Here are Henderson County's top legislative goals for the general assembly

The Historic Henderson County Courthouse on Thursday, April 15, 2021.
The Historic Henderson County Courthouse on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Legislative goals related to education and mental health services were approved Monday by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to be submitted to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

The NCACC is soliciting input and proposals from all counties in the state, inviting all 100 to submit their legislative proposals to the association. Every two years, in the months preceding the long session of the North Carolina General Assembly, the NCACC begins a grassroots process to develop the association’s legislative goals, which guides its advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels of government.

Vice Chair Rebecca McCall said goals that impact the most counties are the most likely to be chosen. The selected initiatives will be submitted to the North Carolina General Assembly.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners approved the following legislative goals for consideration:

  1. Provide supplemental pay for childcare workers.

  2. Increase the availability of 4-K (4-year-old kindergarten) to all interested parents. Currently, the state only provides funding for 35% of 4-year-olds and those spots are offered first to those with financial needs.

  3. Extend the legal high school drop-out age to 17 (currently 16) to keep more youth in school and help them with planning for the future.

  4. Provide more and improved mental health facilities, clinics and hospitals.

McCall discussed how difficult it is to recruit and retain daycare employees, with low pay as the largest hurdle.

“Those who work in childcare are usually very passionate and dedicated to the job,” she said, adding that adequate childcare helps ensure more people can be employed. Daycare employees are often referred to as the "workforce behind the workforce." 

She also explained that expanding access to 4-year-old kindergarten could help ease the strain on daycare centers, while expanding education to younger children. This could be potentially the most beneficial for children with birthdays later in the year that miss the cutoff for regular kindergarten, she said.

With the increased drop out age, commissioners highlighted the need to keep students in school for as long as possible. In 2021, Henderson County's high school graduation rate was 93%, according to a recent state analysis. 

For the expanded mental health services, McCall said a lot of mental health issues are currently being dealt with by the county detention center. The hope is if mental health services are expanded, less people will avoid unnecessary jail time and receive the treatment they need.

The submission deadline is early September. The proposed goals received before the deadline will be referred to a steering committee for review and consideration.

The NCACC Legislative Goals Conference will be held in November and the NCACC legislative agenda will be finalized in early December, ahead of the 2023 general assembly short session.

This article originally appeared on Hendersonville Times-News: Here are Henderson County's top legislative goals