Joe John - NC House District 40 | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week
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Joe John - NC House District 40 

Name as it appears on the ballot: Joe John

Campaign website:

Phone number:  (919) 602­4215


Years lived in the district:  24

In your view, what are the three most pressing issues North Carolina faces? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?

A strong educational system from bottom to top, from the beginning years to the community college and university levels is absolutely essential, not only to allowing all North Carolina children to develop their natural abilities to the fullest, but also to promoting and supporting a robust economic and business climate in our State. Recent studies indicate that the emerging job market in North Carolina will require post­high school training and skills.  As the proud father of three children educated in North Carolina schools and the doting grandfather of a young girl in the very early stages of that process, I believe we must maintain a high quality connected educational system in which all North Carolina’s children will be prepared for the jobs of the future. As a member of the General Assembly, I will fight for the resources to maintain such a system.

We must establish by law a truly independent, impartial, non­partisan Redistricting Commission to draw North Carolina congressional and legislative districts so that every NC citizen has fair and equal representation and so NC voters will select their representatives instead of politicians selecting their voters as happens today. Both parties have abused the current system which has resulted in numerous “safe” districts where Representatives are not held accountable for their actions and may govern from the extreme right or left without considering different views. The redistricting task, next scheduled to correspond with the 2020 census, must be taken out of the hands of the politicians and placed with an independent group. The recent drafting of model North Carolina Congressional Districts by a group of retired Democratic and Republican North Carolina Supreme Court Justices under the auspices of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy demonstrates that this can be done where there is the talent and the will to do so. My first act as a member of the General Assembly will be to join as a Sponsor the Redistricting Bill presently pending in the State House and its passage will be my top priority.

Based upon my holding court in 29 counties during nearly 25 years of service as a District Court, Superior Court and Court of Appeals Judge, I am aware that the needs of our judicial system, particularly in the area of technology, have long been ignored, with the judicial branch of government almost never receiving more than 2% of our State budget. Swift justice in the criminal courts and the prompt resolution of litigation in the civil courts, where business disputes, domestic cases and other lawsuits are decided, have become seriously jeopardized. It is time to bring our courts statewide into the 21st century.

In regards to all three of the above, it must be noted that, realistically, a single legislator can only do so much. However, my training and experience in both the judicial and executive branches of government, and my years as a lawyer, mediator, arbitrator and judge, put me in a position to speak up and be heard on issues that matter, promoting good ideas and helping prevent bad ideas from becoming law.

If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?

On her campaign website, my opponent professes her adherence to a rigid political ideology, stating that her views and votes on issues reflect that ideology. Presumably acting accordingly, she has in recent years been a Co­Sponsor of legislation such as the “Woman’s Right to Know Act” (HB 589, 2011), “The Voter Information Verification Act” (H 589, 2013), and “The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act” (HB 2, 2016). In addition, she was the primary sponsor of “An Act to Protect Jobs and Investment by Regulating Local Government Competition with Private Business (HB 129, 2011), which precluded local governments from providing high­speed Internet access and effectively left smaller rural communities not served by a major private provider deprived of such access

As opposed to conforming to ideological principles, I believe that the issues facing North Carolina and District 40 are such that we should keep an open mind and carefully consider all proposals rather than rejecting a potential solution simply because of the source. As I did during my many years as a Judge, I will carefully consider all sides of every issue, diligently review the pros and the cons, and make the best decision I can under the law and in the best interests of the taxpaying citizens of our State.

The most contentious issue of this year—and this election—has been HB 2, especially in light of the NCAA’s decision to pull its championships from the Tar Heel state. Do you believe that the law has provided any benefits to North Carolina? Do you believe it should be repealed root and branch? If not, in what ways would you like to alter it?

As is abundantly clear from the events following the secretive drafting and hasty passage of HB 2, no benefit has accrued to North Carolina from the law. I favor immediate repeal.

Currently, twenty­nine states have minimum wages above the federal minimum. North Carolina is not among them. Do you believe North Carolina should raise its minimum wage—or, alternatively, give municipalities the ability to raise minimum wages within their jurisdictions?

One size does not fit all among North Carolina’s widely disparate 100 counties. I favor giving local governments the authority to set minimum wages within their jurisdictions.

In a similar vein: beyond the bathroom issue, HB 2 also overrode local antidiscrimination ordinances, which has become something of a pattern in recent years, with the legislature preempting local governments from passing laws it doesn’t like. Do you believe the state too often intrudes into local affairs? Why or why not?

Yes. Since 2009, the current majority in the General Assembly (ostensibly the party of “smaller” government) has intruded itself into the operation of numerous local governments, including creating new Board of Education and County Commissioner districts in Raleigh and new City Council districts in Greensboro, as well as injecting itself into the operation of the City of Asheville water system and the Charlotte Douglas international airport, meddling in the City of Raleigh lease proposals for its Dorothea Dix property, prohibiting local governments from establishing their own environmental regulations, and even reviewing the City Council districts in the small community of Trinity.

Notwithstanding that North Carolina is generally a Dillon’s Rule state, meaning local government authority is derived from the legislature, all these matters appear more appropriately determined, not by politicians in Raleigh, but by local government officials who live, work and govern in their communities.

