RONDA — North Carolina’s second in command made a stop in Ronda Wednesday to answer questions from locals.
Lt. Governor Dan Forest continued his string of town hall meetings at East Wilkes High School in the gymnasium.
Forest has held meetings in Henderson, Cumberland and Guilford County in recent weeks.
He spoke briefly in Wilkes about the successes of the Republican-led state over the last few months then opened the floor to questions.
Forest ran for lieutenant governor in 2012 and won the election with now Governor Pat McCrory. Forest presides over the State Senate and sits on the State Board of Education as part of his job in Raleigh.
Accompanying Forest was 94th District Representative Jeff Elmore, who introduced Forest and joined him in answering some of the questions from the audience.
The 94th District includes all of Alleghany and most of Wilkes County.
Most of the questions asked of Forest concerned education in the state, especially Common Core.
Common Core, the new set of standards for school children in many states, was adopted by North Carolina June 3, 2010. The 2012-13 school year was supposed to be the year the standards were fully implemented in North Carolina, but there continues to be questions of funding, implementation and realistic expectations.
One man in the bleachers asked Forest why he was against Common Core and where he could get more information about the standards.
Forest said that as he began sitting on the Board of Education he requested time before the meetings to ask questions about Common Core but realized there was not enough time to ask all of them.
He said he spoke to State School Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson and was invited to place the questions he had in writing.
When Forest delivered a list of 67 questions, he said he was told to provide 10,000 pages of paper for the answers.
He and his staff complied.
What they received in return, Forest said, was 40,000 pages of paper, a thumb drive, and no clear answers to the questions.
A woman told Forest she had heard North Carolina was one of three states whose local school boards could reject Common Core and asked if that was true.
Forest told her the rumor was not true and a rejection of the standards would have to be done at the state level.
Teacher salaries also came up during the evening.
A member of the audience said his fiancée was an education major at Appalachian State University. One of their major concerns about getting married was the poor pay teachers receive in the state.
He asked Forest what his stance on the matter was.
Forest said some people see him as a sort of “radical Republican” because he has previously said teachers in North Carolina should be the highest paid in the country. However, he clarified this earlier comment Wednesday by saying the math done by some skeptics would put North Carolina teachers receiving more than $70,000 if that was the case.
Some teachers in New York make over that figure and North Carolina would have to top that to make Forest’s comments work.
The questions changed to national politics as government shutdowns, immigration problems and gay marriage were brought up.
Of particular concern to many in attendance was Attorney General Roy Cooper and the pending lawsuit from the federal government against the N.C. voter I.D. law.
Forest was asked whether he thought Cooper, an outspoken Democrat in favor of the suit, would put aside his personal feelings and defend the requirement that everyone who votes present an identification card.
Forest said he thinks the state has about a “100 percent” chance of winning the suit against the Department of Justice, but added that the suit would be expensive.
North Carolina taxpayers, Forest said, were essentially paying their government to sue their state, paying an Attorney General to represent them, and hiring a third-party to make sure the Attorney General did so.
Forest said North Carolina’s General Assembly was taking steps to protect against federal government oversteps. He referenced the Constitution’s 10th Amendment as the shield for state residents.
The 10th Amendment limits the powers of the federal government to those listed in the Constitution. Those not expressly given to the federal government are given to the states.
One man asked Forest point blank, “Why can’t you impeach Obama?” Forest responded by saying he guessed they did not want to because they could if they did.
While he never clarified who “they” were, the comment seemed to be aimed at House and Senate members in Washington, D.C.
Forest is the first Republican lieutenant governor for North Carolina since 1993, and only the second Republican to hold the office since 1897. He is running again in 2016.
Reach Taylor Pardue at 835-1513 ext. 15 or firstname.lastname@example.org.