Members of the North Carolina General Assembly returned to Raleigh last Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 to begin the official business of the 2015-2016 legislative session.
As we get back to work, we look forward to another productive session with our commitment to removing obsolete regulations that increase the burden and expense on North Carolina families and job-creators. We are here to increase the opportunity for those who are working hard and doing their best to provide for their families. We will continue working to improve our public schools. We recognize that a great education not only opens the door to a bright future for our children, but it builds a capable workforce that will attract businesses to our state. In addition, we will be exploring more ways to improve the business tax climate. We want regular folks to be able to keep more of their own money.
North Carolina unemployment rate falls to the lowest in more than six years
For the first time since April of 2008, North Carolina's unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent in December of 2014, according to data released by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of people employed increased by 15,100 over the month, and about 263,000 new jobs have been created since Republicans took control of the legislature in 2011. This growth ranks us the fourth largest job growth state in the nation. The unemployment rate has dropped from 10.4 percent in January of 2011 to 5.5 percent in December of 2014.
Protecting the First Amendment Rights of Magistrates and Registers of Deeds' Staff
I am co-sponsoring a bill in the Senate to protect the first amendment rights - and the jobs - of magistrates and registers of deeds' employees whose core religious beliefs might go against participation in same-sex marriage ceremonies.
The bill makes it clear that those officials with religious objections to performing same-sex marriage ceremonies have the right to recuse themselves from performing marriages without fear of losing their jobs or facing criminal prosecution. The recusal would apply to all marriages and the bill tasks the top elected officials in local court districts - including chief district judges and registers of deeds to develop reasonable alternatives that recognize and respect the religious beliefs of their employees. While also ensuring recent federal court orders are carried out.
Under the bill, any magistrates who resigned or lost their jobs as a result of this issue are also allowed to reapply for vacant positions. This bill offers a reasonable solution to protect the First Amendment rights of magistrates and registers of deeds' employees while complying with the marriage law ordered by the courts.
Offshore Energy Exploration
With the president's energy exploration announcement affecting parts of the Atlantic coast, I would like to acquaint you with a recent study. This study was prepared by a professor at the University of Wyoming. The study looked at possible economic potential in reference to offshore exploration and production from Georgia to Delaware. Among the six states in the study, North Carolina is shown with the highest level of development spending given its relatively long coastline. In 2020, spending levels gradually ramp up to between $15 million and $85 million from low to high scenarios. After 2020, spending increases dramatically. It ranges from $146 to $811 million in 2025; $601 million to $3.3 billion in 2030; and from $755 million to $4.2 billion in 2035. Cumulative real investment spending and operating expenditures to support oil and gas operations offshore from 2017 to 2035 are: $6.1 billion (low), $17.5 billion (medium), and $34.0 billion (high) across the production scenarios, respectively.
In addition by 2035, the value added or gross regional product (GRP) in North Carolina ranges from $2.7 to $5.2 billion under the medium and high production scenarios. The corresponding gains in employment are between 36,000 and 72,000 jobs. For the medium and high production scenarios, annual state revenues would be created from leases and royalties (which the federal government would have to allow revenue sharing for this to occur). This would result in $588 million (medium case) and $1.1 billion (high case) in 2035. State and local tax revenues increase between $137 and $267 million for these two scenarios. Therefore, annual state revenues increase between $726 million and $1.4 billion in 2035. Link to University of Wyoming study
Lastly, a June 2014 Harris poll shows that 91% of registered North Carolina voters feel that increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources could lead to more jobs in the United States. There is a broad agreement across the political spectrum (87 percent of Democrats, 91 percent of Independents and 97 percent of Republicans). Link to the Harris poll
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and was built with much of local resources.