Here at Duke, North Carolina House Representatives Rick Glazier (D–Cumberland), Grier Martin (D–Wake), and Chuck McGrady (R–Henderson) recently joined students to discuss policy in practice. They spoke candidly of their experiences in the NC political system, the challenges they face in office, and fielded questions from an audience of professors and students. (L-R) NC Representatives Grier Martin, Rick Glazier, and Chuck McGrady address policy in practice at Sanford.
Representatives in North Carolina assume myriad responsibilities when they take office, but it’s typically not the only occupation they hold. As a hybrid legislature, members of the North Carolina General Assembly are expected to dedicate only a portion of their time to their positions and receive limited compensation—around $13,000 per year—for their work. Consequently, many assembly members secure additional employment in order to supplement their incomes.
Although dividing time and energy among multiple jobs can prove challenging, Rep. Glazier views it into an opportunity to connect with his district. Opting to spend his time outside of the House inside of the classroom, he currently teaches four courses each semester at a local university. His experience as a professor allows him to achieve an intimate understanding of the issues underlying education policy and thus make more informed decisions regarding his policy field of interest.
Partisan politics can also present considerable challenges. Despite the conventional platform of his party, Rep. McGrady, a Republican, has been instrumental in passing environmental protection initiatives and has firmly opposed efforts to ban gay marriage. Maintaining his position across partisan conventions while remaining in good favor with his constituents is no easy feat. The key, he offers, is establishing open communication with the public and a dynamic presence within the community. As one voter noted, “I don’t always agree with [McGrady], but I always hear from [him].”
Legislators wield some authority in pushing for legislation, but the political appeal of a proposed bill can inhibit their efforts. Rep. Glazier identifies three central criteria that determine the success of a piece of legislation: information, votes, and money. However flawless or practical a bill may be, if it lacks substantial supporting research, voter pull, funding, or economic incentive, it may never see approval.
First-year MPP student Connie Ma inquired about a stalled proposal to expand voter freedom in North Carolina. The initiative would eliminate barriers that currently restrict which political parties appear on the NC ballot. All three representatives agreed that the measure is unlikely to progress because it doesn’t meet the essential criteria: information, votes, or money.
If this makes you feel uneasy, these legislators would implore you to get involved in your local government. As Rep. Glazier urges, “You have to get engaged in creating civil dialogue. Nothing’s going to change if you [don’t].”