A number of local officials are not only perplexed by some legislative initiatives from newly elected District 6 State Rep. Beverly Boswell, they say their new representative in Raleigh has been inaccessible and failed to consult with them.
Two bills that Boswell has sponsored – H271, that proposes repealing a ban on plastic bags in local businesses, and H265, that would make certain school board elections partisan, including Dare – have been met with a flurry of opposition locally, prompting several boards to pass resolutions and send letters in opposition to the measures.
A Republican who was serving her first term on the Dare County Board of Commissioners, Boswell won her House seat in November in a race against Warren Judge, who died several days before the election.
What’s as concerning as the proposed legislation bearing Boswell’s name, local leaders say, is her failure to respond to phone calls and emails, as well as her decision not to seek local input.
“We haven’t gotten any answers or phone calls returned,” said Nags Head Mayor Bob Edwards, who asked his board to reach out to Boswell individually. “No one has heard anything back. In the past, Paul Tine [Boswell’s predecessor in the House] returned all our phone calls, usually that same day, but certainly within twenty-four hours.”
Kitty Hawk Mayor Gary Perry echoed Edwards’ sentiment.
“If you are going to introduce a bill, you think you’d at least get input from the elected officials as far as what their constituents want,” he said. “That’s just the way it works, but it certainly is not the way it is working with her.”
Boswell has not responded to several local media requests for interviews. But she did sit down on March 19 with video artist Doug Kenyon and defended her school board and plastic bag legislation while saying she will not communicate with people who threaten and bully her.
In Nags Head, Edwards said his board plans to introduce resolutions during its April meeting opposing the proposed repeal of the ban on plastic bags. He also said the board will take up a resolution opposing the partisan election measure.
On March 13, the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Boswell, copying 19 other state representatives, asking her to reconsider the legislation on plastic bags. The letter was also forwarded to the House Environment Committee.
Chamber President Karen Brown said as of March 20, the chamber had not heard anything back from Boswell.
Brown said, as a result of an action alert to its membership, more than 550 individuals sent out emails to representatives, 490 of those to Boswell. All but two, she said, were opposed to the repeal.
The Southern Shores Town Council was also slated to discuss a resolution opposing H271 during this week’s meeting and Mayor Tom Bennett said, “I’m disappointed [Boswell] has chosen to seek the legislation she has. I’m particularly opposed to the issue of repealing the plastic bag ban.”
“She’s not making the folks in Dare County particularly happy,” he continued. “She has not consulted with me or any of my contemporaries, at least not on the town and county level. If you propose things that impact the citizens in our jurisdiction, you’d think you would have the respect for us to call and see what our comfort level is and get our thoughts on it.”
There has also been local pushback against the legislation that would mandate partisan elections — to be moved to November — for the seven-member Dare Board of Education. The Town of Kill Devil Hills last week passed a resolution opposing legislation proposed in Raleigh that would require partisan elections in local communities.
And on March 17, the Dare County Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution opposing both Boswell’s H265 and SB94, which would, among other things, mandate that all school board elections statewide be partisan beginning in 2018.
Board of Education Chair Bea Basnight said Boswell did not contact her or anyone else on the board regarding the proposed bill. “I was surprised,” she said.
In fact, Basnight and other board members met with Boswell and State Sen. Bill Cook in mid-February in Raleigh to talk about education. Basnight said Boswell never discussed H265, which was introduced on March 8.
“It was a really good meeting,” said Basnight, adding that the issues of class size, funding, teacher pay and the school calendar were all discussed. “But there was no mention of a partisan bill.”
Duck Mayor Don Kingston said his council did not have anything on the agenda regarding Boswell’s bills at the moment, but “may very well address some of those issues with a resolution.”
For his part, Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard said he has received numerous phone calls and emails from constituents regarding the two issues. Woodard said he planned to wait to hear from the public at the board’s April 3 meeting, declaring that, “If it’s brought up, I’ll state my position then.”
While Boswell has not responded to multiple attempts by the Outer Banks Voice and Sentinel to interview her, she shed some light on her views in her video interview with Doug Kenyon.
Discussing her support of partisan school board elections, Boswell stated that moving them to November would generate “more voter turnout” and would be “more of an educational tool [for voters] to say this is [a candidate’s] affiliation and you know the foundation of how they’ll vote.”
In a discussion of repealing the plastic bag ban and the subsequent controversy, Boswell said, “I never, in a hundred years, thought this would turn into what it turned into.” She also emphasized that, rather than the issue being about the type of bag used, the real problem was litter, adding, “We need to concentrate on the litter issue.”
And, in response to complaints that she has not been communicating with constituents, Boswell cited the unpleasant nature of many of the contacts to her office.
“I do not respond to threats, I do not respond to bullies and I certainly don’t call people back who call me names,” she declared.
(Island Free Press Editor’s Note: The Island Free Press reached out to Boswell for a blog exploring both sides of the bag bill. Boswell’s office did not respond to our calls or emails.)