Full Legal Name: Joshua Harold Stein
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Josh Stein
Office Sought/District: State Senate District 16
Date of Birth: September 13, 1966
Home Address: 216 E. Park Drive, Raleigh, NC 27605
Campaign Web Site: www.joshstein.org
Occupation & Employer: adjunct professor, Campbell Law
Years lived in North Carolina: I grew up in North Carolina and have lived here for most of my life.
Home Phone: (919) 803 7803
Work Phone: (919) 803 7803
1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
If reelected, my priorities will be to create jobs, protect public education, and improve health care.
The economic health of North Carolina is improving, but we still have a long way to go. We must continue to do all we can to spark economic activity that creates good jobs.
My priorities will be to continue my efforts to support clean energy jobs. The first bill I introduced was a tax credit to reward investment in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass. Because the General Assembly extended and expanded this tax credit, thousands of new jobs have been and will be created in North Carolina – jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.
This past session, we passed legislation to assist manufacturers of renewable energy products so that we are not only installing solar panels or windmills in North Carolina, but we are making them here, as well.
I will work to continue supporting the development of high tech jobs of the future. Today, more money is spent buying video games than purchasing tickets to see Hollywood movies. The Triangle is a hub for video game and video simulation development. The General Assembly passed a tax credit to help this burgeoning industry take root in North Carolina. We should look for other, creative ways to help this industry.
Similarly, I support the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which has helped North Carolina become the third largest hub of life sciences work in the nation.
Second, in addition to supporting business sectors where we have a comparative advantage and that have future growth potential, we need to continue to support small businesses as they struggle to grow in this tough economy. Last year, we provided tens of millions of dollars in tax relief to small businesses to help them weather the storm and improve their cash flow.
Third, we must continue to invest in community colleges and universities so that our students learn the skills they need to become critical thinkers and productive workers who can compete globally.
No public institution is more important than the public school system.
My wife Anna and I were both educated in North Carolina public schools; so are our children. I also taught high school English and economics in Africa for a couple of years. I know that no matter where you live, an education is essential to a better future.
To have the best education for our children, it is essential that we continue to prioritize the classroom. Even though the state faced approximately a $5 billion shortfall over the last two-years, we managed to balance the budget and stand by our schools. We must continue to keep teachers on the job and protect class size. We must fully fund enrollment growth at our community colleges so that everyone who needs to go back to school to retool can. Finally, we must fully fund enrollment growth at our universities and provide more need-based financial aid so everyone who is qualified for college can attend.
We must continue efforts to improve our health care system. We must lower health care costs while improving quality and make sure every child has health care coverage.
A central challenge in health care is the explosive increase in health care costs. In recent years, health care inflation has increased by double digits, four times the increase in wages since 2001. This trend is unsustainable.
For those of us fortunate enough to have health insurance, we worry every year how much more in co-pays, premiums, and deductibles will we face and at the same time how much our benefits will shrink. And our greatest fear is that we'll lose our coverage all together.
Rising health care costs must be contained.
We must prioritize preventive care, primary care, and disease management. It is more cost effective and better for health to prevent obesity than to treat diabetes, for instance. A visit to the emergency room costs 10 times more than a visit to a primary care doctor.
We should promote evidence-based medicine to ensure that our health care dollars are wisely spent and not wasted on treatments that do not help, or worse, harm the patient.
We need to encourage the development of electronic medical records and a health information exchange so providers can share their electronic records with each other. In this way, we can improve the quality of care and lower costs by avoiding duplicate tests and procedures. I serve on the board of the nonprofit North Carolina Health Information Exchange to help create this essential IT infrastructure.
Until national health reform takes full effect in 2014, we must continue to work towards our goal for all North Carolina children to have health insurance. No parent should ever have to hesitate to take a sick child to a doctor. Even with our difficult budget years, we expanded the number of children covered NC Health Choice and NC Kids Care. We also funded primary care clinics to help people who do not have health insurance in this difficult economy to receive health care.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you've identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
Whether in the General Assembly or previously at the Attorney General's office, I try to work hard and do a good job. A number of groups have recognized my efforts with a variety of awards, which is a real honor.
My colleagues at the General Assembly gave me the highest effectiveness ranking a freshman Senator has earned in a decade, according to the NC Center for Public Policy Research.
In addition, I was presented the following awards for my service in the Senate in my first term:
The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association "2009 Legislator of the Year" for my efforts to create clean energy jobs and to support renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The AARP of North Carolina "Legislator of the Year" for my legislation to protect consumers, particularly older North Carolinians, from identity theft.
