Dear Friends,

At the top of my agenda is your health and well being. Since we adjourned last November, I’ve been busy meeting with constituents, representatives of organizations, and attending other events in the community. And I continue to receive calls and emails from you. I’m grateful to be informed by your opinions as I work on bills to file and consider possible votes I will take in the upcoming session.

With the emergence of coronavirus, I know we feel that our world is being turned upside down.   Effective immediately, the NC General Assembly will be operating remotely as much as possible, until at least the end of the business day on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. We will be monitoring your telephone calls and emails, and will handle these as soon as we can. And I will continue to keep you informed as things change.
Coronavirus Disease: Stay Informed with the Latest Updates
I am deeply concerned about the impact of coronavirus, as I’m sure all of you are. The best way to stay safe and be well informed is to have a reliable source of news and information. Governor Cooper’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Task Force continues to prepare for the possibility of infections occurring in North Carolina and is encouraging businesses, schools, healthcare providers, communities and individuals to prepare as well.

On Tuesday, the Governor issued Executive Order 116 declaring a state of emergency for North Carolina for COVID-19. The declaration activates the Emergency Operations Center to help agencies coordinate from one location and makes it easier to purchase needed medical supplies, protect consumers from price gouging, and increase county health departments’ access to state funds.

There has been concern about the lack of test kits in North Carolina and Governor Cooper, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, and our Congressional representatives have made a special request to the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for access to additional testing kits to help mitigate the spread of the disease.

According to the official case count as of Friday, March 13th at 10:00 AM, North Carolina has 14 presumptive positive and 1 positive case. We have been advised that this is expected to grow and therefore the need for more far-reaching recommendations for public meetings, closings may occur as early as today. View updates here.

NC General Assembly

Yesterday, our leadership ordered that all future interim committee meetings have been cancelled. Our office and other offices will be handling business remotely as much as possible. If necessary, we believe some action may need be taken to address the economic and personal impact of this pandemic on NC residents. We will keep you informed about this. View updates here.

Public Schools

Some public school districts--including Durham and Orange--have announced temporary closures. We are awaiting information from our Wake County Public Schools and will share that information with you. Please keep informed by visiting the WCPSS website today.

Colleges & Universities

Our state's colleges and universities are taking appropriate measures. NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Duke Universities are extending their Spring Breaks in order to aid the transition to remote instruction (video and other means of delivery). Many campuses will remain open as some students will need to return to their dorms. This is a direction being taken across the country. If you have questions about other colleges or universities, please visit individual school websites to ensure you have the most current information.

Community Colleges
 
Wake Tech will be shifting to online instruction after next week’s spring break and is suspending all on-campus activities until April 5. Wake Tech is also assembling a Transition Support Center to assist students. Some other community colleges will also shift to online instruction in the coming days.    The goal of these shifts to   online instruction is to move as many students and employees as possible off campus while ensuring that instruction continues. Visit the Wake Tech site for additional information.

Ongoing Information

This is a daily-evolving story so I urge you to visit the NC Department of Health and Human Services website  to learn the latest updates, steps to stay healthy, travel guidance, testing, and more. The CDC website also has an abundance of valuable information. 

UNC Rex and Wake Med Hospitals have each shared with me that they have extensive preparedness efforts in place. I am hopeful that if we all remain vigilant, we can contain the spread of this disease while scientists aggressively pursue a vaccine, and ultimately, a cure.   

We will also be in touch with frequent email updates to provide current news and information as it becomes available.

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* According to the CDC's current definition , social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.


NEW! Statewide Poll
As you know, we have some unfinished work to complete when we do return to session—the State’s budget. Right now, we are operating under a combination of the 2018-19 budget plus some mini budgets that were passed in 2019; a state statute ensures that we keep running under the previous year’s budget so we never experience a government shutdown.

Governor Cooper vetoed the 2019 budget passed by the Legislature (and the veto was sustained), as critically important initiatives in his proposed budget were not included in the version passed: a pay raise for teachers, Medicaid expansion (using Federal funds) so 500,000+ North Carolinians can receive healthcare, and a bond to upgrade and modernize public school facilities and provide clean water infrastructure. I have heard from many in House District 49 that you also support these priorities.
A recent WRAL poll conducted by an independent polling organization showed that North Carolinians overwhelmingly support (1) increasing school funding over cutting business taxes, (2) raising teacher salaries, and (3) Medicaid expansion. Read more about the WRAL News Poll .
In the Community
A “Sound, Basic Education” is Top-of-Mind in Wake County
Sound Basic Education for All: An Action Plan for North Carolina was issued this past December, our community has been fully engaged in understanding the monumental findings of WestEd ’s “Leandro” report. At a January 21 st court hearing, Superior Court Judge David Lee (pictured) signed the first consent order in which he accepted the report’s conclusions. Further, Judge Lee gave the defendants and plaintiffs 60 days to collaborate and deliver a plan to implement the highest priority actions, which “should be initiated this year.”
I attended the non-partisan Public School Forum of NC’s annual Eggs and Issues event, where Leandro took center stage. The Forum identified as its Top Education Issue of 2020: “Take immediate and intentional actions to meet our constitutional obligation to provide each child a sound basic education.”

