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September 26, 2020

Rep. Howard says ‘still work to be done’ as she seeks 17th term in House

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Serving more than 30 years in the state House, Rep. Julia Howard is seeking a 17th term as “there’s just a few things left” she’d like to get done if re-elected.

Howard, a Republican, has represented District 77, which includes Davie and Rowan counties, since 2018. Before then, she had represented House District 79 since 1988.

“I don’t think you ever finish what you would like to accomplish,” Howard said. “There’s still work to be done.”

Howard serves as the senior chairman of the House Finance Committee, vice chairman of the House Banking Committee and co-chair for both the House Revenue Laws Study Committee and House Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance. She’s also a member of 10 other standing and non-standing House committees.

Howard said members of the House Finance Committee have put in a lot of hard work lately. That committee is where tax rates are set and measures are passed that affect the revenues of the state.

“There’s nothing fun about sitting in a room and going over mundane numbers all day,” she said. “We’re the collectors, not the givers.”

One bill she’s proud of is House Bill 1080, the Revenue Laws Recommendations Bill, which signed into law by the governor this year. She sponsored it and said it protects the revenue of the state.

It updated some of the Internal Revenue Code, excluded from gross income any amount of indebtedness forgiven on a Paycheck Protection Program loan and transferred $36 million from the Medicaid transformation reserve to the general fund to finance the medical expense deduction. The bill also extends the Natural Gas Economic Development Infrastructure Cost Recovery program from July 2021 to July 2026.

If re-elected, Howard said improvement for transportation and broadband expansion are both critical issues. She noted the opportunities made available with broadband expansion, particularly to school children, in the recently passed state budget. Signed earlier this month by the governor, the package includes about $30 million for broadband expansion.

She also credited lawmakers with doing a good job of dispersing the state’s federally allocated CARES Act funds.

Additionally, Howard worked with Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, to provide a $50 increase in weekly unemployment benefits amid the pandemic. That was sourced from the coronavirus relief funds and not the state’s unemployment insurance fund. While Warren praised the measure, Howard previously said extending those benefits was the wrong move as “employers are begging us” to get people back to work.

She added that there is potential for “lots of new industries” who are looking at the 77th district, particularly with Davie County’s “perfect position” in central North Carolina, bisected by I-40 and I-77. She downplayed the economic potential of Stanly and Rowan counties, saying they are currently short on labor.

“Companies are not going to come if we can’t provide the labor for them to come,” she said.

The most important things she does in the House, Howard said, include day-to-day mundane tasks and “the little things” important to constituents.

“I pride myself on taking (constituents’) calls and working through the issues they have,” she said, adding that she returns all phone calls even if they’re late.

Like other candidates, the pandemic has impacted Howard’s campaigning. Instead of events like fundraisers and barbecues, Howard and her team have put out campaign signs and spoken with constituents by word of mouth.

Howard is being challenged by Keith Townsend, a former history teacher from West Rowan High School. Townsend, a Democrat, was nominated in late July to challenge Howard after her previous Democratic challenger, Barbara Howard, dropped from the race.

“I’m working with the people for the people,” Howard said, adding that she’s not ashamed of anything she’s done while in office for more than 30 years.

Howard lives in Mocksville. She graduated from Salem College in 2003. Her professional experience includes being a realtor and appraiser.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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