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Political notebook: Edds will chair Rowan-Cabarrus MPO

Greg Edds will take on a leadership role in another government organization starting in 2016.

Edds, the Rowan County Commissioners Chairman, will become the Rowan-Cabarrus Metropolitan Planning Organization chairman in January. The organization chose Edds as its new chairman during a meeting in October.

The Rowan-Cabarrus MPO prioritizes transportation projects in Rowan and Cabarrus counties before submission to state government. There’s a total of 19 metropolitan planning organizations in North Carolina. All are tasked with setting priority levels of transportation projects. Not all North Carolina counties, however, are part of an MPO.

Edds will succeed Harrisburg Town Councilman Jeff Phillips as chairman.

The MPO alternates the chairman position between Rowan and Cabarrus counties. Recently elected China Grove Mayor Lee Withers, currently the town’s mayor pro tem, was the last MPO chairman from Rowan County.

Former Spencer Alderman Reid Walters was scheduled to be the chairman in 2016. When he resigned his alderman seat in September to take a job in another part of the state, Walters also resigned from the MPO.

Edds said there’s a number of important future transportation projects in Rowan County, including an Interstate interchange at Old Beatty Ford Road.

$1 billion surplus in state trust fund 

Gov. Pat McCrory this week announced North Carolina reached a surplus of $1 billion in the state’s unemployment trust fund reserve.

In a news release, McCrory said it was the first time since 2001 the trust fund has exceeded $1 billion. As a result of the surplus, a 20 percent unemployment insurance tax surchange will be discontinued for employers in North Carolina.

McCrory’s news release estimated the savings would be more than $600 million for North Carolina employers.

“This money can be used to hire more workers, which will ultimately add more money to the trust fund so we don’t get into another borrowing situation,” McCrory said. “We have paid off the debt five years early and reached an important balance in our trust fund at the right time to bring certainty to North Carolina businesses.”

North Carolina was able to reach the surplus after lowering benefits for the unemployed and using the surcharge to pay a federal debt. In May, the state paid off $2.8 billion in federal debt.

The debt occurred after the the nation’s economic recession, when the state ran out of money to pay benefits. It borrowed federal money as a result.

Tillis announces support of effort to address VA staffing issues

During the week of Veterans Day, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, joined a bipartisan effort to introduce a bill aimed at changing staffing policies and improving health care in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Called the Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act, the bill has support of more than 40 veterans and health care organizations, according to a news release from Tillis’ office. A bipartisan group of senators from multiple states are sponsors or co-sponsors of the bill.

In a news release about the bill, Tillis’ office highlighted three provisions.

The bill would aim to provide the VA with a pool of trained medical staff who served in the military. It would require the VA to receive a list of service members who worked in a health care capacity while in the military. Specifically, the list would include those who filed for separation in the previous 2 months.

It would create uniform credentialing standards. Instead of requiring doctors to receive new credentials when changing hospitals, which can take up to three months, the VA would create a uniform set of rules for all medical staff in the Veterans Health Administration.

A third measure would give nurses with post-graduate education in nursing to practice across their entire range of skills, according to Tillis’ news release. Nurses would be able to practice in areas recommended by appropriate professional organizations, according to the release.

“This legislation is a textbook example of how members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee are coming together to identify the challenges facing the VA, and then working together to come up with common-sense, bipartisan solutions,” Tillis said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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