Now that state lawmakers are home from Raleigh, WCQS is conducting a series of interviews with mountain area legislators. We start off our series with Representative Chuck McGrady, Republican of Henderson County. McGrady played a key role in budget negotiations towards the end of the session. And as the former national president of the environmental group Sierra Club, he also was a major player in various pieces of legislation dealing with the environment. You can hear the full unedited interview by clicking the audio above. Below are some highlights and the segments that aired on WCQS.
As already mentioned, as chairman of the appropriations committee, McGrady was a key figure in the budget talks. A standoff over teacher assistants and drivers education (which the House budget funded, and the Senate budget didn't) and debate over the many policy proposals included in the Senate budget were the main reasons the legislature had to pass 3 continuing resolutions to keep the government funded. That caused schools to open their doors not knowing whether teacher assistants would keep their jobs or whether to include drivers ed programs (Wake County canceled its drivers ed program). McGrady says that for the months of June and July, the two chambers weren't talking.
As a longtime environmental advocate, I asked McGrady what he thought about the legislature's job this session on environmental issues. He said it was a mixed bag. The solar industry was watching closely to see if the General Assembly would extend renewable energy tax credits. They didn't, and that leaves the future of a booming industry in the state in question. McGrady expressed disappointment, saying he thought not renewing the tax credits was a mistake.
Just days before we spoke, a state court of appeals issued a unanimous ruling against the city of Asheville in its dispute with the legislature over the transfer of its water system to a regional authority. McGrady worked to pass that bill and was pleased with the court's ruling. I asked him why it was unacceptable to him for Asheville to control the city's water system.
I also asked McGrady about rumors that he and Senator Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville were planning to retire. The filing deadline for anyone planning to run for office has been moved up to December 1st, after the legislature moved up the primary calendar to March 15.
There's much more in the full interview. And there are a number of interviews to come, including, but not limited to: Senator Terry Van Duyn and Representatives John Ager, Josh Dobson, Joe Sam Queen, and Susan Fisher. Look for those in the days and weeks ahead.