We finally ended our special session last week and shouldn’t be back in Raleigh until May 16th when our short session begins. After more than 6 weeks we managed to accomplish only one thing—remedying the #ClassSizeChaos problem. Unfortunately, even that wasn’t done well. The bill included a trap door that could plunge our schools right back into the same chaos legislative leadership claimed to be rescuing them from. By including two highly controversial, unrelated issues and failing to include a severability clause, this small step forward could be threatened by future litigation about something wholly unrelated. Solutions that are designed to fail, aren’t solutions at all. We have to keep trying to do better by North Carolina’s students. You can read more about HB 90 here.

The Tragedy in Parkland

In the wake of last week’s tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, it is clear, now more than ever, that we must do more to help reach every single child who needs extra support, counseling and mental health services. Here in North Carolina our school counselors, psychologists and social workers continue to be understaffed and under-resourced.  We do not come close to meeting national standards, and we have empirical evidence that levels of trauma reported by our school students continues to rise. I put forward a bill last year to study the issue and begin making changes to ensure we get these resources to the schools and students who need them most. You can read more about the bill in my op-ed from last year.

The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House (112-1), but it remains stalled in the Senate. I can only hope that with a renewed interest in addressing mental and behavioral health issues we can get this passed and start to make some changes. As students around the nation gather in protest and march to state capitals, it is our responsibility to show them that they are being heard and that we are ready to do more to support them in every way we can.

Broadband Comes to Sandy Mush Community Center

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Terri Wells and the rest of the Sandy Mush Community Center team, broadband internet is finally available at the community center. Nearly 500 people have already taken advantage of the new access to wireless internet. And, it has allowed the community center to offer an online High School Equivalency course. The first session, which begins March 7th, is already full, a true testament to the need that exists for these services.

I continue to work with Terri and our North Carolina Department of Broadband Services to try to extend vital internet services to all of the rural parts of our county.

While we struggle at the state level to find the political will to move that ball forward, I am immensely grateful for hardworking partners in the community who are willing to carry the torch.

You can help us document the need for broadband internet service by visiting www.ncbroaband.gov and entering your speed information.

Growing Our Outdoor Recreation Industries

North Carolina’s outdoor recreation industry generates $19.2 billion for the state, and employs more than 190,000 people. From the beaches of the Outer Banks to our gorgeous mountain trails, folks flock from all around the country to enjoy our scenery. Here in the legislature, we are committed to continuing the development of this important and growing industry. Our most recent budget included an allocation for a new Outdoor Industry Recruitment Director, and last month David Knight was appointed to fill the position. David will lead the effort to promote North Carolina’s outdoor recreation economy and recruit new industry to the state. This is an excellent opportunity to pull new industry and jobs into our state’s rural communities and I look forward to seeing the progress he makes.

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