Wake commissioners postpone talk of legislative agenda

mquillin@newsobserver.comMay 5, 2014 

— State lawmakers likely will be back in session before the Wake County Board of Commissioners has formalized its legislative goals for the year, since the board postponed discussion of the items Monday.

A glitch in the software that uploads supporting material for each meeting so commissioners can read it in advance kept some members from getting the most current version of the proposed goals. Rather than discussing only the items for which they had background material, the group voted to put off the discussion of all the items until May 19. Legislators will convene for their 2014 short session May 15.

Some board members also were disappointed that the list didn’t include a request that the legislature raise base pay for school teachers.

When the list comes back before the board, Chairman Phil Matthews said, that item will be included for discussion. So will:

• a proposal to get the state to provide Medicaid reimbursement when county emergency medical services transport a patient to an approved mental health care facility rather than to a hospital when it’s appropriate; and

• one designed to require the Wake County Board of Education to consider more local bidders when deciding whom to hire for construction work.

The board also can choose to include in its goals five named as key issues for the state Association of County Commissioners. Those are:

• to reinstate lottery funds for school construction;

• to oppose the shift of state transportation responsibilities to the counties;

• to oppose unfunded mandates and shifts of state responsibilities to counties;

• to ensure adequate mental health care funding; and

• to preserve the existing local revenue base.

The county’s legislative delegation is not required to pursue the board’s goals, but it’s customary for members of the delegation to meet with members of the board of commissioners to discuss what the board wants. Board members don’t always agree on what the goals should be; they are approved by majority vote.

The board has a 4-3 Republican majority, with all seats held by GOP members on the fall ballot. Some Democrats on the board said they thought the group had agreed at a recent work session to include support for a teacher pay raise as a legislative goal and were disappointed that it was not on the list Monday. Matthews said after the meeting that it wasn’t listed because “teachers are state employees. That’s a state issue,” outside of the county’s purview.

After the meeting, board member Caroline Sullivan said the purpose of a legislative agenda is to ask lawmakers to deal with issues at their level that affect the counties. Teacher pay is one of those, she said.

The current starting salary for teachers is $30,800 in North Carolina. Wake County adds a supplement for its teachers.

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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