WCQS is speaking with mountain area lawmakers about the recently completed General Assembly session. Our series continues today with Terry Van Duyn, a Democratic state senator from Buncombe County. Van Duyn emerged throughout the session as one of the most outspoken members of the Democratic caucus, rising to the position of minority whip. You can hear the full conversation above. Some highlights from the interview are featured below.
As budget negotiations dragged on nearly 3 months after the first deadline, a big issue was teacher pay. The House wanted a 2 percent across-the-board raise for teachers and state employees, and to fully fund teacher assistants. The Senate wanted less spending, including on teachers, and wanted to de-fund teacher assistants. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans. Democrats have typically articulated a position of spending more on education. As a Democratic member of the Senate, Van Duyn was more in favor of the House's position, and was glad that teacher assistants were funded in the final package to emerge. But overall, she says we aren't doing enough for our teachers.
One of the last bills the 2 chambers agreed on was an expansion of the state's main job recruitment tool, the Job Development Investment Grants, or JDIG. The House had supported Governor Pat McCrory's call for more grant money early on in the session, but the Republican leadership of the Senate was hesitant to go along. JDIG grants were expanded to $20 million a year, with the ability to rise to $35 million for any year which could involve a "high yield" project, i.e. a car manufacturer. Van Duyn supports the grants and wonders why it took so long.
The legislature took up several measures over the session dealing with abortion. One took effect in October and mandated a 72-hour waiting period for women to get an abortion. Another last minute bill was a response to national controversy over edited sting videos targeting the women's health organization Planned Parenthood. Its aim was to ban the sale of fetal tissue in North Carolina, something Van Duyn argues isn't done in North Carolina. She says the legislation harms a group that's doing good work.
The abortion bills all passed, but one controversial measure died in the House. That was a last-minute push to ban local municipalities from enacting rules dealing with such things as affordable housing, living wages, and anti-discrimination measures. Van Duyn was firmly against it, and credits a public outcry with helping to kill the proposal.
There's much more in the full interview at the top. This is part of a series of interviews WCQS is conducting with area lawmakers. On Monday, we aired an interview with Republican Rep. Chuck McGrady of Henderson County. You'll be able to hear more conversations in the days and weeks ahead.