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County board hosts lawmaker dinner

Posted on May 14, 2022

Updated on May 15, 2022

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Rep. Lisa Barnes, R-Nash, is shown beside Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, in a composite image.

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Rep. Lisa Barnes, R-Nash, is shown beside Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, in a composite image.

NASHVILLE — Making transportation of mental health patients a state responsibility tops this year’s legislative wish for Nash County officials.

County commissioners hosted a legislative dinner May 11 for members of the N.C. General Assembly who represent Nash County, presenting two of the three local legislators who attended a list of the county’s six legislative priorities for the upcoming session.

Republican State Sen. Lisa Barnes of Nashville and Democratic State Rep. James Gailliard of Rocky Mount enjoyed a dinner of grilled fish, chicken or pork at Ribeye’s Steakhouse before speaking and listening to the county’s seven commissioners and senior staff as well as the sheriff and county school superintendent — 20 people altogether.

Republican State Rep. Matthew Winslow was not present.

Both Gailliard and Barnes noted the state’s strong financial shape.

“Our fiscal policies are working well,” Barnes said, while Gailliard stressed he hoped the legislature will use its financial windfall to help the counties and beef up state programs that have suffered during the past two years. He placed particular stress on building up a housing trust fund to help state employees and others be able to afford the dramatic increase in price of available housing.

Gailliard also warned that as many as 10,000 Nash County residents are being left out of the workforce or higher education because they have to stay home with their children.

“We have a huge workforce that can’t go to work because they can’t afford child care,” he said.

Barnes reported that the state was still working out how to distribute funds from the federal infrastructure bill because of waiting to hear guidelines on the spending from Washington.

Otherwise, she said, the state Senate is focusing its attention during the session on improving access to health care and creating a parents’ “bill of rights” for state schools.

“Let’s put more responsibility in it for them,” Commissioner Fred Belfield responded, referring to parents.

“I’ve always been a supporter of Medicaid expansion,” said Gailliard, following up on improving access to health care. “I still am. I don’t think health care should be tied to work.”

After the legislators spoke, county board chairman Robbie Davis presented the county’s six main legislative priorities:

• Make transport of mental health patients across the state a state responsibility.

• Support state funding for local industrial site development.

• Support legislation that promotes opioid prevention initiatives.

• Continue to support funding for Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology and other high speed internet programs. Also, support county options for extending high speed internet into underserved and unserved areas of counties.

• Support current expenses for public schools, fully reinstate lottery proceeds for the Public School Building Capital Fund, and support a $1.9 billion statewide education bond.

• Oppose unfunded mandates and shift of state responsibilities to counties.

The county also listed a few other legislative issues that affect Nash County, including opposing the sunsetting of legislation allowing counties to remove abandoned mobile homes, eliminating second primary elections, expanding the county’s ability to use sales tax revenues, and providing regular funding for stream clearing.

Commissioners also encouraged legislation to allow state and Medicaid reimbursement for home visits by Community Paramedics for medical, behavioral health or substance abuse disorder patients. Reflecting their frustration with bureaucrats at the state Department of Transportation as well as unhappiness of local businesses, commissioners also shared with the two legislators a county resolution opposing the omission of left turn lanes at the intersection of Old Carriage Road and Sunset Avenue in Rocky Mount.

After the dinner, commissioners stayed behind for a brief closed session on legal issues related to economic development.

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