Name as it appears on the ballot: Jennifer Ferrell
Campaign Website: www.jenferrellnc36.com
Occupation & Employer: Candidate for NC House District 36
Phone number: 919-362-6142
Years lived in the district: 9 years
1. How would you rate the 2015 session of the General Assembly?
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If I had to grade the 2015 session of the General Assembly I would give them a D, up from a F grade in comparison to the 2013 session when the most extreme cuts to public education and regressive social, women's health policy took place. I rate them so poorly because of the current majority's policy priorities with taking over local Wake County control of our school board and county commission; the introduction of SB2 to restrict equality rights; allowing the expiration of solar tax credits; expansion of private school voucher money pulling it away from our public schools; and failure to expand Medicaid to name a few.
2. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what issues do you believe failed to get the attention they deserve and should be addressed in the next session?
If I win this primary I will be facing 6 term, 12 year incumbent Rep. Nelson Dollar. Decisions this representative has made with his vote that I continue to be disappointed with him voting in favor of regressive equality legislation SB2, voting for more private school voucher money, voting for solar tax credits to expire, voting to limit our local municipalities decisions for county commission and our school board. I feel that a fair pay increase for ALL public school teachers and properly funding per pupil spending as we have an increase of families moving to NC, as well as proper transportation and infrastructure funding failed to get the attention they deserve. All of these policy concerns, as well as adding back our Teaching Assistants for grades 2-3 and expanding Medicaid, as well as appointing an independent commission to draw legislative maps should be a focus next session.
3. Education spending, if you include the UNC system, accounts for more than half of the state budget. But per-pupil K-12 spending is among the lowest in the country. Does the state need to allocate more money to classrooms? Should teachers be given a raise? If so, how would you propose to pay for it?
The NCGA absolutely needs to allocate more money to our classrooms by increasing per pupil spending, funding our school boards statewide to provide adequate educational resources, basics like desks and reams of paper that are in short supply. Pre-K funding was cut dramatically with eligibility requirements and that effects how children who did not have access to Pre-K pull resources from Teaching Assistants, also cut in 2013~but no substantial raise for our teachers in it's place. Entry level and experienced teachers deserve raises annually based on reasonable performance measures. We could pay for it by not allocating substantial budget funds towards "Opportunity Scholarships", allocating more budget money pulled from regressive policy measures with fiscal notes attached to them to make up the difference and start to move forward again in raising our teacher pay and per pupil spending back to and above the national average.
4. The state in recent years has embraced charter schools and vouchers. Proponents argue that these alternatives to traditional public education offer options for parents who would otherwise have to place their child in a subpar school. Opponents argue that these alternatives divert resources from schools that need them the most. Do you believe North Carolina needs more or fewer of these alternative education options?
After witnessing the wave of for profit education measures in the state since 2013 alone with the introduction of ALEC's Opportunity Scholarships, private school vouchers and allowing for profit charters to set up shop in our local towns, we have a problem here because of this legislation passed in recent years. These policy measures expanding vouchers and charter schools has directly taken public school funding away for teacher pay, TA's, nurses and staff and classroom basics.
You can even consider it as outsourcing it in a very real way into schools that can discriminate based on religion or race and are not held up to transparent financial and educational standards. Not all charter schools or private schools are created equally and each have their own way of teaching, but in order to receive public tax dollars there has to be accountability. Let the voucher program in place at current funding (increased even more in 2015) and charter school performance measures and not closing down within a 2-3 yr period of time be a determining factor also if we need to expand these programs.
5. The secretive process by which the UNC board hired Margaret Spellings has been roundly criticized in the media. Do you believe the Legislature should be more directly involved with university-system decisions of this nature? Also, do you believe the Board of Governors has become overly politicized in recent years, as some have alleged?
Like all branches of government in the state of North Carolina today, all of them have become overly politicized from our state supreme court judges, to our NCGA Reps in both houses and the UNC Board of Governors, predominantly overseen by a Republican leaning majority responsible for hiring Margaret Spellings. The last thing we need is to let our current legislature meddle in the direct involvement of university-system decisions, and allow for input from administration, staff, faculty and students.
5. What are your three biggest budgetary priorities? Please be specific.
1) Restoring public education funding from teacher pay to bringing back 7k Teaching Assistants which were cut in 2013 and never brought back. No increase in budget funds to vouchers and specifically for-profit charter schools. Fund a new Teaching Fellows program to encourage our future generation to lead and teach the next.
2) Medicaid Expansion as it's the best economical way to lift those up currently falling through the cracks of our current state healthcare system and create jobs in the state through local healthcare jobs employing more of those who are looking for work daily.
3) Reinstate the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for our working poor families & reform our current tax system to be more fair across the board for all families and our small businesses
6. The Legislature has over the past three years flattened and reduced the state income tax, and critics contend that most of the benefits have accrued to those at the top of the socioeconomic ladder. Do you believe the state’s tax system is equitable and prudent? If not, how would you like to see it changed?
