It has been said, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” That should be the guiding principle for all legislative sessions: convene, get the work done and go home. I think 2014’s short session of the North Carolina General Assembly will be quick and to the point. But, along with normal budget adjustments, what should be on that short to-do list?
The legislature should continue to fix teacher pay by paying starting teachers more, while rewarding good teachers better and moving teacher compensation to a more rational system, away from the current one-size-fits-all model. Years of teaching and degrees should not automatically mean the highest pay. The best teachers should make the most money.
Lawmakers also need to set the stage for real Medicaid reform in the next long session. Currently Medicaid is the beast eating the state budget and squeezing out other spending. Medicaid reform needs to be true reform, not just putting budgetary certainty in an out-of-control system, but improving health outcomes for our fellow citizens who rely on Medicaid. Scientific studies have found Medicaid patients have no better, and in some case worse, health outcomes than those totally uninsured. We can’t allow that to continue.
There will be action on coal ash in North Carolina. Previous governors and legislatures created an unacceptable situation that can’t continue. This year’s legislature will confront the problem in an aggressive manner not seen in past legislatures.
Legislators need to further improve the business climate by continuing to eliminate needless regulatory impediments to job creation, moving NC along the road to tapping its energy resources, and further cutting taxes to put more money in the hands of workers and those who can hire people, all of which will reduce our unemployment rate even further.
One major thing I would like them to do is to change the law to require either the state Court of Appeals or Supreme Court to immediately review a ruling from any local judge that stops a state law from taking effect. The legislature and governor, not one locally elected judge, express the political and legal will of the state. Having statewide elected judges review any such decision before it takes effect is a simple commonsense safeguard that is in place in other states.
This article first appeared in the Charlotte Observer on May 14.