Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
Kevin Corbin was elected into his freshman term in the North Carolina House of Representatives last November and began serving in January, and in the past nine months, Corbin has spent 120 days in Raleigh representing North Carolina’s 120th House District, which encompasses Macon, Cherokee, Clay, and Graham counties.
“I really enjoyed my freshman year in office,” said Corbin, who just last week concluded his last session for the year. “I knew going into it there would be a big learning curve going from a county commissioner to a state legislator and it certainly was a learning experience. As a county commissioner, you knew if you wanted to get something done, you needed three votes, but in the state it’s much more cumbersome than that.”
Corbin said the while there was a lot to learn in his first year in office, he said serving was what he expected it to be and he is grateful for the guidance of seasoned legislators he was able to call on.
“My first year was what I expected,” said Corbin. “ I knew it was going to be a challenge and an adjustment, but I was fortunate enough to be able to call on Roger West, some weeks I talked to him daily. He was a great resource. He helped me navigate the legislature and know who to talk to and how to get things done. I am grateful to have had him to guide me through the first year. Senator Jim Davis was also extremely helpful and a great resource this year. Having him working on issues in the Senate, that I wanted done in the house for our districts made things easier.”
Even though Corbin’s time in Raleigh is on hold until next January, he continues to work in the district. He spent time on Monday and Tuesday with Speaker of the House Tim Moore. On Tuesday, the pair were joined by other state leaders in Cherokee County where a bridge dedication ceremony was held to honor Roger West for his decades of service to the state.
The learning curve Corbin was prepared to face wasn’t what he views as being his greatest challenge. According to Corbin, he said physically getting to Raleigh each week was the hardest part of the first year.
“The drive to Raleigh each week was without a doubt the hardest part,” said Corbin. “From my house in Holly Springs to the state capitol it is 313 miles – that is 626 each week. At the beginning I thought there would be weekends I would stay there, since the legislature is in session Monday through Thursday, but when I got started I realized that just wasn’t possible. I don’t live in Wake County, so when I wasn’t in session, I needed to be home in Macon County.”
Corbin spent four weeks each month in Raleigh From February through June and 2-3 trips to Raleigh in August, September and October in addition to his first week at the end of January. For those nine trips, Corbin would have driven 5,634 miles which is just about the length it would take to drive from coast to coast and back again.
And while North Carolina isn’t due back in session until Jan. 9 for a three day session, in the event of a special called session or if any of the half a dozen committees Corbin serves on meet, which he said they plan to do about once a month over the next few months, Corbin’s drive to Raleigh is anything but over for the year. After the Jan. 9 three-day session, Corbin isn’t scheduled to return for a regular scheduled session until the first of May.
While the House voted on dozens of bills this year, Corbin said he is most proud of working with Senator Jim Davis to secure small schools funding in the House Budget, which was ultimately passed for the state.
“That effort meant $1.5 million in small schools funding for Macon County because of Nantahala and Highlands Schools,” said Corbin. “That bill was possible with the help of Senator Davis who pushed it through the senate and Speaker Tim Moore.”
Corbin said that during a visit Moore made to WNC last year, Corbin took Moore to Cherokee County through Wayah Road to show Moore Nantahala School so he would be able to understand just how remote the 120th district is, which he believes helped to get the small schools funding.
On the state level, Corbin said he is most proud of House Bill 13, for which he was one of four primary sponsors.
“That bill gave flexibility to school superintendents in regards to class sizes,” said Corbin. “While it just gave the flexibility of three students, it meant $400,000 additional dollars for Macon County. While I am proud to have helped out my district, on the state level, that legislation has a big impact for school districts across the state. In Mecklenburg County, that legislation saved them $10 million.”
Corbin’s advocacy for education in his first year, paired with his experience in education may be the reason he was appointed to both the K-12 education committee and the education appropriation committee. As a freshman, Corbin was also appointed to serve on committees for transportation, wildlife, and state and local government.
“Being on those committees, any bills that relate to those things, I am part of a small group who sees those bills first and makes changes and recommendations before the rest of legislators are asked to consider it,” said Corbin.
The Speaker of the House also appointed Corbin to serve along with eight other legislators on a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology. This committee will focus on internet connectivity, especially in rural areas of the state.
“I am very happy the Speaker has asked me to serve in this capacity,” said Corbin. “Our goal and my goal is to bring reliable high speed internet to every citizen of N.C. It is a daunting task but one which I am willing to help tackle. There were only two freshmen legislators included, myself and Cody Henson from Transylvania County.”
Moore also appointed Corbin to serve on Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform interim committee.