Sen. Wiley Nickel, D-Wake, reflected on his time representing the 16th District in the North Carolina General Assembly and his plans for the future as a newly elected U.S. House member representing the 13th District Tuesday at a farewell press conference.
He thanked his wife Caroline for her support, along with his son Prescott, and daughter Adeline, who were all present.
Although he wished more things were accomplished, he said he was proud of the things that were, including the bipartisan work done on last year’s budget and how putting aside partisan politics and reaching across the aisle to find common ground makes a real difference in people’s lives.
Nickel, who was first elected in 2018, said he was proud of his two terms in office and how the state Senate passed Medicaid expansion in a bipartisan way. He encouraged members of the House to act on the expansion if it comes to the floor for a vote.
He said the legislature made great progress in getting broadband to more rural areas across the state but more needs to be done so kids don’t have to go to a McDonalds’s to get Wi-Fi to do their homework.
On a personal note, he mentioned the issue of medical marijuana and how important it is for him that a bill on it be passed (a bill passed through House and Senate committees).
“My father died of cancer when I was 18, and he used marijuana illegally during his final time on this earth,” Nickel said. “Everybody who’s suffering should be able to have access to medical marijuana and anything that will help them during that time. We also heard a lot of testimony from veterans suffering from PTSD that used marijuana to help with that. That’s incredibly important. I want to continue giving voice to their concerns.”
Nickel said North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system hasn’t seen any changes in over 10 years and needs to be fixed. He said he pushed a bill that would have given close to $1.5 billion back to small businesses in the state and that, at one point, North Carolina had close to $3.6 billion in its trust fund.
“That’s an area where I’m hoping that there is bipartisan consensus to give a two-year tax holiday for every business in the state because we have the money to do it,” he said. “That will help boost our economy and allow employers to pay workers better, to pay workers a living wage, and hopefully to fix our unemployment insurance system.”
Nickel also stressed expanding funding for police and mental health co-response programs.
“When we continue to cut taxes, it means there’s less money available for public services and for our police, so I want to encourage folks in the legislature to continue to do all they can to support law enforcement with more robust funding, especially when we talk about things like mental health co-response,” he said.
He also listed support for public education, childcare, and universal pre-K as important issues for working families.
Nickel once again cited doing things in a bipartisan fashion as important and one of the main reasons North Carolina was ranked No. 1 for business and is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country.
“North Carolina has become the No. 1 place in the country for business because of the great bipartisan work in the North Carolina General Assembly,” he said. “We’re experiencing rapid growth, and we have to act now to make sure that everyone that wants to come live and work in North Carolina as well as those that are already here are able to find housing, buy groceries and get utilities that they can afford. That’s the only way we can continue to sustain the growth and give every North Carolina family the opportunities they deserve, to find their American dream.”
Nickel said he is hopeful in moving on to Congress that issues like Medicaid expansion will be worked on further, but it all comes down to bipartisan relationships.
“I think that’s most important for my work as a blue dog in Congress,” he said. “I’ll be working for fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, but the relations I think that are really helpful are with folks like Tom Tillis, who I met with just the week before last. To do anything in Washington, we are going to need 60 votes in the Senate and a bipartisan group of members of Congress from the House, so finding that balance of things that we can do to compromise, I think that is so important.”
Immigration, Nickel said, is a great example of something that should get done on the federal level.
“We are close to protecting the dreamers, fixing a broken immigration system,” he said. “But folks on the left in my party need to come along with border security too. I’m somebody that certainly supports robust border security as part of a deal, as part of a compromise to make sure that we can get immigration reform. That’s something that we can do immediately that will help boost our economy everywhere.”
Nickel wrapped up by thanking the voters and constituents of North Carolina 13th district for sending him to Raleigh to be their voice.
“It is truly an honor to my colleagues in the North Carolina General Assembly on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “Keep doing the incredible work for the people of our state. They deserve real bipartisan solutions that lower their cost of living and help them build strong families here in North Carolina. We work best when we work together.”