Sworn in to take the place of N.C. Rep. Johnathan Rhyne in representing the 97th District â€” that is, Lincoln County â€” just about two weeks ago, Rep. Jason Saine says he jumped right in with a vote on the Defense of Marriage act on his first day, which he described as a piece of â€œsensitive legislationâ€ that was â€œvery well-packed with supporters and opponents.â€
â€œIt was an interesting day to start,â€ said the Lincolnton Republican.
With â€œlots of folks on both sides,â€ Saine noted that members of each party remained â€œvery friendly.â€ He said the speeches and overall tone inside the state House of Representatives while the act was being considered were respectful, and he commends giving North Carolina voters the chance to vote on it when itâ€™s placed on the May primary ballot, having been passed by the legislature.
â€œWe still want to give people an opportunity to give their say,â€ he said.
Saine said, in general, he has been staying pretty busy so far. After receiving his office assignments, he worked on getting settled in and completing all the necessary paperwork. And he said everyone was quite willing to help.
â€œEverybody has been very helpful â€” staff, the Republican caucus, my Democratic colleagues,â€ he said.
Though he maintains that he still has a bit of a learning curve to tackle while getting adjusted to things in Raleigh, he believes it will be fun to navigate. Saine said he got a chance to discuss what he hopes to accomplish with Speaker Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County, with whom heâ€™s been friends for a while.
Saine also said he has retained all of Rhyneâ€™s committees, except he opted to exchange his position on the Banking Committee for a spot on the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology as he has a â€œreal interest in technology and how that translates in state government.â€
â€œThey try to match you up with your strengths,â€ he added.
He has also inherited a seat on the Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House Committee, which he said was both powerful and insightful in terms of the legislative process. Additionally, he will sit in the same seat Rhyne did within the chamber itself. He joked that he feels like he is in the spotlight because it is right in the front under the speaker â€” so he said he will â€œhave to pay attention.â€
His seatmate, Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County, is an old college friend. Having a lot of contacts in the Republican caucus, including the many who attended his swearing in, is something Saine cites as an advantage.
â€œI have a real opportunity to get things done via my relationships,â€ he said. â€œFriendships can turn into good things for our county.â€
Being a self-described â€œtech guy,â€ he has also been active on his Twitter account, regularly posting updates about what is going on legislatively in hopes of getting feedback from his constituents while also showing a bit of his personality when appropriate. He noted that he wants to be held accountable while in office.
â€œI want to keep a very transparent, open line of communication,â€ he said.
And while the state budget was already passed before his arrival in Raleigh, Saine said there is still some tweaking to be done. The economy and jobs are number one in his book, but he also wants to focus on supporting public education, including touring local schools and getting educatorsâ€™ feedback, and economic development, such as lessening burdens on small businesses.
Overall, Saine describes the atmosphere as fun but serious, with many issues of concern to be weighed. He said his colleagues are very professional and donâ€™t take it personally when disagreements arise.
Getting to take his first vote, and making a decision that could potentially impact the entire populace of the state, was a moment Saine said he would not likely forget.
Saine will be going back to Raleigh on Nov. 7 for a three- to four-day session, but not before making himself comfortable behind the cage of the dunking booth at Denver Days on Oct. 1 â€” an offer he said he gladly accepted.
SARAH LOWERY, Staff Writer