Dear Friends,

I’m writing you as we are leaving for another 10-day break...while teachers wait.

As you probably know, I am a professional mediator who works to bring together groups and individuals with differing opinions to find common ground and solutions to problems. The basis of successful negotiation is trust- -in people and process--and fairness.

These principles of trust and fairness, along with transparency, should be the basis for good governance and a strong, representative democracy. Sadly, I regret that too often your NCGA Leadership has not operated using these principles in this session, so I begin this newsletter by expressing to you my continued commitment to “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” 
Budget Veto Override: Another Sneak Attack on 9/11
The recent and most egregious example of abandoning those principles occurred last month. I’ve given you my reasoning before for supporting Governor Cooper’s veto, but it might be helpful to review the chronology of the budget impasse again:

On June 28 th, Governor Cooper vetoed the 2019 Appropriations Act and I agreed with the Governor, and knew we could do more to pass a budget that would:
  • Expand Medicaid at no additional taxpayer cost to close the coverage gap for 500,000 North Carolinians and help save struggling rural hospitals and create health care jobs.
  • Double teacher pay raises to 8.5% over two years.
  • Allow voters to weigh in on a statewide bond for public school facility upgrades.
  • Substantially expand the 5% state employee raise to include 5% increases for non-certified local school personnel and UNC System employees, 4% increases for Community College employees, as well as doubling the retiree COLA.

I was not alone in that belief; it was known that, with all House members present, there were not enough votes to override the Governor’s veto.
From July 8 th - September 11 th, 2019, the budget bill appeared on every published House calendar as “unfinished business” as allowed by our House Rules, with a vote at the discretion of the Speaker. I and other Minority Party Representatives changed medical appointments, vacations, and other scheduled events to come every day to ensure we would be available to vote to sustain the veto whenever a vote was called under our general operation procedures. Again and again, even with ALL Representatives present, no vote was taken.
I want to give context to how the 9/11 veto override happened

Some sessions are “no-vote,” which allow for administrative matters to be handled, usually with only a handful of Representatives present. Sometimes, the Speaker will announce a “no-vote” for the next session at the close of a session or occasionally send an email, but sometimes the notice is not in writing. Often, as has been a standard operating procedure, the Democratic Leader Darren Jackson will hear from the Speaker’s Office or Rules Chair David Lewis after the close of session with a verbal notice that the next session will have no votes—as he did on September 10th. When Rep. Lewis who was presiding over a short 8:30 AM session (an Appropriations Committee was scheduled for 9:00 AM) did not announce from the podium that the next day’s 8:30 AM session would be “no vote,” (as was expected given the lack of time prior to the just announced 9:00 AM Finance Committee) Rep. Jackson approached Rep. Lewis to inquire. Rep. Lewis agreed that he had forgotten to say so, but the next day’s 8:30 AM session would also be “no-vote;” any votes would be held at the 1:30 PM session honoring first responders and those lost on 9/11. 
Text Message
And that evening at 6:53 PM, Chair Lewis texted the same 8:30 session “no-vote” message to WRAL-TV reporter Laura Leslie.

 So it was not unreasonable to think that Rep. Jackson and the rest of our Caucus would trust the word of Rep. Lewis, as we had been able to in the past, especially when the next day’s session at 8:30 AM would likely have no time to handle votes given the 9:00 AM Finance Committee meeting. 
What happened next?

On 9/11, many legislators, myself included, having been told there would be no votes, spent the early morning working elsewhere or preparing for that morning’s committee meetings which were to follow immediately after the 8:30 AM “no-vote” session.

Surprisingly for a “no-vote” session, when the Speaker gaveled in the 8:30 AM session, 55 Majority Representatives were in their seats, along with only 15 Minority Representatives. After the fact, it was discovered that Majority Party members were texted to appear ON TIME for the morning session, under the pretext to prevent passage of a motion from Minority members regarding redistricting.

Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) was immediately called upon to make a motion to take up the override of the Governor’s budget veto. I’m sure you’ve heard that the Minority Representatives were stunned and tried desperately to debate the motion, but the Speaker disallowed any such debate. A vote was taken a few short minutes after 8:30— and the motion carried with only 55% of the 120 members voting— on the most important piece of legislation that we are charged to handle!

In response to the comments some of us received from Majority members that they too were “surprised” and knew nothing about this, and in disbelief that our Majority members would want to “win at any cost,” Rep. Jackson made a motion to “recall the vote” when we reconvened at 1:30 PM—with an impassioned and heartfelt plea that it was the right thing to do. Sadly no members of the Majority Party agreed, and that motion failed.

A fair and trusted process which is supposed to encourage debate and allow you to be represented has been broken.

Is the veto override a “done deal?”
No, the State Senate can still sustain the veto. So long as the veto stands, public pressure should continue to build on the Majority Party to finally come to the negotiating table. ( Click here if you’re not sure who represents you in the NC Senate .

But what about the things like teacher pay and university and community College funding that we need from the budget?

