Freshman NC House members bring experience to tackle states big issues

Reps. Holly Grange (R-Wilmington) and Greg Murphy (R-Greenville) hope to leverage extensive backgrounds in military, business and health care during their inaugural terms as members of the peoples house

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Representative Greg Murphy

RALEIGH — When the North Carolina General Assembly reconvened to begin the 2017 legislative session the body welcomed an historically high number of freshman legislators. Two of those new lawmakers, Rep. Holly Grange (R-Wilmington) and Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), bring experience relevant to some of the top issues facing the Old North State with expertise in military and health care matters, respectively.Murphy, originally from Raleigh, has spent the last 23 years with his wife and three children as a practicing surgeon in Greenville, serving three years as chief of staff for Vidant Medical Center.”That’s the expertise that I bring to the House, and I think it’s good that in the House and in the Senate folks bring areas of expertise in,” said Murphy. “Not that they know everything about everything, but I have years of experience not only as a practicing physician, which I still am, but I’ve also had administrative experience as chief of staff of the busiest hospital in the state. So I’m hoping to be able to bring experience to discussion as we move forward with Medicaid reform and other challenges facing us in the state regarding healthcare.”Leveraging that experience, Murphy has been named chairman of the House Standing Committee on Health, as well as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services.Grange, a self-labeled “military brat,” went to high school in Fayetteville and is a graduate of West Point, serving in the U.S. Army for nearly nine years as an engineer officer at Fort Bragg, Washington, D.C., and Korea. After active duty, Grange served in the Army Reserves for seven years, leaving as a major, and earned her law degree. Her husband is a small-business owner and retired Army veteran, and her son also serves the nation.”I’m very in tune with military issues; I have a son who is an Army captain who’s in the process of being transferred back to Fort Bragg and will go straight to Iraq,” said Grange. “I think I can look at things with a wider lens because I know what’s going on beyond the borders of North Carolina more so than people who have not lived abroad.”As these freshmen get up to speed with the legislative process, they look to put their experience to work. Murphy will utilize his professional background as the state deals with reforms.”Health care is the second biggest budget item and now it looks like the [Affordable Care Act] will be repealed, at least part of it anyway,” said Murphy. “We’re having to have discussions about how we recreate Medicaid; how we get access for folks to get health care, but also how we make it affordable for everybody.”Rates have skyrocketed in the last several years — I know that as an employer, as a small businessman. I employ 56 people with partners and we have to pay health insurance premiums for all of them. We have to put some heads around this issue and I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be a good challenge, but it’s a discussion we have to have sooner than later.”In addition to Grange’s military background, her business experience drives much of her interest in political reform.”My focus is what we need to do in southeast North Carolina and throughout the state to make our state more attractive to business,” said Grange. “I think the best thing we can do is employ a little common sense. I’m not sure that that always comes into play. Time is money when you own a small business, and if things take you too long to get approved, planned, certified, you’re losing valuable time and money.”Both lawmakers had little political experience and were originally appointed to fill vacant seats, then won re-election in 2016. While both noted some culture shock coming to the legislature, they are also encouraged by the sense of community and genuine efforts to do good on both sides of the aisle.”There are a lot of folks who are very intelligent here,” said Murphy. “I turn to my fellow legislators if their field is agriculture for example — I don’t know anything about agriculture — so I have to turn to them for explanation, but I also have to turn to them for guidance in helping me form an educated opinion. We have to be able to rely on each other in a nonpartisan way.”As for Grange, the order in the legislature is a far cry from that of the Army.”We’re used to things starting at that time and that doesn’t happen in the legislature,” said Grange, laughing. “The legislature lends itself to a certain amount of respect for others because of the decorum required.”