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McGrady, Apodaca still mum on re-election

State Rep. Chuck McGrady speaks at the IAM groundbreaking on Nov. 12. State Rep. Chuck McGrady speaks at the IAM groundbreaking on Nov. 12.

Speaking to a business group last week, State Rep. Chuck McGrady touted the achievements of this year’s legislative session, predicted a shorter and less substantive session next year and stopped short of answering the question most on the minds of political spectators.

He is not saying yet whether he plans to run for re-election.

McGrady, a third-term House member, and veteran state Sen. Tom Apodaca make up a formidable one-two punch of power in Raleigh, giving Henderson County arguably the most clout of any this side of Cleveland and Rockingham counties, the homes of the House speaker and Senate leader.
Both legislators said they were tired — and tired of it — after an exhausting eight-month legislative session ended on Sept. 30. After five weeks of rest, the question may be whether they’re sufficiently recharged to sign on for another two-year Raleigh deployment.
Given that filing for the 2016 election starts on Dec. 1, lawmakers who choose not to run face 13 months of lame duck status. They’d still work throughout the 2016 short session from April to July (or later), assuming they serve out terms they won in November 2014.
Speaking to the Partnership for Economic Progress at The Cedars on Nov. 11, McGrady reviewed the past without offering a prologue of the future.
“I think Henderson County is very well positioned,” he told the conservative-leaning business organization. “Tom is probably the second most powerful senator. Everything in the Senate crosses his desk, and I’ve moved up quickly.”
In just his third term, McGrady occupies an Appropriations Committee chair, guiding major spending decisions and policies of the House.
Five senators and 12 House members have announced their retirement. “There are two senators, one being Sen. Apodaca, and two House members, one being me, that are out there” undecided on re-election, he said.
Apodaca is not ready to announce anything yet.
“We’re going to make a final decision over Thanksgiving,” he said on Tuesday.

Teacher pay raise

McGrady seemed mildly encouraged by pledges by legislative leaders to make sure that the so-called short session is genuinely that.

“I think all 170 members are quite prepared to make this truly a short session,” McGrady told the PEP audience, adding Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore among them. “One thing they’ve both said is we’re going to be home quick this year and I’m damn glad to hear it.”
He predicted that an improving economy would generate enough tax revenue to fund a teacher pay raise next year. “It’s not just about pay raises,” he said. “It’s about being competitive and getting the best people to do the job.”
He strongly supports the $2 billion bond issue North Carolina voters will decide in March. The money would fund university and community college construction and water and sewer systems.
“We’ve got a lot of water and sewer systems across the state that are in very bad shape,” he said. “There are probably 30 or 40 towns and cities that are functionally bankrupt because their water and sewer systems are in such bad shape.”
The bond issue doesn’t need to cover roadwork, he said, because another change shifted $400 million into transportation.
“We have for the first time stopped all diversions from the Highway Fund to the general fund,” he said.

Autism coverage expanded

The General Assembly enacted a personal income tax rate cut of a quarter of 1 percent and raised the standard deduction by $500. If revenue meets or exceeds projections, as it has so far this fiscal year, the Legislature’s tax reform measure will trigger another cut in the corporate income tax.
The battle over Medicaid reform cast local hospitals on opposite sides.
“We’re the only county in the state that has two community hospitals and interestingly those two had a different approach to this issue,” he said. “We ended up right in the middle of an HMO- and provider-led system. I hope Park Ridge and Pardee are happy because we actually gave them what we wanted.”
Although they’re supposed to be geographic allies, McGrady and Apodaca fought bitterly over coal ash legislation a year ago and had butted heads for two years over autism coverage, too. As with the coal ash bill, the two Hendersonville legislators ultimately reached an accord.
“North Carolina was one of only eight states that doesn’t have this insurance mandate,” he said. “Neither Tom or I are big on insurance mandates but frankly we needed to be there.”
The mandate covers large employer insurance plans and state employees but not smaller company plans and individual insurance.