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Political notebook: Ten days in, house members sponsoring more legislation

If sponsoring bills were a competition, Rowan’s legislators in the N.C. House of Representatives would be winning by a sizable margin.

In the 10 days since the North Carolina General Assembly returned to Raleigh, Rowan’s legislators have sponsored a total of 25 bills. Rep. Harry Warren, R-77, has sponsored or co-sponsored 10 bills and Rep. Carl Ford, R-76, has sponsored or co-sponsored nine. Sen. Andrew Brock’s tally sits at five and freshman Sen. Tom McInnis is the co-sponsor of one bill.

Ford and Warren have at least one bill in common, which addresses eminent domain. Neither representative is a primary sponsor of the bill, which prohibits the condemnation of a property by local or state government except in the case of public uses, such as a roads or sewers. The bill, if passed, would also add language to the state’s constitution that gives “just compensation” for a property. The bill passed its second reading vote by a sizable margin and could head to the senate next week following a final vote.

Only Ford and Warren are primary sponsors of any bills.

The one bill Ford is the primary sponsor of is formally titled the “Justice for Rural Citizens Act.” In its initial form, the bill would’ve prevented cities from exercising planning jurisdiction outside of its city limits.

Warren is the primary sponsor of three bills that would make various tweaks to the state’s unemployment insurance program. One would address the program’s fraud prevention tactics and require the unemployment insurance program to submit written, quarterly progress reports and annual reports to the N.C. General Assembly. Anoter would address past unemployment insurance program appeals, amend the appointment process for the board of review and create staggered terms for the board.

Of Rowan’s legislators, Brock is the only one to have a bill adopted. The bill, Senate Resolution 9, created Information Technology as a standing committee of the senate. It passed without any “nay” votes. The text of the bill is less than a quarter of one page.

Another bill that Brock is a co-sponsor of would allow magistrates and registers of deeds to recuse themselves based on religious beliefs from marriage ceremonies.

In its current form, Brock’s co-sponsored bill states: A “recusal shall be upon notice to the chief district court judge and is in effect for at least six months from the time delivered to the chief district court judge. The recusing magistrate may not perform any marriage under this chapter until the recusal is rescinded in writing.”

Assistant and deputy registers of deeds would also be allowed to recuse themselves from issuing a marriage license. The deputy or assistant would be required to notify his or her county’s register of deeds about a recusal.

On Feb. 4, Brock’s co-sponsored bill was referred to the Judiciary I committee. The primary sponsor of the bill is President Pro-Tempore of the Senate Phil Berger, a Republican who represents Guilford and Rockingham counties.

McInnis has co-sponsored one bill, which applies to the health plan of retirees who return to work for the state in temporary positions. Specifically, the bill would allow the retirees who return to work to retain their coverage options under the state health plan, instead of being limited to the bronze level of the Affordable Care Act.

Governor gives Rowan County a shoutout in speech

It’s practically common knowledge: Gov. Pat McCrory attended Catawba College.

During this week’s State of the State Address, however, McCrory mentioned another connection to Rowan County that may not be as widely known. He was a student teacher at North Rowan High School.

The Rowan County shoutout came in the middle of his speech, as he was talking about education being part of an overall economic development plan.

In this week’s speech, McCrory said: “Teaching is hard, very hard. I know this firsthand. As a 20-year-old student teacher at North Rowan High School in Spencer, I thought I had the perfect lesson plan for my first day of teaching.  I worked for days preparing an hour’s worth of teaching material. But, I ran out of material after 10 minutes. With my advisor and all 30 students looking to me for direction, the remaining 50 minutes were the longest of my life. Teaching is hard, so to support our teachers, we must fulfill our promise to raise teacher base pay to $35,000 a year.”

Two parts of former mall’s future to wrap up in March

During the Rowan County Board of Commissioners planning retreat, Chairman Greg Edds and County Manager Aaron Church announced the tentative dates for two critical parts of the former Salisbury Mall’s future.

The former mall, renamed West End Plaza, is schedule to be considered by the Salisbury City Council in early March, following a planning board meeting later this month. Specifically, the City Council and planning board will consider a conditional district overlay. Previously, the city denied a request for a special use permit.

Another important part of the mall’s future, a space needs study, is also scheduled to be released in March. A draft study last week was presented to Edds, Church and Vice-Chairman Jim Greene. Church said the draft contained several errors that needed correcting.

Church said he wasn’t aware of the exact amount of space that would be needed, as more work is required for the final space needs study to be complete. He did confirm that the study would say the county needed more space. Church also said during a break in this week’s planning retreat that the study would likely say the Rowan County courthouse would be adequate for judicial facilities’ space needs in the future. Church wouldn’t elaborate on which departments and agencies wouldn’t be included to make the courthouse sustainable for the foreseeable future.

He did say that certain agencies and departments are required to be in or within a certain radius of the courthouse.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246




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