) laws. If you know anyone who might have influence with her, please ask them to work on changing her mind. Also, we really should invite her to our public meeting on April 21 at which Jay Singleton, M.D. will speak on the reasons CON law needs to be reformed. (In a nutshell, let the free market significantly reduce health care cost while increasing patient safety. And nobody can lay out that case better than Jay!)
After that, we met with Representative George Cleveland. Actually, George wasn’t in his office when we first arrived, and we met with his Legislative Assistant, Pamela (can’t remember her last name, darn it). She is a very sharp and knowledgeable person. Very likeable, too. She and Kim had a long talk about Common Core in particular and education in general. They were in complete harmony. It was fun to listen and occasionally kibitz. When George got there, we discussed the usual suspects with him, plus Kim brought up a bill he is sponsoring that ties data collection and sharing among drivers’ licensing, work force info, and students (preschool to age 20) in a way that seems inappropriate and potentially dangerous to free choice. We met with resistance on that topic. Again, George Cleveland seems like a fine, basically conservative gentleman. If any of you has his ear, please “bend” it on this topic.
Senator Norman Sanderson wasn’t in his office when we got there, and we had a good chat with Kathy Voss, his Legislative Assistant. Another personable, smart, charming person. In fact, it would be hard to exaggerate just how high the quality is in each and every Legislative Assistant we met with. Each of them we talked to is a very impressive person who is smart and who has excellent “people skills.” I’m not sure how our legislators have done it, but they surely have found talented people.
Norm and Linda Sanderson arrived, and we had a nice visit with them. I may not have shown proper appreciation to Norm for his work on the NC Firearms Freedom Act. I complained of what I see as its two weaknesses. It only pertains to weapons and ammunition manufactured in North Carolina, and punishment for persons who don’t abide by the act will be based on breaking the law’s being only a misdemeanor. Norm was pretty clear that he’s unwilling to buck the way the “interstate commerce clause” has been interpreted, but he is willing to try to increase the seriousness of an infraction so that it will be a felony. I really appreciate that.
Norm and I also got into a discussion about his work toward North Carolina’s requesting an Article V Convention. Kathy had told us earlier that someone had given Norm a very hard time yesterday about this very topic. In doing so, the person had made reference to CCTA. I explained that CCTA is divided on this subject with some of us (including me) strongly opposing it and some of us strongly favoring it. Since we are divided, CCTA does not have an “official” position. I revisited some of the reasons I oppose an Article V Convention (I’d sent him a long email previously), and Norm listened patiently, explained he thoroughly understood those ideas, but feels “it’s a conversation we need to have.” It just seems to be one of those times when two people with the same basic goals had an honest disagreement about how to get there.
Representative John Bell was not in, but we had a really rewarding talk with his Legislative Assistant, Susan Horne. Susan shared some information with Kim about some of the things she’s following for us, and asked some very astute questions about the pros and cons of CON reform.
Jordan Hennessey, Senator Bill Cook‘s LA was also very helpful; he always is.
Hazel Speciale was her usually welcoming, cheery, smiling self, and we visited with her learning more about how things work until Representative Michael Speciale arrived and joined the conversation. Discussion among the six of us was wide ranging. We learned some more about the various CON reform bill proposals. A bill has been proposed in the Senate that would absolutely eliminate the need for a Certificate of Need in North Carolina. Passage of that would be perfect. But can it pass? There is a lot of opposition to CON reform. The opposition comes from people and entities with money and power. Will a proposal to do away with CONs altogether bring out a full court press of opposition, while just removing a few might work? I just plain don’t know, but I wonder, don’t you?
Some of the discussion revolved around the Article V Convention issue. Michael thinks much the way I do, but he expresses it better.
Representative Larry Pittman and his wife and Legislative Assistant, Tammy, walked by the office door on the way home for Easter. We waylaid them, gave Larry his letter, and wished them a Happy Easter.
We then returned to Michael’s office, wished him and Hazel “safe travel home,” and left to head home ourselves.
Raynor James, Chairman, CCTA’s Legislative Action Committee