Editor’s note: Representative Craig Horn provides us a glimpse into his work at the General Assembly the second week of each month.
The North Carolina General Assembly is wrapping up its second full week. It has been a very busy place. Quite frankly, much busier than I had anticipated and I admit to being a bit overwhelmed with the volume and pace of activity. One quickly finds that the long days are actually way too short in which to fit all of the things to be done. I have become quickly impressed with the skills and knowledge of many, even most of the legislators and the staff. I am especially proud to serve among this group of freshman who have come to Raleigh to “get ‘er done.” They have their heads on straight, are motivated to do what is right for North Carolina and are determined to speak up and play a role.
As of today, 68 bills have been introduced in the House. Most of the 18 committees and the sub-committees have met at least once, several of them multiple times. In the House, we have passed our first major bill, HB 2, Protect Healthcare Freedom, and are now at work on HB13, Balanced Budget Act of 2011 which will capture unencumbered monies still remaining in the current year budget to put against the $3.7 billion shortfall projected for this coming year. In spite of the many nice-sounding names on bills, there are contentious parts that have already strained relationships and excited rivalries. One quickly learns that nothing is as simple as it first appears, but this is a long-distance run and not a sprint. Although it is way too early to get cross-ways with one another, the financial crisis in which we find ourselves requires us to stand up for what we believe is right in spite of the slings and arrows and, in many cases, good arguments from those that want to continue to do what they have always done.
Committee work has just begun and, of course, the “gorilla in the room” is the budget deficit. We are hearing each department justify their budget requests and are working hard to separate the “need to do” from the “nice to do.” But, we cannot forget the great many other issues that play an important role in our lives. In the Education Committee we will take up bills to eliminate non-federally-mandated testing, HB 48, and a multitude of funding bills for an even greater multitude of programs. The key element that we keep in mind is the action at the classroom level. Everyone, of course, believes that their program is the most important, so we must and we will make difficult and unpopular choices. We must do so quickly but with careful thought and consideration.
In Justice and Public Safety, we all know the challenges of over-crowding in our jails, over-extended law-enforcement personnel and the difficulties in the courts. Every challenge is solved with money but there is not enough to go around. Again, we face the choice between the unacceptable and the unpalatable. But, first we must listen and learn.
Then there is the flood of local bills that have resulted from the state sticking its nose into every facet of our daily lives. It is the goal of many of us to get the State of North Carolina out of local issues and leave them to the counties and towns to find solutions that best meet their own individual needs. This is not at all an easy job. Local officials have a particularly tough time if for no other reason than they are so accessible. We hide out in Raleigh for most of the week and come home only on the weekends. But town and county officials live, work, shop and play right there and have to face you every day. I have great respect for local officials and encourage you to help and support them in every possible way.
I am pleased to be hearing from so many of my neighbors at home and hope that I will hear from even more of you. We may not always agree, but your views are important to me and I share them with the other legislators no matter on which side they come down. As I said, nothing is as simple as it first appears. I am here to represent you, do my homework and exercise my best judgment. Please continue to keep me on a short leash, don’t let me be in Raleigh unsupervised and PLEASE don’t let me make decisions with my head in a sack.
Rep. Craig Horn