Senator Peter S. Brunstetter North Carolina Senate Forsyth County- 31st District 2022 Legislative Building 16 W. Jones Street Raleigh, NC 27603 919-733-7850
“Would you like fries with that sir?” “Would you like me to super size that?” Although it may seem a little silly, a legislator’s answers to these questions are just as important to their long term well-being as “what is your position on tax reform?” One of the hardest things for a legislator to do is to quickly get back into the rhythm and demands of the Long Session. The hours are long, the pressures are high, and everyday routine needs like diet and exercise are immediately put under stress. Just being away from home from Monday through Thursday is an adjustment. I am usually in the office before 7am and have work to do well into the evening. The day is usually a steady stream of committee meetings, appointments with constituents and lobbyists, media interviews and a floor session. In between, there is work to be done to organize and plan strategy for my areas of responsibility and to try to learn and understand the pieces of legislation we will be voting on that day. With all of this going on, it is important to treat each meeting like it is your only meeting, because it often is for the person on the other side of my desk, and to keep a sense of humor and perspective. Of course, you can tell by the fact that I led with food that I didn’t score too high on sensible diet scale this week. I think I ate enough pork products yesterday to grow a curly tail. Exercise is also a challenge during the winter. I have a bicycle that I keep in Raleigh and enjoy riding the city’s great Greenway system once spring weather appears. We had a busy first week of the full Long Session. Although Wednesday was the actual start of the Session, I was down here on Monday and Tuesday conducting a variety of Appropriations related meetings. We will be kicking off the formal appropriations process next week with a series of briefings for all members of the General Assembly. There are still a number of uncertainties that we will have to get our hands around before we can see the true picture for the upcoming budget. Revenue projections are still a couple weeks away, as well as firm numbers on high cost budget drivers like Medicaid, which may again see a
shortfall. With the start of the Session, members are now able to start filing bills. Last Session over 2,000 bills were filed by members. The press loves this part of the process because some bills are great fodder for reporters. Last Session, for example, they used up quite a bit of ink on a bill filed by a House member to create a North Carolina currency and pull the state out of the federal monetary system. The bill never made it out of committee in the House, but you wouldn’t have known that by all the press it generated. Although I am sure that leaders in both caucuses would like to control what types of bills members file, for message discipline if for no other purpose, the reality is that any member can file a bill on any subject they desire. Further, because of strict rules regarding legislative confidentiality, I have no idea what bills will be filed until they actually become public record. Sometimes they are doozies. One of the first bills filed was Senate Bill 4, No N.C. Exchange/No Medicaid Expansion, by Senators Apodaca, Brown and Rucho, which makes it clear that the State will not be adopting a State based health insurance exchange nor will it be expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This bill will certainly generate some discussion as it moves through the Chamber and over to the House. One interesting tidbit for the upcoming session is that the Senate is moving towards becoming a paperless chamber. This is no easy task, but the volume of paper that is used in running the Chamber’s business is staggering. Our staff has worked on electronic filing, electronic bill sponsoring and other requirements and has created a Dashboard application that handles many of the tasks that used to require a paper pusher. Although this might seem simple to someone in the private sector, the Senate didn’t even allow electronic devices on the floor until about three years ago, and even then with enough usage restrictions as to make the devices worthless from a practical standpoint. Now every member will be using electronic devices on the floor, even those of us who are technologically challenged. I just signed on as a cosponsor on a resolution honoring the late Senator Don East by opening the Dashboard, calling up the bill and checking the co-sponsor box. That exercise used to require either signing a bill jacket circulated in a hurry on the floor (often without the opportunity to read it) or taking a trip to the Clerk’s office to have them pull the bill jacket for your signature. Next week will certainly be challenging. Not only will Senate Bill 4 be debated on the floor, but the House is working quickly on House Bill 4, Unemployment Insurance Fund Solvency & Program Changes, sponsored by Representative Howard, which is designed to repay the over
$2.5 billion owed to the federal government as a result of expanded unemployment insurance benefits during the recession. The bill has generated significant news coverage and debate already. Steve Ogden, my Research Assistant, is now going to tell you about his impressions and experiences after his first few weeks of working at the General Assembly.
Steve Ogden Research Assistant Office of Senator Peter S. Brunstetter 1412 Legislative Building Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org 919-733-5149 My first month at the General Assembly has been a great learning experience. In my three weeks here, I have learned more about government and politics than in my four years at college. The pace when I first started was fairly slow, but now that we’re in Session the tempo has increased significantly. There is a huge learning curve when entering this type of position, and I feel that I’m always one step behind. I’m waiting for the day when I have something profound to contribute during a meeting, but until that day comes, I will continue to smile, nod, and pretend I know what is going on. Previously, my days were filled with reading, reading, and more reading. But now that Session is in full swing, I have been doing much more “hands on” work. I have been able to interact with individuals from both Forsyth and Yadkin Counties, and I have even begun to research policies and current state laws. Meetings are where I have learned a great deal. It is amazing to see the amount of work that goes into one bill. Countless phone calls, emails, and meetings occur in order to draft a bill. After this process, the bill is introduced on the House or Senate floor and then assigned to a
committee, thus starting another round of countless calls, emails, and meetings. As the Senator noted, this Session started with a bang. With the Unemployment Reform bill in the House and the Medicaid bill in the Senate, there is no shortage of debate. Some people want to solve the problem with option “A,” some with option “B,” and some still haven’t decided if there is a problem. Sitting on the Senate floor has been fantastic. It is neat to see the Senators interact with each other and to watch Lt. Governor Dan Forest preside over the chamber. It is a humbling experience to sit in a room with the leaders of this State as they debate policy. One thing that stood out to me is the fact that these Legislators are human-beings, shocking I know. I have always thought of elected officials as a different breed. This job has shown me that they are normal, everyday people. They have friends, families, and a sense of humor. They are extremely smart and driven individuals, but most of them are down to earth and here to represent and serve their constituents. There is a lot to learn, but I feel very fortunate to be a part of Senator Brunstetter’s team. Lori and Mrs. Marchman are extremely helpful, and they don’t get too frustrated when I ask them a stupid question. They both have taught me a great deal, and I am thankful they are here. Andrew and I get along great. We both went to NC State, so we give the Senator a hard time about sporting events. Ever since University of Virginia beat State in Men’s Basketball it’s been harder to talk to the Senator. Even though Senator Brunstetter’s team won, I try not to hold a grudge. Although it’s tough, I still offer to pick up his super-sized meal on my lunch break. I look forward to helping the great people of Yadkin and Forsyth Counties in the coming days. I am blessed to be able to help Senator Brunstetter serve you and this great State. Have a great weekend! –Steve
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