N.C. Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, and Sen. Chris Carney of the N.C. Senate’s 44th District fielded questions from senior citizens of Lincoln County during a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The N.C. General Assembly’s short session wrapped up last week, and both Saine and Carney, a Mooresville Republican, provided those attending the event at the Lincoln County Senior Center with an overview of what they accomplished and what they still hope to tackle in Raleigh.
Saine joked that he was glad to be out for the summer, later adding that leaving legislators together for too long can lead to them finding solutions to problems that don’t exist.
Carney, meanwhile, will face off with Dr. David Curtis, a Denver Republican, in Tuesday’s runoff primary election, after neither received the required 40 percent of votes in May.
Questions from the crowd ranged from topics such as Medicare and food stamps to voter fraud and the gas tax, with a general theme emerging from the discussion of limits being placed on public benefits.
Many in attendance felt that some Medicaid, disability and food-stamp recipients are abusing the system and taking funds away from programs such as Medicare, and asked what sort of restrictions could be put in place to prevent this.
Saine agreed that it wasn’t right for money to come out of the public’s pocket to pay for people cheating the system and said something needed to be done.
Carney noted that he believes more parameters need to be put on Medicaid, adding that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services would have to cut back on other things. He said he plans to advocate for those receiving public benefits to have to donate time volunteering in some way, with some in attendance also calling for mandatory drug tests.
In response to a question on the much-discussed issue of requiring voter identification, Saine noted that he was in favor of the initiative in order to “protect the integrity of the voting system.”
“We can’t be all things to all people,” Saine said.
Carney stressed the need for an honest dialogue to take place regarding issues considered uncomfortable.
“It matters that we talk,” Saine added.
Both encouraged those gathered to reach out with any concerns or questions and invited them to stop by their office, located at 417 E. Main St. in Lincolnton and funded by their campaigns.
Cecelia Martin of Crouse, recently elected to the county’s Board of Commissioners, spoke briefly, noting that the “room should be packed” and warning seniors not to become complacent.
“Don’t just sit and complain,” Becky Putnam, programs and services coordinator with the Lincoln County Senior Services Department, said, emphasizing the importance of advocating for causes.
Saine also used some time to talk about a bill he co-sponsored with Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, named HB 1173 – Absconding Probation Violators Forfeit Benefits, which passed both the House and Senate last week and has been sent to Gov. Beverly Perdue for signing into law.
The bill provides that public assistance benefits be cut off for probation violators who abscond or otherwise willfully avoid arrest after the issuance of a warrant until they surrender to the court.
He noted that it received bipartisan support, passing 115-3 in the House.