Citizen access to the legislative process in the state has taken a solid step forward via new features on the N.C. General Assembly website this session. Included is the new Chamber Dashboard, which allows electronic monitoring of chamber-related activities in the House or Senate when in session.
The new application displays the current item under consideration, providing access to its history and related documents. A calendar shows other bills and documentation in order of consideration, including actions taken. The Dashboard is designed for use on computers, tablets and most other devices with modern Web browsers.
The main General Assembly website has traditionally provided easy access to member information, including contact and voting details — a feature improved this year to make primary sponsorship of bills easier to identify. Legislative calendars and the text and history of individual bills are readily available. Useful links to the N.C. General Statutes, session laws, publications, educational materials, and staff or division contacts are also easy to find on the site.
There is also access to live audio broadcasts (and an archive) of House and Senate sessions, as well as meetings held in main conference and committee rooms. And if there’s reason to track a particular bill through committee hearings — subscription services [www.ncleg.net/gascripts/Committees/Committees.asp] are available for notices of the various committee meetings.
In all, the NCGA site provides a user-friendly interface to the people of the state for monitoring their government and studying the part their individual legislators play in its actions.
Buncombe County delegates in the lead
Buncombe County delegates hold a fair number of designated leadership positions in the physical — as opposed to virtual — halls of the Legislature this session. With a Republican majority in both houses, freshman Rep. Nathan Ramsey scored a vice chairmanship on the Agriculture Committee and appointments to seven other standing/select committees. And one-term veteran Rep. Tim Moffitt chairs the Regulatory Reform Committee and is vice-chair of Commerce and Job Development as well as State Personnel. He was appointed to 11 committees, notably including Appropriations and the Revenue Laws Study Committee.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, who, in his sixth term, represents portions of Buncombe and Henderson counties, chairs the powerful Ways and Means Committee as well as Rules and Operations of the Senate, the Select Committee on the UNC Board of Governors, and the Legislative Research Commission He co-chairs several others, serving on 17 committees in all.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Rep. Susan Fisher has been elevated to the position of minority whip this session. In her tenth year in Raleigh, she has been appointed to the Appropriations Committee and named vice chair of its subcommittee on general government. Fisher serves on six other committees or subcommittees, including Education, Election, and Government.
Sen. Martin Nesbitt Jr., who spent more than 11 terms in the House before beginning what is now five plus terms in the Senate, leads his minority party as the Senate’s Democratic whip. He equals Apodaca in number (17) of committee memberships, but holds no chairmanships. Assignments include the Appropriations on Health and Human Services, the Commerce Committee, Education/Higher Education, Redistricting, and several joint oversight committees.
Honoring the honorable
Two non-political gestures stood out last week as the session bills began to pile up. They affect no counties nor any general statutes — just the spirit of the state.
One is a resolution (HR 210) to honor Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, the sixth of nine children, who was born in Stoney Fork Township near Deep Gap. The text describes how a childhood illness took Watson’s sight; how his love for music came at an early age (harmonica at 5, banjo at 11); how he began to play the guitar while attending the state’s Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh. The history goes on through his illustrious musical accomplishments, concluding: “Doc Watson has enriched our culture with his unique mix of traditional Appalachian folk music, blues, country, gospel, and bluegrass, and his flatpicking style has influenced generations of guitarists.” The resolution recognizes the “lasting legacy” of a native son.
All three Buncombe County representatives (Fisher, Moffitt, Ramsey) co-sponsored the Watson resolution.
In the Senate, with Nesbitt as primary sponsor and Apodaca a co-sponsor, a resolution (SB 196) was introduced to honor Ruth and Billy Graham, and to name the Rev. Graham “North Carolina’s Favorite Son” with a day set aside by the governor to recognize him. William Franklin Graham Jr. was born (1918) and reared on a Charlotte dairy farm — to subsequently become a world-famous evangelist and minister. He and his wife Ruth McCue Bell (born to medical missionary parents in Qingjiang, Kiangsu, China) settled and reared five children in Buncombe County’s Montreat, where the elder Graham still resides. (Ruth Graham died in 2007.) The resolution chronicles the scope of the Grahams’ ministry partnership, and the Rev. Graham’s involvement with presidents and world leaders in addition to the millions who followed him through the media and his preaching crusades.
Buncombe County’s Martin is a primary sponsor of the Graham Resolution; Apodaca and other WNC Sens. Jim Davis and Ralph Hise are co-sponsors.
by Nelda Holder, contributing editor