Cape Fear lawmakers pursuing clout in Raleigh
|By Molly Parker, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
He usually starts his day before
On the heels of a closed-session meeting with Gov.
"We're a lot closer than the media gives us credit for," he quips, then notes he's about to meet with another powerful lawmaker about the multibillion-dollar budget.
In a political world where power and prestige matter, Rabon has both.
And as such, he lends an extra dose of clout to the relatively inexperienced delegation that represents the
"I think it would be flattering for me to say so," said Rabon, R-
Power struggle on
There's no tried-and-true formula for what brings somebody power inside the Beltline.
But whether it's seniority, party affiliation, or simply being in the right place at the right time, clout -- no matter how you acquire it -- matters in
Legislators from various parts of the state battle for their areas against the oft-times competing interests of their colleagues.
The delegation that represents the
Gone are the long-serving faces that include Democratic Sen.
McComas, who served 18 years in the House starting in 1994, was such an influential voice even as a member of the minority party in
But maybe seniority in this legislature doesn't mean what it once did.
For most of her time, she was in the minority party.
"In that situation it did help that
But in 2010 the rules changed when the Republicans won control of the
"When the players changed, everything changed about how things functioned," Justice said, noting those recent elections brought in a lot of new faces to
Now, Justice said, she feels it's as important what you know as how long you've been in
"When the structure changes, everything changes," she said.
Delegation seen as effective
Despite its inexperience, the current fresh-faced delegation (which includes three freshmen) has been viewed as relatively effective in keeping local priorities in the debate. Of course, banging a loud drum doesn't always equal results.
Overall, it's been a win-some, lose-some sort of session for the local delegation.
"We haven't been there long enough to move up in the ranks in terms of leadership position or the experience of years of working on and speaking on bills," said Rep.
For example, one of the top priorities of the
"Obviously, the most important thing for us in
But overall, he said, they seem to support local interests.
"It's a sorry frog that doesn't croak for its own pond," Saffo said.
Justice agreed that, for the most part, the local delegation has been speaking with one voice on issues -- which makes getting them passed in
"That's a real positive for
A numbers game
But a willingness to advocate doesn't always lead to results, and Hamilton, the area's lone Democrat, says it's a numbers game and "we're outnumbered."
To illustrate her point, she notes that coastal homeowners' insurance premiums have continued to rise rapidly without meaningful legislative relief.
"I think that's a direct result of us not having enough representation in
But that could change in a few years. States must redraw
"After the next round of Census data, we may find ourselves in a better situation," she said.
"We're an important part of the state," he said. "We're recognized as that we have beaches, we have military, we have farming, we have a port, we have class 1 rail. We are, I think, a rising star in the state, and I believe in the next decade the area I represent will continue to grow and probably outgrow the rest of the state other than the six urban areas."
To be sure, the local delegation has already registered some wins during the session on items big and small.
"We're still working on a lot of things," said Rep.
"We're working on the big issues of making sure we're able to fund our education by making sure our teachers get a raise and not cutting our teacher assistants. All of us, all of the delegation, inputs into that."
Catlin, a geologist and engineer by trade, also made a name for himself last session when he successfully railed against the possibility of shipping wastewater byproduct from hydraulic fracturing to the coast for the purposes of disposal.
Catlin also worked for a new well-water education law and played a part in crafting legislation to clean up
"Several of our members have stepped into pretty important roles," he said. "Transportation has done a lot of good for the state, and my position allows us to be sure we're taken care of as well as we can be in the
In that role, he has fought to decriminalize certain petty crimes and pushed through his signature legislation of cracking down on pimps who traffic women and minors, a growing problem in the
Davis, despite being a freshman, has been a primary sponsor of 26 bills in the past two years.
"I would say our biggest setback as far as influence is our youth and inexperience," he said, "but to our credit, I think we have come a long way in a short amount of time."
It's been a win-some, lose-some sort of session for the
Coal ash: A measure to mandate cleanup of the state's coal-ash ponds in the wake of the
Tree removal: A measure opposed by
Flytrap thefts: A bill that would increase to a felony penalty the illegal taking of Venus' flytraps appears to be making its way through both chambers. The bill would also provide some coastal municipalities flexibility in the use of room-occupancy tax funds for the purpose of funding beach nourishment.
Gun control: A measure supported by
Fracking wastewater: In June, Gov.
Privilege license taxes: Whether one sees this as a "win" or "lose" is in the eye of the beholder, however.
Lottery funds for school construction: Reps.
Film incentives: The biggest priority of local officials, renewal of the state's film incentives past their
Historic preservation: Tax credits for historic preservation also expire
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