What, in your view, is an ideal salary for a beginning teacher? If it is more than the $35,000 currently being earned by beginning teachers in North Carolina, how would you work with your colleagues to increase teacher pay?

I favor raising the pay of North Carolina teaching professionals to the national average within a reasonable, stable salary progression program so as to attract and retain capable, dedicated teachers and administrators.  I would rely on my training and experience noted in the response to question # 1 to work with other legislators, in both parties where possible, to achieve such a result. Rather than raising taxes, eliminating pork­barrel spending and reordering current priorities are means to consider for funding increased teacher pay.

A federal appeals court struck down the state law requiring voter ID and containing other voting restrictions. Do you agree or disagree with that decision? Please explain your position.

Yes. The Court decision focused upon the clear legislative intent, in enacting the law, to discriminate on racial grounds. Racial discrimination cannot be tolerated as the basis for enacting any North Carolina law.

In recent months, two public servants in the Department of Health and Human Services have accused administration officials of minimizing the risks that Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds pose to nearby water wells. Do you believe the state has taken the proper safeguards to protect drinking water?

No. As noted in the response to question # 5, 2013 legislation prohibited local governments, directly answerable to local citizens, from enacting community environmental regulations and removed all state and local regulations stronger than federal regulations. Local attempts to regulate or prohibit fracking, for example, were consequently thwarted. The General Assembly also defunded and dismantled the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, calling what remained the Department of Environmental Quality, thereby reducing the State’s capability to monitor and protect the environment, especially drinking water. Finally, with reference to the Coal Ash ponds, Duke Energy and the State (DEQ) should stop talking and start doing.

Unfortunately, 2016 legislation will allow Duke to proceed with “cap in place” methods instead of full excavation and closing of unlined coal ash ponds. Duke may also pass along the costs to its customers, North Carolina taxpayers.

The current administration has been frequently criticized by environmental advocates over things like, for instance, the cleanup of Jordan Lake. Do you believe these criticisms are warranted? In what ways do you believe the state’s current environmental policies have succeeded or failed? What would you like to improve?

The criticisms are warranted. The Jordan Lake Rules, for example, aimed at restoring water quality in the Lake, were ultimately completed in 2009 after years of careful negotiations and deliberations as well as input from a multiplicity of stakeholders.  However, cleanup of the Lake has been repeatedly delayed by the General Assembly through such diversionary means as the now­discredited use of “Solar­Bee” devices at a cost of $1.3 million. Provisions in the 2016 budget again delayed implementation of the Rules until 2019, pending further “study.” There should be no further delay of the Jordan Lake Rules and the General Assembly should fully follow the mandate of Article XIV, Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution to “conserve and protect [State] lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry.”

Democrats have called for an expansion of Medicaid, which would provide health coverage for 244,000 North Carolinians. Would you support such a move? Why or why not?

Yes. Opponents have put forth no defensible basis for rejecting Medicaid expansion. First, as noted in the question, health care would be expanded to thousands and thousands of previously uncovered North Carolinians. Next, a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation study found a 3.4% increase in Medicaid spending in expansion states, but a 6.9% Medicaid spending growth in non­expansion States such as North Carolina, strong suggesting that expansion is the more fiscally responsible choice. Further, a NC Institute of Medicine study projected the expansion would create 25,000 jobs in North Carolina in the first few years following expansion and 18,000 permanent jobs thereafter. Finally, expansion would provide billions of dollars to NC hospitals, many of which are struggling to survive.

Similarly, in recent months two large insurers have decided not to issue policies on North Carolina’s Affordable Care Act exchange, which puts those on the individual market in something of a precarious situation. What do you believe the state can or should do to improve its citizens’ health care?

Candidly, this is a complex issue which will require significant further study on my part. I would want to receive input from the companies, advocacy groups, other experts and affected citizens. It does appear that companies continuing to issue policies for North Carolina on the federally managed exchange have also either raised rates or are projecting rate increases. State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin proposes, as a solution, either the establishment of a state­based exchange or expansion of Medicaid, explaining that either would result in lower rates.

Name three things you would change in the current state budget and, if your changes would free up money, what your spending priorities would be.

First, the budget process itself needs to be reformed and streamlined so as to eliminate provisions which are not fully vetted in an open and transparent environment and which fail to focus upon those monetary appropriations truly needed to fund ultimate priorities. In short, we must eliminate the current short­circuiting of the legislative committee process which results in the ultimate Budget containing dozens upon dozens of substantive provisions, both new and amended laws, totally unrelated to state spending. Next, the practice of pork­barrel spending, which results in hundreds of thousands of tax dollars being expended on local projects in the districts of influential lawmakers, must be discontinued. Finally, I would end the sleight of hand by which reductions in the personal income tax are supplanted by expanding the sales tax on goods and services. Any funds freed up should be directed to the salaries of state employes and teaching professionals.

Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.

During the bulk of my professional career, while serving as a Judge, arbitrator and certified Superior Court Mediator, my role was either to reach a judicial or arbitration decision based upon the consideration of the opposing views presented or to conciliate the opposing views of the parties to a mediation. Particularly as a judge and arbitrator, I have found my initial impression changed as the result of the argument presented.

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