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County leaders meet with state lawmakers

061318AssemblyDay

Edgecombe County Commissioner Viola Harris stands for the Pledge of Allegiance during County Assembly Day at the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

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From Contributed Reports

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Edgecombe County Commissioner Viola Harris joined Gov. Roy Cooper, state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, state House Speaker Tim Moore and other legislators for County Assembly Day on May 30 in Raleigh.

The annual event, hosted by the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, drew about 200 county commissioners and staff from all over the state. Each year, the event brings together state leaders and counties to discuss important policy issues.

“I have attended County Assembly Day for the last 16 years because it gives me an opportunity to join other commissioners at the General Assembly to stand up for all North Carolina citizens,” Harris said. “We get a face-to-face opportunity to explain our issues as a group as just as individuals. All counties face some of the same issues and when we join together, we can make change happen.”

Among other things, counties discussed the need for public school facility funding and urged legislators to pass the Public School Building Bond Act, which would authorize a referendum on the ballot in November for a $1.9 billion statewide school construction bond. Counties also asked for more resources to deliver fast and reliable internet access to under-served areas of North Carolina.

The event featured remarks from Cooper, who described his mission to help North Carolinians become better educated, healthier and more prosperous through investments in education and workforce development. He also affirmed the need to provide more flexibility and resources to counties to close the internet gap.

General Assembly leaders in the Senate and House, Berger and Moore discussed their desire to continue to expand jobs throughout the state by supporting a favorable business climate. They also provided an overview of their budget priorities as reflected in the recently released proposal that adjusts the state’s biennium budget. Budget adjustments include a pay raise for teachers, additional lottery funds for public school construction and incentives for internet service providers to facilitate the deployment of broadband access.

The event also included a panel discussion with state Sens. Jim Davis and Valerie Foushee, and state Reps. Becky Carney and John Torbett, all former county commissioners, who serve on the General Assembly’s County Caucus. The panelists discussed how their experiences and perspectives as former county commissioners inform their work in the General Assembly, the relationship between the state and counties and how counties can effectively work with their state legislators.

As part of County Assembly Day, county commissioners visited legislative offices to meet with members of their delegation and advocate on behalf of counties. Legislators also joined county commissioners for lunch on the Halifax Mall lawn outside the General Assembly to strengthen their relationships and continue the dialogue on county issues.

“I was so happy to be able to thank General Assembly members Berger and Moore for helping Edgecombe County with an incentive package to get Triangle Tire to select our site,” Harris said. “Two years ago, we were trying to get a large company to come to the county and I mentioned to both of them at County Assembly Day that small counties like Edgecombe need their support to bring jobs to our citizens. They listened, and we’re about to get more than 900 jobs in the very near future. After thanking them, I still had to raise the question concerning Medicaid expansion and school funding.”

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