The Metro Mayors' Association, which represents the mayors of the 25 largest municipalities in North Carolina including Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Chapel Hill, "Legislative Award" for my work to promote public transit and transportation issues.
Wake Up Wake County "Legislative Leadership Award" for my efforts to clean Falls Lake, Raleigh's polluted source of drinking water.
The North Carolina Association of Educators "Rising Star" for my efforts to improve public education.
The Sierra Club "Environmental Champion" for my efforts to ban plastic bags on the Outer Banks and to clean up Falls Lake.
The North Carolina Conservation Council "Green Tie Rising Star Award."
As the state's top consumer lawyer, I had success advocating on behalf of the public's interest at the legislature, helping to enact some of North Carolina's progressive, anti-predatory lending laws to protect homeowners, North Carolina's Do Not Call law, and North Carolina's Identity Theft Protection Act.
3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a practical progressive. I have strongly held beliefs about the kind of society we should form – one in which we provide fairness and opportunity for all, plan today for the challenges of tomorrow, and secure the common good. I also believe in getting things done.
These beliefs have underscored my career decisions at every step. After college, I taught high school in Zimbabwe to veterans disabled during their war of liberation against the colonialists.
After graduating from Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government, I chose to work for two economic development non-profits building wealth in low-income communities here in North Carolina through home ownership and small business development. I helped renovate abandoned rental properties into affordable, single-family homes in the Walltown neighborhood in Durham and the historic former African-American Mercy hospital in Wilson into a small business incubator and office building for nonprofits. I also raised more than $1 million in capital for minority credit unions to reinvest in homes and businesses across the state. As a U.S. Senate staffer, I helped to secure funding to redevelop eastern North Carolina devastated by Hurricane Floyd, in addition to preserving open space around Lake James protecting vital watersheds from overdevelopment.
For eight years, as the Director of the Consumer Protection Division, my job was to take on scam artists and work to ensure that everyone – especially the most vulnerable among us – gets a fair shake from corporations. We had a number of successes.
Tackling Predatory Lenders:
Negotiated a $22 million settlement to provide refunds to thousands of people who were tricked by a major subprime mortgage lender into buying a useless product – the largest state consumer protection case in North Carolina history.
Helped chase all payday lenders out of North Carolina; they charged financially strapped working people interest rates of more than 500% on loans – rates that would make even loan sharks blush. Studies demonstrate that payday lenders target African-American and military communities to strip them of their wealth.
Helped enact strong laws to protect subprime home loan borrowers, laws that serve as national models.
Fighting Identity Theft:
Helped enact the Identity Theft Protection Act to give consumers more tools to protect themselves from thieves and to require government and businesses to do a better job of safeguarding our personal information.
Hanging Up on Telemarketers:
Helped to enact North Carolina's Do Not Call law to give every one of us the legal right to refuse commercial telemarketing calls.
Oversaw dozens of settlements totaling more than one million dollars enforcing the law against violators.
I have continued this practical, progressive vision in the State Senate fighting for clean energy jobs, clean drinking water, public transportation, public education, and protections against unscrupulous real estate investors, identity thieves, and property finders. I am proud to have played a role in making progress on all these fronts.
4. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
As I mentioned above, I have a progressive vision about the kind of society we should form. It should be a society in which we provide fairness and opportunity for all, in which we plan for the future, and in which we secure the common good. To build a just society, opportunity must be meaningful.
Opportunity begins with a quality education. Opportunity means that all children, no matter their background, come to school ready to learn; thus we must invest in quality pre-kindergarten programs. We must have the best schools possible, keep young people in school, and make sure that college is affordable for all.
Opportunity means that families are healthy. We must expand access to quality, affordable health care. We must contain runaway health care inflation. We must ensure all children in North Carolina have health care coverage and help businesses to provide greater coverage to their employees. We must also strengthen our network of public health clinics and provide meaningful mental health care.
Opportunity also means good jobs. That is why I have championed clean energy jobs, video game and simulation development, the biotechnology sector, and small businesses.
Opportunity also means that the government must create and enforce rules to ensure basic fairness in the marketplace. We cannot allow predatory companies to prey on the financial desperation of poor people. By advocating successfully for various laws to protect working people, I helped to kick the predatory mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and the foreclosure rescue consultants out of North Carolina. I believe that North Carolina is a better state as a result. That is why I lead the fight to end the scourge of Internet sweepstakes casinos once and for all. I will continue to be a champion for families in the Senate in pursuit of a more just society.
5. 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.
