Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest just finished his first session as President of the state Senate.
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – While most lawmakers have left Raleigh since the General Assembly adjourned its session, there are others who have a full-time job in state politics. Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest is getting out of the Capitol City more now that the Senate's work ended, but he's still working. The first-term Republican has started a series of town hall meetings, hoping to learn from voters across the state what they need from their elected officials.
"For us to go out and meet with these folks, even if they oppose what we're doing, that's part of the dialogue," Forest said in an interview with WECT's Jon Evans. "We're going to talk a little bit, and listen a lot. Hopefully we will learn, like we did on the campaign trail, what makes people tick in all areas of the state. There are only a couple positions in state government that are in a position to do this."
Forest wrapped up his first session as the President of the state Senate, the role he serves in the Legislative branch of state government. He's the traffic cop of sorts, like a referee, making sure the debates are fair and the procedures are followed. One thing Forest cannot do is voice an opinion, since he does not have a vote on the bills brought up by lawmakers.
"Anybody in that chamber will want their voice to be heard, so while the debate is going on you always have your debate planned in your mind of what you would like to say. But, after the first few weeks you get used to it," he added.
Forest does have an opinion on several of the more controversial issues the General Assembly tackled during the recent session. He supports the tax reform plan recently signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, along with McCrory's decision to block Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.
The Lieutenant Governor's role in the Executive Branch includes serving on several boards and committees, including the State Board of Education and the State Board of Community Colleges. The Legislature added a few more responsibilities, creating an Energy Policy Council during the 2013 session and making the Lieutenant Governor serve as Chairman. "We have a lot of issues pertaining to energy and setting policy in North Carolina that have not been dealt with in a long time," Forest said. "We've never really had a policy initiative for energy in our state. This gives us a chance to look at all viable forms of energy and see how they all come together, to put together a short and long-term plan to make sure we're doing the right things to get people back to work in North Carolina through energy, and also taking care of our future.
Forest ruffled a few feathers recently, when he sent a letter to State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, requesting answers to 67 questions about Common Core State Standards, which were adopted in 2010 and now in place in nearly all 50 states. Forest said the reason for the letter is to get a better understanding of the standards. One concern is a lack of information on what it will cost to implement. "Standards are good," he said. "We just need to make sure they are the best standards for our state, and there is some debate out there as to whether the common core state standards are the best standards. It's never been vetted. It's never been tested. We don't have an idea of how we are going to do the assessment. We don't even know how we are going to pay for them right now."
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