CHAPEL HILL – N.C. House Representative Verla Insko is seeking her 10th term in office this year. She is also preparing for the General Assembly to convene in short session beginning May 14. This is following the tumultuous 2013 session which sparked protesting and internal controversy over what some called a “regressive agenda.”
The veteran leader, who represents Orange County for District 56, spoke with WCHL News to share her priorities for 2014.
She said her one of her main agenda points this year will be to counteract the cuts in 2013 to all levels of education.
“I think our whole education system [needs] to be strengthened, from community colleges, pre-K through the university is really critical—all those steps. That is part of my top priority,” she said.
Insko said she wanted to focus on reducing budget cuts to the UNC System. For 2013-14, the system saw $65 million in reductions.
At the K-12 level, this past legislative session saw the elimination of many teacher’s assistants and education support personnel positions due to state budget cuts. For the sixth year in a row, teachers went with out a pay raise, and teacher tenure and salary increases for instructors who earn Master’s degrees were eliminated.
“This is an election year, and both parties like to appeal to their constituents so I think we will see an effort to raise teacher’s pay, whether or not that will be possible. [Raising] state employee pay—that will be one of our major goals in the short session.”
Many have Democratic lawmakers questioned the Republican-controlled state legislature’s decision in 2013 to reject Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The law places the burden of cost on the federal government for covering the poorest of the uninsured through Medicaid for the first three years. After that, the state would pay 10 percent of the cost.
The expansion of Medicaid would have benefited 500,000 low-income residents.
Due in part to new federal regulations and a push from state Democrats and advocacy groups, Insko said the expansion may go through in the next several years.
“I believe that we will eventually expand Medicaid. I think that will probably happen in 2015. I am working really hard right now with our [Orange County] Commissioners and churches to try to get them to pass resolutions endorsing Medicaid expansion so that’ll be a part of my ongoing effort.”
A bill made progress in the 2013 legislative session, with bipartisan support, that called for a nonpartisan professional staff to draw legislative and congressional districts. Insko said she champions a redistricting commission and thinks this bill will likely resurface.
“The demographics in all of the Districts will be changing. The advantage that all of the Republicans have because of gerrymandering, all of that will disappear by 2018 or 2020, when we have that next critical redistricting election. There is a good case to be made by getting that commission bill passed.”
This past fall our state representation from this area saw a shake-up of sorts following former state Senator Ellie Kinnaird’s resignation from her District 23 seat. Valerie Foushee was appointed to fill Kinnaird’s position. Graig Meyer was then appointed to Foushee’s vacant House 50 seat.
Though it is unknown whether the two leaders will retain their positions through the primary and November election, Insko said the three are already in communication.
“It is not just a senior member educating freshmen, but a real sharing across the board. They have been engaged in local issues more recently than I have. I think they can update me on some of the things that are going on locally, and I think I can update them on how state government works.”
The filing period for the North Carolina Legislature this year is February 10-28 and the primary is May 6.