Senator gets widespread support for vets' legislation

Jul. 06, 2014 @ 04:58 AM

In this day and age, it's hard to get politicians to agree on just about anything. Policy debates often hinge on which party has more votes, and not on the actual merits of the proposal.

So when local Sen. Ronald Rabin (R-Harnett/Lee) recently had a bill pass both the N.C. Senate and House of Representatives unanimously, he took it as a sign that he's doing something right.

The bill would create a system to give military veterans more credit than they currently receive toward civilian professional certification. But Rabin's bill would task the state's college leaders with coming up with a system to give veterans even more opportunities to get automatic credit and go straight into a job.

"It's a really good bill for both sides," he said, not talking about political parties but rather about the civilian and enlisted worlds. "It shows our true military friendliness, and it enriches our workforce."

The bill, which Rabin co-sponsored with Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland), was sent to Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday to be signed into law or vetoed. McCrory had not acted on it as of this weekend.

But pro-veteran laws are an easy sell. Rabin acknowledged that himself in a recent interview. He now, however, has his sights set on what he calls a more difficult battle: term limits for his colleagues in the General Assembly.

"That one's a little bit harder of a sell because I'm trying to tell people I want to limit how long they can have a job," Rabin said.

For the 82-year-old Rabin, who is in his first term in office, a limit of four consecutive terms might not mean much. But for young politicians looking to make a career in the statehouse, the idea could be less appealing.

However, Rabin said, he believes that the longer they stay in office, the more difficulty politicians have staying connected to grassroots causes — and the people on the ground — who put them in office in the first place.

The idea is more popular among the general public than it is with politicians, spawning multiple petitions and gaining tens of thousands of supports on various Facebook pages dedicated to spreading awareness.

"Lately, we've decided that our elected representatives don't represent us well enough, so as a populace we have called for congressional term limits," the U.S. Term Limits group, which calls itself the country's largest grassroots cause, states on its website. "Gallup polling [from 2013] shows that 75 percent of Americans support the idea of term limits on Congress."

But one recent try in North Carolina, to enact a constitutional amendment limiting certain leadership terms, was never voted on.

Rabin said he hopes his bill, which is also currently in committee, at least gets a chance.

"I just felt it was a matter of conscience, based on what I saw and what I've experienced," Rabin said.

And the bill, co-sponsored by Rabin, Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) and Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenberg), doesn't just address term limits. It also seeks to expand the individual terms that senators and representatives serve, from two to four years.

That would cushion the blow of a limit of four terms; Rabin said it will also allow politicians to be able to focus on long- term goals. An inescapable fact of being in elected office is the election, he said, and with modern campaigns lasting around a year, North Carolina politicians spend half of their time in office fundraising and campaigning instead of governing.

"Every two years we have to run — and that means, in all honestly, you're getting only a little over a year of our full attention, Rabin said, adding that a four-year term "would probably be the best, overall, for everyone involved."

He said giving politicians more time to think about laws, and less time thinking about politics, can only have a good result and will hopefully lead to more forward-thinking plans. Putting it in personal terms, he noted that his bill on certification credit for veterans has a timeline that extends beyond January, when his current term is over.

"Realistically, I hope to win and plan on winning," Rabin said of the November election, in which he faces Democratic challenger Joe Langley, also of Harnett County. "But if I don't, who will carry that on?"