Rather than coming to negotiation, the Leadership continues to propose “mini-budget bills” which so far have been mostly non-controversial in that they are pulled from the Conference Report and also supported by the Governor’s Budget counter proposal. Some of them are:

  • HB 126 Pay Increases/State Highway Patrol - 2.5% increases in each of the next two years, sets new entry-level salaries.
  • HB 226 Pay Increases/State Employees - 2.5% increases in each of the next two years for some state employees. Unfortunately this leaves out 5% for non-certified school personnel, 5% for UNC employees, and 4% for community college employees that are included in the Governor’s proposal. I hope we will see another mini-budget bill to cover these soon.
  • HB 387 Growing G.R.E.A.T. I am a co-sponsor of this bill, which allots $15M in grants each year over the next 10 years to eligible economically distressed counties Funds will be used to provide broadband service to homes, businesses, and community anchor points not currently served.
  • HB 1001 Raise the Age Funding provides money to support the implementation of Session Law 2019-186, which raises the age of juvenile jurisdiction for nonviolent crimes to age 18 beginning on December 1 of this year.
So far, I have supported them, though this is NOT the way to do a budget! Important policies and funding decisions are not considered in totality or in relationship to other "pieces." And it will be harder for me to support other “pieces” that we hope to see soon if they do not represent improvements over the Conference Report – like totally inadequate teacher pay or leaving out a “living wage” for non-certified State employees such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers.

And Another 10-Day Break...While the Teachers Wait

We should be working long days this week and in weeks to come to move legislation through, but instead House Leadership decided Wednesday that we should adjourn for several “no-vote” sessions for the rest of this week and next, to return for votes the week October 21 st. I would hope that our Leadership is working hard in this interim to negotiate with the Governor and bring us bills to consider as soon as we return. Sadly, if it is like it was the last two “breaks” we were given, little will be done.

We do expect more “mini-budget” bills to come to us when we return. I agree that we must pass these necessary budget items, but I believe that a much better path, a path that represents what you want us to do – to work together to find common ground – is the approach we should be taking. 
On September 3 rd, a three-judge panel found that partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional according to the NC Constitution, and gave the State Legislature two weeks to redraw some—but not all— NC House and Senate district maps . The ruling applies only to maps to be redrawn for the 2020 election—not for subsequent redistricting after the next census.

Although I am not a Redistricting Committee member, I thought it was important that I attend all of the House Redistricting Committee meetings to observe how we participated in a more transparent process of redrawing approximately half of North Carolina’s House Districts. The end results were redistricting maps that were better than the ones we used in previous elections, but still included flawed partisan gerrymanders in some parts of the state. That’s why I voted against both the House and Senate maps.  The next step is for the three-judge panel to review the new maps and make any adjustments necessary to comply with their order.

Three-Judge Panel Ruling (see pages 352 – 357)
Click here for a deeper, visual dive into redistricting

Raleigh News & Observer editorial -   NC’s new voting maps have already failed
Will House District 49 & Other Wake County House Districts Change?
Wake County House Districts were not changed in this most recent case, but were redrawn based on a previous court orders in 2017 and 2018 which determined that two Wake districts were racially gerrymandered, and four districts not contiguous with them (House Districts 36, 37, 40 and 41) should not have been re-drawn. So, in 2020 elections, Wake County voters will vote in a new District configuration as prescribed by HB 1017/State Law 2019-46, Special Master Wake House Plan.
House District 49 will change slightly and include the following VTDs (precincts):

01-01, 01-02, 01-03, 01-04, 01-05, 01-06, 01-07, 01-09, 01-16, 01-29, 01-33, 04-05, 04-08 (part), 04-17, 04-18 (part), 04-21,
07-01, 07-02, 07-03, 07-09, 07-10 (part), 07-12, 08-02 (part) 08-06, 08-09, 08-10 (part), 11-01, 11-02

In the meantime, I am honored to represent the people of the current House District 49 as well as try to be responsive to any others who want to reach out to my office.
Special Master HD 49
Medicaid Expansion Hearing: A Lifesaving Investment
Medicaid Hearing CB + Speakers
Talking with panelists before the Hearing.
A nationally recognized health policy researcher and three North Carolinians impacted by the health care coverage gap provided informative and compelling testimony before House and Senate legislators last week. 

North Carolina ranks 42nd among all states in terms of the percent of people who are uninsured. Expanding Medicaid would provide an estimated 500,000 North Carolinians with access to affordable health care, boost North Carolina’s economy by $4 billion, and create more than 37,000 jobs.
  • Dr. Leighton Ku testified on the economic employment benefits of Expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. View his presentation.
  • Cassandra Brooks, the owner of two child care facilities in Wake and Johnston Counties, testified on how the lack of access to health insurance impacts children, teachers, and child care providers. 
  • Robin Jordan testified as the mom of a daughter who died in the health coverage gap. Her daughter Jessica suffered from depression, anxiety and PTSD who self-medicated with drugs until they took her life in an accidental overdose.
  • Lynne Pierce spoke about her experiences as a working, single mother who lives in the Medicaid coverage gap.
View a recording of the Hearing here .
Intern Spotlight: Kathryn Wiliams
Your House District 49 Legislative Office was fortunate to have an Intern from January through August.

Kathryn Williams, a senior at Meredith College studying Political Science with a Public Affairs concentration, helped in immeasurable ways: covering committee meetings, analyzing legislation, and meeting with constituents. Her experience as a rural northeastern NC high school student was the impetus for my filing HB 982: Expanding AP Courses Pilot. In Kathryn's words,

“Throughout my internship, I have learned a great deal about North Carolina’s legislative process and how our public schools, state agencies, the court system, and public healthcare facilities are funded and regulated. I look forward to using the experience I’ve gained in Representative Ball’s office as I go forward in a career in public service in North Carolina.”
I know Kathryn will be a great success in whatever she chooses to do!
It's a privilege to serve you in the General Assembly. 

Sending you and your family warm wishes,
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or the
District 49 Legislative Assistant, Patty Williams , with your questions or concerns.
It is my privilege to serve the people of North Carolina!
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