Politics & Government

Mecklenburg lawmakers bring Raleigh to Charlotte

Ann Newman speaks about Medicaid expansion before the Mecklenburg County Delegation at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, Friday, April 24, 2015.
Ann Newman speaks about Medicaid expansion before the Mecklenburg County Delegation at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, Friday, April 24, 2015. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Terry Lansdell warned about the threats to environmental laws.

Stephen Phillips explained how the loss of medical deductions hurt seniors.

Eleanor Norman talked about “food deserts” in low-income neighborhoods.

The three were among nearly two dozen people who spoke to members of Mecklenburg County’s legislative delegation Friday at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

Eleven lawmakers spent their day off doing something they’d never done before as a group: meet constituents in their backyard.

“It’s awesome input,” Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius said later. “That’s the way the process is supposed to work.”

The three-hour hearing was orchestrated by Tarte and Democratic Rep. Becky Carney, who are co-chairs of the delegation.

Nearly 20 people paraded to the microphone. Some represented groups such as the League of Women Voters and the Junior League. Others spoke for non-profits or just for themselves. Some asked for help on specific legislation.

They talked about everything from traffic congestion to human trafficking, from school funding to school gardens, from aging to immigrants.

“It’s about time we’ve done this,” said Carney, who is in her seventh term. “The reactions have been really great for the local community to see us as an entire body (and) put our partisan differences aside.”

In Raleigh the delegation’s ideological and partisan divisions reflect those of the legislature as a whole. This month one member publicly chided what she called the “extreme” views of another.

Six delegation members missed Friday’s hearing, which Carney pledged would be the first of others.

It was a change for the lawmakers. In Raleigh the people they usually hear from are lobbyists or representatives of special interest groups. It was also a change for their constituents.

“It’s wonderful because educators like myself have to travel to Raleigh to speak to our legislators in person,” said Charlotte teacher Veronica Talton. “For them to come here provides me the opportunity to drive 20 minutes instead of four hours.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059

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