Get the latest info from the Public School Forum of NC: Leandro v. State of North Carolina Background & Resources
Pictured above (L-R): Wake County School Board member Bill Fletcher, Green Hope HS Principal Dr. Camille Hedrick, Attorney Gerry Hancock, your Representative, and
Wake Public Schools Area Superintendent Seydric Williams.
I was able to attend the Education Committee Meeting of the Cary Chamber of Commerce this Wednesday where Gerry Hancock provided his perspective on Leandro. I can think of no one more qualified to do so; Mr. Hancock was instrumental in the initiation of the original Leandro filing, the founding Chairman of the Public School Forum of NC, and a leader in advocating for supplemental funding for low-wealth school systems.

Among Mr. Hancock’s points, consistent with the Leandro findings and recommendations: “It is the State’s responsibility to fix the problems….we must do something to address the problem with our sorely inadequate teacher pipeline. Those who aspire to be career teachers for our young people should not have to settle for a life of almost poverty….we must remember that we already have one generation of students who have gone through our schools since the original Leandro order and we must not allow there to be another.”
Habitat for Humanity:
One Solution to the Affordable Housing Shortage
Wake County can’t produce enough affordable housing units to satisfy the needs of our growing community. Last year, I cosponsored HB 708 , which would commission the Legislative Research Commission to conduct a statewide study of affordable housing at no additional cost to taxpayers. The bill passed unanimously in the House, and was sent to the Senate in May, where it languishes in the Rules Committee. This week, I enjoyed a visit from Bill Ahern, Holly Gallagher and Phil Welch of Habitat for Humanity of Wake County , who advocated for two policies and expansion of resources to create more affordable homes:

  1. Increasing the NC Housing Trust Fund allocation, which has decreased from $21M to $7M in the past decade. The Fund supports Habitat’s homeownership and repair programs as well as rental and supportive housing efforts led by other organizations.
  2. Property tax relief programs that include low-income properties so homeownership remains affordable long term.

View Wake County’s 2017 Affordable Housing Plan.
First in Flight Again! Autonomous Air Taxi 
With James Pearce of NC DOT, who helped coordinate the EH 216 demonstration.
To kick off the 2020 North Carolina Transportation Summit, I joined the NC Department of Transportation to witness the first ever public demonstration of an autonomous air taxi in North America. The EH 216 is a pilotless drone that can carry up to two passengers and has flown in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Innovations like this are the future of transportation!

11th Annual Local to Global Forum
Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness
WomenNC Executive Director
Dr. Maria Murray Reimann (pictured above) and your Representative
I was honored to be invited to speak to the participants in WomenNC’s 11 th Annual Local to Global Forum. Under the guidance of House District 49 resident Dr. Maria Murray Riemann, WomenNC offers a CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) Leadership Training Program. Open to a select group of college-age women, scholars work one-on-one “femtors” from RTI’s Global Gender Center to develop policy-focused research projects and with “advocacy mentors” to advance those policy positions.

As I reminded the scholars, “Remember: you stand on the shoulders of others—of those that have come before.” I am confident that these young women will lead us into the future, supporting WomenNC’s goal to raise a generation that honors women’s human rights.
Did You Know? March is…
Women's History Month 2020 “This month we take the time to celebrate strong women who have made our state stronger by their contributions,” said Governor Cooper. To that end, the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and Department of Administration are hosting programs celebrating women’s history throughout the month. Learn more about programs available across the state.
Students@Work Month 2020 – celebrating the program connecting NC middle school students and local businesses to create greater career awareness through first-hand workplace experiences. Learn more about Students@Work
It's a Privilege to Serve
As I close this newsletter, I recognize that these are challenging times for all of us, with the uncertainties of the COVID-19 virus. Please stay updated on the latest developments, and follow the recommendations we are given for employing methods of “social distancing” as we all work to contain this outbreak as much as possible to minimize its impact on our lives. If you have any questions, please call (919-733-5860) or email our office (cynthia.ball@ncleg.net) and we will try to refer you to the best source for guidance.

Wishing safety for you and your family,
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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