CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County commissioners are asking state and federal lawmakers to introduce bills and budget items that support Mecklenburg County’s priorities. They do this by setting a legislative agenda for the year ahead.
According to state Senator Mujtaba Mohammed – the Charlotte area has a huge influence on legislation.
“We’re the economic engine of the state, North Carolina cannot thrive like it does without Mecklenburg County,” Mohammed told WCNC Charlotte.
The Democrat representing District 38 in Mecklenburg said one example of the county’s influence was last year’s effort to expand Medicaid.
“It got stuck in the state House, I’m hopeful we’ll see more bipartisan work in getting that passed through both chambers because we’ve done it for the first time last year in the North Carolina Senate,” Mohammed explained about the Medicaid bill.
Mohammed said the county also had a hand in reducing school lunch costs for students statewide.
“Thankfully in the last budget we were able to get $3.9 million because of our advocacy as part of the Mecklenburg County delegation in order to help support hungry children across the state,” Mohammed added.
This year’s agenda asks for Medicaid expansion again and is seeking supplemental state funding for schools that includes larger counties.
However, before the county commissioners passed their 2023 agenda Tuesday night, there was disagreement about how far their agenda can get in the Republican-led state legislature.
“We’re not going to get what we want out of this legislature anyway,” Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell said. “So, it’s just our opportunity to speak out.”
Chairman George Dunlap disagreed.
“I have found on both sides of the aisle people will listen,” he responded. “And sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Sometimes it’s who says it.”
On Wednesday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary met with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance to show the state's continued support for Medicaid expansion.
“Everyone wins from Medicaid expansion, particularity businesses," NCDHHS, Secretary, Kody Kinsley said.
State leaders say expanding Medicaid would provide coverage while driving new business and adding thousands of new jobs statewide.
In North Carolina, there are about 600,000 people in the health insurance coverage gap.
The federal government has offered North Carolina over $1 billion to expand Medicaid, and as some hospitals get pushed to their limits, Kinsley says it's money our health care system needs.
"Hospitals and health care systems across the state have stepped up in amazing ways during COVID, and their workforce was battered because of it," Kinsley said. "We know that they’re struggling to keep all their beds staffed and keep their workers in place, which means their capacities are strained thin right now."
The county’s agenda will be presented to lawmakers at a legislative conference that starts on Feb. 11.
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