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Freshman Wins AARP Legislator of Year Award

Josh Stein got hooked on state politics as a law school intern for the powerful House speaker, Dan Blue, in 1994. From his perch at the epicenter of the General Assembly, Stein realized how much influence a state legislator could wield. Now 43, Stein is in the Senate working alongside his old boss. As a first-term senator, D-Wake, he is earning attention as an advocate for consumers’ rights.

Before running for office, Stein was head of the consumer protection division of the Attorney General’s office. In his seven-year tenure in that job, Stein helped enact laws to cut down on telemarketing calls and give consumers more protection from identity theft.

According to the Insider, a nonpartisan state government news service, almost half the bills that Stein was the primary sponsor of became law, no small mark for a first-term lawmaker. In fact, Stein had the third highest percentage of public bills enacted into law among all 50 Senators.

Among the 10 bills that became law:

  • Strengthening the state’s identity theft law by making it easier for consumers to place a security freeze on their credit report.
  • Capping fees that property finder companies can charge for helping consumers recover unclaimed property.
  • Creating a financial literacy council that would oversee financial education for students.

AARP North Carolina recently honored Stein with its 2009 Outstanding Legislator Award. Bill Wilson, associate state director for advocacy, said Stein is “a strong voice on behalf of consumers, particularly for older adults in this state because they are frequently the targets of people who want to scam or take advantage of them.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand described Stein as thoughtful, prepared and concerned. Stein wants to make sure that government is really there to help people, he said. “He’s everything you would hope to have in a legislator plus the fact that he is young, which is great,” Rand said.

Stein said he appreciates the ability to make an impact quickly with legislation at the state level, compared to the slow-as-molasses process in Congress.

When the next legislative session starts in May, Stein will pursue several consumer protection issues. He hopes to work to protect homeowners from foreclosure rescue scams and to prevent abuses in lease option and contract-for-deed sales. He also said he will push for greater incentives for property owners to produce renewable energy.

He said he tries to find ways he can make things better for people, a lesson learned from his father, Adam, a prominent civil rights attorney, and mother, Jane, who has always been active in her community. They taught Stein, now a father of three, and his siblings that the world was in constant need of improvement.

“It was just how we were raised, that you try to improve what needs improving in the society that you live in, try to make things better,” said Stein.

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