Since our NCGA majority overhauled our income tax plan, as well as expanding the state sales tax, it has directly effected our middle and lower class families negatively. An increase in DMV fees, higher taxes on service contracts for cars and appliances, as well as movie, concert and sporting event ticket prices are not benefitting our working families in any way when we are already stretching our dollar. The current regressive tax plan needs to be overhauled once again to more of a graduated tax rate because it is proving to not be equitable for all who do need the tax savings where they can get them.
7. North Carolina has not executed anyone in 10 years, but it has 148 people on death row. Would you support restarting executions, or do you believe the death penalty should be abolished?
Our state legislature should consider abolishing the death penalty because we haven't utilized it in over a decade and it can be a costly measure, in addition to the uncertainty of how much it deters serious crime. When it comes to matter of faith and the right to life perspective, it is humane to abolish capital punishment. The death penalty does nothing to enhance public safety and we've also seen innocent people in NC specifically being released from death row. A NCGA 2015 signed law removed safeguards around executions, removed requirements for public rule-making processes, allows for NC to withhold basic information about execution drugs and protocols, where they were obtained and who is involved. It no longer requires doctors to be present and makes it more likely that executions will be handled without extreme care.
8. Last year, over the governor’s veto, the Legislature passed S.B. 2, which allows magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex-marriage ceremonies? Do you support S.B. 2 or believe it should be repealed? Why or why not?
I do not support SB2 or feel that was a sound policy decision from our NCGA out of all of them combined in 2015. When you're focused on your own faith, religious beliefs and tying that into your political/policy leanings that is blatant treading on other people's rights to love and marry who they wish that is unacceptable and hypocritical. It should absolutely be repealed because the legislative overreach is an abuse of power. Federal laws are not enough to provide religious accommodations for government officials to opt out. These government officials took an oath to support and defend our Constitutional rights, all of us, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
9. Also in the last year’s session, the Legislature passed a bill forcing abortion providers to send the Department of Health and Human Services ultrasound images of some aborted fetuses. Do you believe such provisions are necessary, or is this a case of the state inappropriately interfering in women’s health care decisions?
Since 2013 alone, there's been a direct assault against rights for women's private health choices. Those decisions should be left to women and their doctors, not policy makers. The 2015 ultrasound provision that went into place is truly another case of state government overreach, direct example of larger and not smaller government is making it's way into your personal business any opportunity they can find during a legislative session. Don't tread on me works both ways and I will fight for women's access to privacy in making their own personal health decisions.
10. If elected, what would you do to protect North Carolina’s environment and natural resources? Do you believe state environmental regulatory bodies need more funding or less funding, and why?
If elected to serve the people of NC House District 36, I would consider balance with all forms of energy production and regulation, also ensuring there are appropriate public health protections and safeguards. As a mother and candidate for this seat, I want to protect my family, those in the district and our state, from anything that may harm them of make them sick. NC has a constitutional mandate to protect our environment as written in ARTICLE XIV Sec 5. "Conservation of Natural Resources." As legislators with the duty to serve the people and also uphold the state constitution by doing so, we need to ensure should policy is created and enforced. I would be in favor of state environmental regulatory bodies receiving more funding so they can properly and transparently conduct their assessments of our water, air and soil quality.
11. In recent years, the Legislature has reconfigured districts for both the Wake County Board of Education and the Wake County Board of Commissioners in a manner that critics allege was done to boost Republican electoral hopes. Do you believe this redistricting was proper? Would you support repealing these bills?
There was nothing about the process of the NCGA majority using their form of government overreach to extend to our county school board and county commission districts that was proper or an example of a policy they should be focused on. I support repealing these bills to ensure our municipalities and local education boards are not the targets of ideology and a power grab by the "majority" currently in NCGA to rig the game in this realm also. Other statewide counties were not included or a focus of redrawing these maps and the reality is our legislators have realized what they're up against in recent democratic wins for these seats.
12. On reapportionment, both parties have shown that they will abuse the redistricting process when given a chance. Will you support a bill in the next session to turn all future redistricting over to a non-partisan or bi-partisan independent commission?
I am absolutely in favor of supporting a bill that would turn all future redistricting over to a nonpartisan commission for the redrawing of legislative districts. Along with 59% of North Carolinians who recently polled by Public Policy Polling want NC law changed so that "districts are drawn in a nonpartisan fashion." Compared with nine percent of voters who opposed the transition, that is a substantial majority who want to see these changes. Take it out of the hands of legislators to have this responsibility in the first place, especially in drawing the maps. Instead focus responsibility on a bi-partisan vote to pass them for the PEOPLE to have their voices heard and properly represented.
13. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
As a mother to young children and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America, I have been all too aware and familiar with what my children and their peers are up against with gun violence and accident/negligence prevention. I have advocated with other mothers and their children at our NCGA for safer gun laws and I will continue to take a stand against any alarming gun legislation that may come up again from the well funded gun lobby. It may not go over well with a portion of voters in the district who's vote I would appreciate for other policy common ground and interests, but I will take a stand here if need be in the name of safety and not taking anyone's right to bear arms away at the same time in doing so.