Chuck Edwards Senate Desk | March 2019
FROM MY SENATE DESK
Although in this session not many bills have yet passed from one chamber to the other, there has been plenty of work going on, and plenty to talk about. Most of us are heavily in the process of research, bill writing, gathering input from interested parties and stakeholders, and seeking co-sponsors.

Following are just some of the stories in which
I thought you might have an interest.
Senate Bill 86
Small Business Healthcare Act
With all the positive news about the business climate in NC, I constantly hear from the business community that they face two major challenges. These are that the high cost of healthcare prevents them from obtaining crucial, affordable coverage for themselves and their employees, and they have difficulty finding the workforce that they need. This bill, of which I am a primary sponsor, will serve to help address each of these issues. It is the one on which I have been most heavily involved, thus far.

This bill will allow small businesses to enjoy the same regulatory and financial advantages as large corporations when it comes to purchasing health insurance for their employees. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the modifications made in this bill to North Carolina’s insurance code could potentially benefit up to 110,000 of our citizens.

While small businesses with fewer than 51 employees are not required to offer health insurance benefits, studies show that half of them don’t offer coverage because of the cost. Historically, this is because small businesses don’t enjoy the same regulatory advantages as large corporations when it comes to offering health benefits to their employees.

Before 2010, Associated Health Plans (AHPs) were an option that small businesses around the county used to offer insurance to their employees, but an Obama Administration guidance changed this. In 2010, a slew of more expensive restrictions burdened the small group insurance market.

Made possible now due to U.S. DOL rulings that govern Association Health Plans, or AHPs, this bill will allow a group of small businesses to band together and form a large group which can then receive the same benefits that large corporations receive when it comes to health benefits. This bill will not preclude pre-existing conditions, and it will be fully regulated by the NC insurance code to ensure solvent plans and hearty beneficial coverage. I have already received several calls from businesses asking how they can get started designing their own AHP.

I presented the bill to the Senate Commerce/Insurance and Health Care Committees and received unanimous support. It has now passed the Senate on a vote of 40-8, and it will be moving on to the House. I have already begun talking to House members about this bill and will be working it through their various committees.
Two New Legislative Committee Appointments
I recently received an appointment to the General Statutes Commission, and I learned that I am the first non-lawyer to serve on this commission since 1984. This commission is made up of attorneys from private practice, as well as the NC Bar Association. It is tasked with gathering feedback from numerous sources working within the legal profession, then to make recommendations on legislation that is needed to eliminate inconsistencies within NC’s statutes. I will be introducing most of the bills in the Senate that will serve to address those recommendations.

I am also happy to have been appointed the Joint Oversight Committee for Unemployment Insurance. When the Great Recession of 2008-2009 struck, our state's unemployment program was in dismal condition and it owed $2.86 billion to the federal government. Families and businesses suffered. At that time, as a member of the business community, I worked alongside my friends in business and the Legislature for a solution. Today I am elated to have been appointed to a post where I can help ensure that mistakes of the past do not get repeated.
Welcome Sarah Glad
I am happy to announce a strong addition to my Raleigh office. Sarah Glad recently joined my team as an experienced communications and government affairs professional. Previously, she worked in North Carolina state government for the Department of Environmental Quality, and for the State Treasurer. She helped launch the North State Journal, the only statewide newspaper in North Carolina. Sarah is a graduate of North Carolina State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal and Public Communications and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies. She has been honored as NC State University's Woman of the Year. She aspires to advance her career in state government where she can continue to help make a positive difference in the lives for our citizens.

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys perfecting her tailgating spread and cheering on the Wolfpack. She enjoys sports and outdoor activities of all types- including shooting. She lives with her husband Robbie and they enjoy the company of their Miniature Australian Shepard, Shep.
NC Teacher Pay Rank Is
on the Move Upward

We received some great news this week on the topic of teacher pay. As a member of both the Education/Higher Education and the Education Appropriations committees, I have pushed to make increasing teacher pay a top priority, and I voted in favor of substantial pay raises each year I have served in the Senate.

Five years ago NC’s teacher pay was ranked 47th in the nation. After receiving raises for each of the last five years, our teachers’ pay is now ranked 29th in the nation, the 2nd best-paying state in the southeast. Salaries have increased by 9.9% over the last two years and will continue to grow in the coming years.
Beginning in 2009, teacher salary was frozen, and 40,000 teachers and state employees were furloughed due to poor budgeting in the General Assembly. My colleagues and I continue to focus on ensuring that our teachers are paid what they are worth. Our dedication to making our teachers and students successful will continue. There is still a lot of work to be done but have made positive progress to this point.
Build NC’s Future Act Senate Bill 5

I recently co-sponsored the Building NC’s Future Act, which provides $2 billion over the next nine years for the construction and maintenance of K-12 schools. These funds will help keep our schools safe and modernize the way our students learn, as well as allow for smaller class sizes for Kindergarten through 3 rd grade. The bill also allocates money for our community colleges and public university system and will allow them to provide needed renovations and money to ensure they are providing the best education to their students.

The Building NC’s Future Act is the most cost-efficient way to provide our public schools with needed money to keep our students safe and allow them to excel in their education. This is a more efficient and less costly option for school funding and provides more money than any other option available. Unlike the bonds proposed under the House and the Governor's plans, this proposal will not burden our taxpayers with interest payments and more dollars can go to service other priorities. 
Senate Bill 20

I voted in favor of the Emergency Worker Protection Act. S20 increases penalties for assaults against law enforcement and first responders in our state. The bill passed overwhelmingly with bi-partisan support and a vote of 47-0. It will now move on to the House.

This bill will help protect those who risk their lives to help ensure the safety of the public by holding accountable those who bring intentional harm to our Emergency Workers. My colleagues and I want to make sure our first responders and law enforcement are shown appreciation and gratitude for the risk they take daily.