State Rep. Jon Hardister has sponsored so many bills recently that his name should probably be changed to Bill Hardister.

On Thursday, April 25, Hardister provided an update and summary of those bills that include everything from legislation supporting a new mental health effort to a bill that would name the Moravian cookie the official state cookie.

Many of those bills now under discussion in Raleigh are particularly relevant to Guilford County, and Hardister said this week that things have gotten off to a good start with one bill – House Bill 471 – meant to help streamline physical and mental health services in North Carolina.

Hardister stated in his legislative update that it’s an honor to be the lead sponsor on this bill that directs the NC Department of Health and Human Services to create a workgroup to study ways to integrate physical and mental healthcare services.  This is now a particular area of focus in Guilford County as the county pursues an entirely new mental health model that will emphasize this kind of integration.

“The goal of this legislation is to increase efficiency,” Hardister wrote, “to make services more cost-effective; and to eliminate unnecessary rules that could drive up the cost of services.”

Hardister stated that the bill saw no opposition in the NC House of Representatives.

“We had a unanimous vote on this bill in the House and it is currently awaiting action in the Senate,” he stated on Thursday.

One interesting bill Hardister sponsored earlier this year is meant to greatly enhance education in robotics and the sciences statewide – and that bill also seems to be gaining a lot of support.  That’s House Bill 552, which is meant to “elevate” robotics and robotics competitions to the same level as athletic competitions in order to encourage student participation in that field.

Hardister said recently this would help area employers as well as students with an interest in robotics.

He wrote that this bill “would put robotics on par with athletics by allowing excused absences for competitions; setting rules for competitions; and creating grants for robotics programs.”

He added that many area companies are currently looking for graduates with skills in robotics.

Hardister also explained the origin of one of the more interesting bills he has put forth this year – a bill naming an official state cookie and ship.

“Several 4th grade students from Brooks Global Studies sent me letters suggesting that we make the Moravian Cookie the ‘Official State Cookie’ and the USS North Carolina the ‘Official State Ship,’” Hardister wrote in his update.  “The students contended that this would highlight the cultural impact that the Moravians have had on North Carolina and pay our respect to the heroes who served on the USS North Carolina during WWII. I thought this was a great idea, so we filed a bill to make it a reality.”

Another bill Hardister sponsored is House Bill 342, which is meant to strengthen human trafficking laws.

Another would clarify that taprooms that serve beverages – but that don’t prepare food – are permitted to allow pets inside if they choose. Other bills would authorize health care providers to report threats that they become aware of while treating a minor and increase funding to help foster children find a permanent home.

Among other bills Hardister has put in play this year is one that would create job-specific career and technical centers for high school students in Guilford County schools.  Yet another would provide funds to help special needs students obtain higher education at state universities.

There’s also even a bill to create a new NC Golf Council, “to help cultivate the social, educational and economical impact that golf has on North Carolina,”

Hardister is also pushing to establish a state Gaming Commission that would create a commission to oversee gaming activities in North Carolina while creating a study to determine the best way to authorize, legalize and regulate sports betting.