NC House Democrats laud accomplishments

RALEIGH —- N.C. House Speaker Jim Black (D-Mecklenburg), Majority Leader Joe Hackney (D-Orange) and other members of the House Democratic Caucus today highlighted their many accomplishments during this year’s short session of the General Assembly, which is expected to conclude today.

Legislators discussed their successful efforts to improve education, health care and our state’s economy during the past two months in Raleigh. House Democrats unveiled their five-part Plan for a Secure Future back on May 9, which called on the Legislature to:

1. Provide the opportunity of a lifetime — a quality education

2. Create jobs that create strong, healthy and more prosperous families

3. Insure our future by insuring the health and safety of our citizens

4. Take action when the President and Congress won’t

5. Give people confidence in a government that works for them

During today’s press conference at the State Legislative Building, members of the House Democratic Caucus declared success on these topics and many others not included on the original agenda, including reforming our state’s DWI laws, creating a “first-in-the-nation” innocence commission, passing a one-year moratorium on landfills and other environmental protection efforts, and eminent domain restrictions to protect private property rights.

House Speaker Jim Black said, “This year’s session has been one of the best in recent memory. House members did a lot of work on various study committees before session started, which allowed us to hit the ground running from Day 1 — and we never let up. Improving the education of our children and grandchildren remained our number one priority throughout this session. We worked extremely hard to increase teacher pay and provide new funding for our schools. We also took important steps to making health care more affordable for our citizens, reducing crime in our communities and creating new jobs, which will help strengthen our economy.”

Majority Leader Hackney and other legislators detailed several specific proposals, which were passed by the General Assembly and sent to the Governor for his signature into law.

“Investing in education is the most important thing we can do for our people and our economy, and we remained focused on this important priority throughout this year’s short session,” said Rep. Joe Hackney. “We have worked hard to prepare our students to compete in the global economy. We increased teacher pay and made sure that lottery proceeds are only spent on education. We increased the state’s minimum wage and gave state employees a long deserved pay raise. We did more for education and health care than ever before, and the House Democratic Caucus has worked hard to keep North Carolina and our people on the right track.”

Members of the House Democratic Caucus highlighted numerous legislative accomplishments, including:

* Ensuring every child in North Carolina receives a quality education in a safe and secure environment

* Raising the salaries of teachers and state employees

* Dedicating all lottery proceeds to education and establishing a new oversight board

* Providing tax credits to small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees

* Increasing the state’s minimum wage

* Promoting job growth

* Making health care a part of the job

* Protecting the health and safety of children

* Funding and implementing mental health reform

* Preparing for health-related emergencies and natural disasters

* Capping the state’s gas tax and protecting consumers against price gouging

* Cracking down on illegal immigrants

* Passing substantial and far-reaching campaign finance, lobbying and ethics reforms to strengthen the public’s confidence in elected officials and our government

Speaker Black praised legislators for their hard work, both during this year’s short session and prior to May on numerous study committees. Their efforts and continued dedication to making progress for our state allowed legislators to hit the ground running and quickly pass important legislation, including ethics and campaign finance proposals and agreeing to a budget prior to the start of the new fiscal year.

“I’m so proud of the fact that we remained focused on our priorities and were determined to get the people’s business done as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” said Speaker Black. “The people of North Carolina expect us to come to Raleigh each week to work on the issues that matter most to their families, and they expect us to work together in a bipartisan way. We’ve accomplished many great things that will help our people and make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

“I strongly supported the House Democrats’ plan to improve education, health care and the economy during the 2006 Short Session,” said Rep. Michael H. Wray.