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High-speed Internet need tops legislative forum

Nash County Commissioners met with legislators Thursday night at the annual legislative forum and dinner to discuss issues facing Nash County.

Nash County Board Chairman Robbie Davis said after he called the meeting to order, "I'd like to genuinely thank everyone for being here tonight." Later he continued, "One thing we can all agree on is as long as we're talking we're going to do a much better job for Nash County."

Each legislator was invited to speak on the 2017 session and what has been accomplished so far. After the legislators' reports, commissioners presented issues affecting Nash County that they would like help resolving.

Bobbie Davis (District 7 House - D), who introduced Gov. Cooper at the State of the State address Monday night, talked about the schools in our state. She discussed teacher proficiency, and how the school report card ratings were changed to reflect 50 percent growth and 50 percent achievement. "I'm talking about a lot of things in education because that is one of the areas I'm in, one of the committees I'm on."

The representatives also discussed the North Carolina Education Lottery. Among considering an increase in advertising, in hopes of increasing sales, Jeff Collins (District 25 House - R) spoke about the practice of discounting lottery tickets. A lottery winner who owes a significant amount of taxes to the state, can sell a winning ticket for less than the winning amount, and the buyer can redeem for the full amount of the ticket. The seller thus avoids having the state take the taxes owed out of the winnings. "That goes on right now and it's not illegal. I've got a bill in that hopefully will put an end to that," Collins said.

All of the legislators had lengthy and fairly positive reports except for Rick Horner (District 11 Senate - R) who said, "You ask what we've done. We haven't done anything. Each house files their own bills and they're pretty much worthless until the other side takes them up and works on them." Horner, who is newly elected to his position, continued, "It's an awesome responsibility to have the whole budget and the welfare of the state in you hands. It's a serious burden and you've got to earn your right to make a difference up there" in Raleigh.

After the legislators presented, Chairman Davis presented issues facing Nash County, "The last item or item six [on the agenda] is really what we're here for tonight - the real reason we look forward to meeting with you each year."

The board and the legislators talked at length about several issues. Bringing high speed internet to underserved rural areas was at the top of the list. Davis called it a "credibility issue," since citizens have been asking about accessibility for some time and the board has not been able to make progress on the issue. There was much discussion about the feasibility of the project, the cost of which would be in the millions of dollars. Angela Bryant (District 4 Senate - D) said, "A time is coming and it may be sooner than we think when the access to internet is as essential as electricity."

Most of the board requests followed the theme of developing or repairing the County's infrastructure. Other requests included that the legislators "support state funding for local industrial site development, provide funding or allow NCDOT to improve private roads that are currently open to the public but not state maintained," and "support funding to convert US Highways 64 and 17 to Interstate-87 from Raleigh to Norfolk." The commissioners have scheduled a meeting to discuss the Interstate 87 project on Wednesday, April 19 at 10 am in Brown Auditorium at Nash Community College, and invited the legislators to attend.

The forum adjourned around 8:30 pm.

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