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Lawmakers visit Greenville to announce legislative agenda

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

As part of a state-wide unveiling of the Democratic legislative agenda, area lawmakers visited the Pitt Street Brewery to discuss education, small businesses and infrastructure among a long list of priorities. 

Monday morning, Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, and Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton County, hosted a news conference in conjunction with conferences in six other cities in the state, in preparation for the start of the short session on Wednesday, as well as the upcoming fall election campaigns. 

Farmer-Buttefield said the unveiling of the ‘Our Carolina Promise’ agenda demonstrates what the Democrats hope to accomplish with increased influence in the capital.

“This is a vision of what’s possible with more Democrats in office,” she said. “This is a vision of not what we can accomplish in the short session, but what we can accomplish in 2019, 2020 and the years beyond.

“One the biggest parts of that work is making sure voters have something to vote for and not just against,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “We need to articulate our shared positive values.”

Democrats have been in the minority at the General Assembly since 2011, but said they are energized this year and have fielded candidates for all 170 seats.

They need to win four additional House or six Senate seats to end the Republicans' veto-proof majorities and give Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper more leverage with legislation. 

“After a spirited primary, Democrats now have a strong candidate running for every single seat this year and this is also one of the most diverse sets of candidates we’ve ever had,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “People across the nation and North Carolina are frustrated with the current leadership in North Carolina and the General Assembly as well as in Washington. Democrats aren’t just relying on that frustration, we are working hard every single day to reach out constituents and explain how we are fighting for them.”

The legislative agenda is divided into four categories: Our School, Our Health, Our Jobs, Our People. Included in the platform are calls for increased teacher pay, rural infrastructure improvements — such as internet access and improved roads — and support for small businesses. 

The plan also is committed to expanding Medicaid to more of the working poor, raising teacher pay to the national average and transferring redistricting powers to a special commission if Democrats they take control of the General Assembly in the November elections.

Smith said investing in education is a priority for improving the state.

“We want to create a state that is a leader in public education, including giving our teachers the respect they deserve and our schools the resources they need to succeed,” she said. “Our children need to be first and foremost.”

Smith also said that to boost economic prosperity in the state, leaders needed to start supporting more small employers and not hunting for larger corporations. She said Pitt Street Brewery is a perfect example of why small businesses are important in communities. 

“This is a small business that saw opportunity and and saw a vision for helping revitalize our downtown area,” Smith said. “It’s dedicated to supporting local artists, musicians and businesses and this is an example of the type of businesses we should promote across the state of North Carolina.

“We have to take our focus off these big out-of-state corporations, many of which we know are not coming to the rural parts of our state in eastern and western North Carolina,” she said.

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth

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