Boles Ready for Session to Begin
Jamie Boles makes one thing clear -- he wants folks to call him "Jamie."
Moore County's state representative said he respects the North Carolina General Assembly and takes his new role seriously, but he has no need for fancy titles or any language that separates him from the constituents he represents.
"My name is Jamie. I do respect the office. I'm just a plain old citizen, and titles are not one of my things," Boles said in an interview prior to the official opening of the 2009 legislative session at noon today.
Boles, who represents District 52, said he felt uncomfortable when his legislative assistant first called him "Representative Boles." He protested that he prefers to be called "Jamie," even after she insisted that the title is legislative protocol.
Boles said he is not going to Raleigh with preconceived notions or big ideas for changing state government but is keeping an open mind for what he can do. First, he said he is learning all he can about the way the legislature works and the issues and problems facing the state.
"I'm not going up there to change North Carolina in 30 days," he said. "I'm in a learning curve. I'm very open-minded."
Boles, a Southern Pines businessman, said the major problem is obvious -- there is no money. He approves of decisions made by former Gov. Mike Easley and current Gov. Beverly Perdue to cut spending throughout state government.
The state's revenue shortfall is particularly worrisome. He notes that budget cuts of 7 percent are a burden to everyone, the public as well as state employees. Such cuts are especially damaging when one realizes that five and a half months remain in the fiscal year, he pointed out.
"It's like my business," he said. "You cannot spend the money if it's not there."
Boles said the state cannot afford to cut essential services, and that means the governor and lawmakers must direct their reductions at elective services.
Although he hopes President Obama's proposed economic stimulus package will help the state, Boles warned that North Carolina cannot rely on outside help. If federal help does come through, then he favors accepting it and spending it on infrastructure, not on operational expenses or pork barrel projects.
"I don't think we should rely on speculation from Washington," he said.
Boles said every department and agency funded by the state must re-evaluate operations and make sure it is producing a service or product with maximum results at least cost.
He said he opposes raising income taxes and would like to see the sales tax removed from all food. But he said he is willing to consider increases in what he calls luxury taxes, such as taxes on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.
Neither Moore County nor any local municipality has approached Boles about introducing local legislation during this session. That may come later, but so far he is going to Raleigh with a minimum of baggage.
Boles said he does not have a set agenda on the subject of involuntary annexation, a sharply divisive subject for constituents in Pinehurst and Pinewild.
He said he has expressed approval of the concept of involuntary annexation but thinks it may be well past time for the legislature to consider an update of the existing law, enacted some 50 years ago.
A legislative committee is studying possible changes in the annexation law, and Boles said he is ready to review ideas advanced by that panel. He is not committing himself to any single idea, such as requiring a vote by residents of the area being considered for annexation, until he has had time to study all the recommendation.
One idea that he wants to study in more detail is a measure to assure accountability on the part of the municipality. Boles said the law should include some protection for residents of the areas being annexed.
For example, some municipalities have promised services to annexed areas but have not produced those services within a reasonable period. Boles said he knows of annexed areas that are still waiting for water and sewer lines and for new fire stations to be built, even after five years.
"There ought to be monetary refunds to consumers who are not serviced when this happens," he said.
Boles said the annexation law should also include a clear appeal process in addition to the required public hearings.
"There are always two sides to every story, especially when it comes to citizens and municipalities," he said.
As for any sweeping legislation changing the existing annexation law, Boles said he would like to vote on individual aspects of the proposal on a separate basis, not the entire package at one time. He said he thinks changes can be enacted more efficiently that way. Otherwise, he said, the whole legislative package might be shot down.
Work With Democrats
Boles, a 48-year-old funeral home owner and operator, said he has no personal agenda and plans to learn policy and procedures before he introduces or co-sponsors legislation.
So far, Boles has taken advantage of every training opportunity afforded to new legislators. That includes two orientation classes by the legislative branch, one of which was conducted by the N.C. School of Government. Five other sessions included the Jim Hunt education forum and sessions led by various think tanks.
"They give you a real different perspective on the pros and cons of government," Bole said.
Boles knows that he will be in the minority this term. Despite the overwhelming Democratic sweep in the 2008 elections, the state House did not change all that much when it comes to party representation. The House still has about 52 Republicans among the 120 representatives.
In his campaign last year Boles said he was willing and able to cooperate with the Democratic majority in situations where he finds it to the advantage of North Carolina to do so.
Boles went to Raleigh earlier this month for the inauguration of Perdue, a Democrat and the first woman ever elected governor of North Carolina. He called it a humbling experience to realize this was history in the making.
"It just makes you feel good," he said. "I'm just glad to be part of history. It is an awesome responsibility."
The responsibility hit especially hard during one of the training sessions when a speaker told the gathering of new legislators that 170 people run the state of North Carolina.
"Everybody started looking around the room to see who those people were, and the speaker said, 'It's you,'" Boles said. "That was quite eye-opening."
The speaker was referring to the 120 members of the state House of Representatives and the 50 members of the state Senate.
"My family is just cotton mill hill people. And this is what makes this country so great," he said.
Boles admits that he is both humbled and proud to be representing his home community in the state House. He felt the pride especially when he spotted the portrait of the late H. Clifton Blue in the gallery of the House. Blue, a Democrat and newspaperman from Aberdeen, once served as speaker of the House.
"And I'm from Aberdeen, too," he said.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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