This week, state lawmakers are on their version of spring break, and many local legislators are home. That gave us an opportunity to sit down and talk about the current session with many of them. We reached out to members of both parties, and will air excerpts from the interviews in the order they were conducted. We start today with Representative Brian Turner. He’s a Democrat representing Buncombe County. The first-term legislator scored an upset win over Tim Moffitt in November’s election, one among just a few bright spots for Democrats in an otherwise tough election cycle.
In this segment, we talk about the economy, and we started with incentives. The House passed a measure giving incentive money to the state’s job recruitment program, the Job Development Investment Grant, or JDIG, as requested by Governor Pat McCrory, with Turner’s support.
One issue state lawmakers are grappling with is the divide in prosperity between the state’s urban and rural areas. Jacksonville Republican Harry Brown has brought legislation that would redistribute the way sales taxes are distributed in a way that would send more money to rural counties. But many urban areas would be hurt, including Buncombe County and the city of Asheville. Carolina Public Press reports Buncombe would lose more than 15 million dollars by 2018, and Asheville would lose 4 million. That’s drawing concerns from many, including Turner.
“When you look at a proposal like this and it negatively impacts Buncombe County, it negatively impacts Asheville, obviously I’ve got great concern for that. I think it’s a good idea for us to continue to look at how we’re funding our state needs, what we’re doing with taxes, but we can’t really do it in a vacuum.”
In this segment, Turner speaks out against the legislature’s recent actions to change the Wake County Board of Commissioners election, as well as changes made in Buncombe County, and proposed changes in Greensboro.
Republicans have already made changes in Buncombe County and most recently in Wake County. The Wake County Commissioners elections have been changed in a way that favors Republicans after an election in which they were swept. That’s according to a News and Observer analysis, which found that had the law been in place in the last election, Republicans would hold a majority on the county commission despite Democrats grabbing 30,000 more votes. Lawmakers are now looking at changing Greensboro’s city council. Turner says it’s fine for the state to look at making changes.
“But then I think it’s up to the people being directly affected to decide whether or not they want to make those changes. So if the delegation in Greensboro says ‘we want to change what’s going on in Greensboro,’ I think they have a right to do that. But I think that the people who live in Greensboro should then be able to vote on ‘Yes, we want to do that’ or ‘no we don’t.’
You can hear Turner expand on his thoughts in part 2 of our interview below.
*WCQS reached out to members of both parties in the same manner, with a phone call to both office and home numbers listed on the lawmakers' websites and with a message to their legislative email accounts. We have so far interviewed all 5 Democrats: Representatives Brian Turner, John Ager, Susan Fisher and Joe Sam Queen and Senator Terry Van Duyn. We've received no confirmations from among the 4 Republicans we reached out to: Representatives Chuck McGrady, Josh Dobson, Michelle Presnell and Senator Tom Apodaca. So far, we have heard from Sen. Apodaca's office letting us know he is unavailable, and Rep. Dobson's office telling us he is in Raleigh working on the budget.