A lawmaker from Surry County said she supports an increase in funding supporting the operations of libraries throughout the state.
“We tightened a lot of things up during the recession,” N.C. Rep. Sarah Stevens told a crowd gathered at the Mount Airy Public Library on Saturday, noting she was ready to support increased funding for libraries.
Stevens was invited by the library to speak as libraries throughout the state lobby for more funding in the state budget.
Librarian Pat Gwyn explained the funding for which libraries are asking is earmarked to support N.C. Live, a system which links library users around the state to scholarly articles and books.
Mount Airy Commissioner Jim Armbrister touted the program as he addressed Stevens, noting now that he knows it exists he will no longer have to travel to larger libraries to get his hands on research regarding the type of cancer he has.
“There’s a difference between a web search and research,” said Armbrister, citing a poster on the wall at the library.
According to literature provided by Gwyn, the state allocated $3.4 million toward funding N.C. Live in 2016, the same level of funding the program was awarded in 1997. In 2016, that $3.4 million gives the libraries 160 percent less purchasing power than it did in 1997.
The $3.4 million gives library users access to more than $24 million in content, according to the literature, and libraries have asked for an increase to the budget.
Discussion on Saturday didn’t stop at library funding, however. A number of local residents used the opportunity to bend the ear of Stevens, who is now the speaker pro temp in the N.C. House of Representatives.
One man said he was concerned about the lingering effects of House Bill 2, known as the Bathroom Bill.
“It has nothing to do with keeping abusers out of bathrooms,” said the member of the audience.
Stevens noted her moral values drove her to support the bill. She told a story about a man in Seattle who used the girls locker room. However, even after complaints were received, nothing could be done to resolve the situation because the law gave the man a right to be in there.
“We are trying to go back and reset where we were before,” said Stevens, adding that “Charlotte started this.”
Stevens explained the Charlotte ordinance would have required all bathrooms in Charlotte be open to the gender by which a person identifies. However, the bill didn’t stop there. It was far-reaching, affecting companies which do business with the city. Thus, it had effects throughout the entire state.
“North Carolina is a Dillon Rule state,” said Stevens. “Local governments may only exercise the authority granted to them by the state.”
“This was an extreme law that affected more people than just those in Charlotte,” added the lawmaker.
She noted lawmakers are looking at a way to backtrack at least some of the provisions of the law while keeping the bathroom provisions in place, and one provision eliminating a person’s right to sue for discrimination in state court has already been repealed.
She noted any repeal has implications, and she and fellow lawmakers are treading carefully as they consider a change to the law which was created by the bill.
Stevens also addressed a question regarding teacher pay, noting the state has taken great strides in increasing pay for teachers in the past four years.
Pilot Mountain resident Jim Roberts handed off a letter to Stevens regarding a 2011 bill, Senate Bill 33, which Roberts said makes it nearly impossible to sue a doctor for medical malpractice in North Carolina. Roberts was paralyzed in surgery as a result of a preventable medical error.