I have a deep belief in the equality and fundamental dignity of every person. My personal experiences supervising employees in both the public and private sector have confirmed my core belief that whether or not one is a good employee has absolutely nothing to do with one's race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. Laws prohibiting discrimination protects each of these classes, except that of sexual orientation. Therefore, I cosponsored legislation that would prohibit state and local governments from discriminating against gay and lesbian employees, just as the law shields other protected classes.
I also believe that all students, including gay and lesbian students, have a right to a safe learning environment at school and supported legislation to guarantee that right. I believe that same sex domestic partners should have the right to visit their partners in the hospital and would support legislation requiring health providers to grant extended visitation rights at the wish of the patient. Finally, I will oppose any effort to amend our state or federal Constitutions to engrain discrimination in those documents. As a result of my principled beliefs, I am pleased that Equality NC has endorsed me in this election.
6. If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a. Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?
Combating poverty requires helping people put more of their money in their pockets and then to protect them from those who would exploit them. We must affirmatively offer opportunity through early childhood education, strong public schools, and affordable community colleges and universities. To help work pay, I support strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit and raising the minimum wage. I support expanding investment in public transportation to help people get to work.
To help low-income people keep more of their hard-earned money, I worked to protect people who are financially vulnerable with the Homeowner and Homebuyer Protection Act, which protects people from abusive real estate transactions, legislation to ensure everyone can put in place a security freeze for free to protect themselves from identity theft, and a law to ban Internet sweepstakes casinos which prey on financially desperate people.
b. Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?
The average commute in Wake County is more than 30 minutes. The tens of thousands of people who commute every day through the Park need no convincing that traffic is a problem. Neither do the thousands of people who suffer from asthma because of the bad air we breathe in the Triangle, in part due to how much we drive.
With our population expected to nearly double in the next twenty years, these problems will only become worse. I-40 cannot get any wider. We must come up with an effective public transportation system. Failing to do so now will mean that it will only be more expensive in the future and will jeopardize our quality of life in the meantime.
I am proud of the General Assembly's passage of the Intermodal and Congestion Relief Act, which is probably the most important public transportation law ever enacted North Carolina.
c. Job creation: What strategies should the state use to attract new business and lower the unemployment rate?
See response to question #1.
d. Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?
See response to question #1.
e. Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?
North Carolina, like much of the rest of the county, is experiencing a growing foreclosure problem as a result of subprime lenders making loans that they knew borrowers could not pay back. Foreclosures not only cause financial and emotional distress to the families experiencing them, but they can have a terrible effect on neighborhoods and communities because foreclosures lower the value of neighboring properties. We have also seen how the subprime meltdown dragged our national economy into recession.
Last year, we enacted legislation giving the Commissioner of Banks greater authority to intervene in foreclosures to protect more people from this unfortunate fate. The General Assembly enacted the Homeowner and Homebuyer Protection Act, which I authored, to protect people from harmful transactions that often lead to foreclosure.
At the Consumer Protection Division, we worked hard to reduce unnecessary foreclosures. I helped the Attorney General form a partnership with the Commissioner of Banks and local housing counseling nonprofits across the state. We sought to link homeowners in distress with a counselor who can engage with the lender's servicing company to try to work out a solution. It is often in the interest of the lender to work out a compromise because once a foreclosure goes through, the home loses up to $50,000 in value immediately. Unfortunately, loan servicers have not been appropriately responsive to modifying loans directly with homeowners. Housing counselor intermediaries are often more successful with their intervention on behalf of homeowners. Therefore, we hope this program will keep more families in their homes.
I do not want to diminish North Carolina's crisis because to each of the tens of thousands of families who will experience a foreclosure this year and their neighbors, the crisis is absolutely real. Yet, North Carolina is fortunate that over the past few years to have had one of the lower growth rates in number of foreclosures in the nation. As the top consumer lawyer in the state, I worked hard to protect homeowners from abusive lending practices over an eight-year period. I helped to enact and enforce some of North Carolina's progressive, anti-predatory lending laws, laws that serve as national models.
North Carolina enacted the first anti-predatory lending law in the nation in 1999. We have since strengthened the protections afforded homeowners by regulating and imposing duties on mortgage brokers, who originated the majority of subprime loans; requiring that lenders only lend to borrowers who have an ability to repay the loan; giving homeowners facing foreclosure more information so they can challenge faulty foreclosures; giving homeowners more rights to vindicate themselves against abusive lenders; making mortgage fraud a felony; and making it a crime to prey on someone in foreclosure by taking payment in advance to negotiate with the lender. I played a role in the passage of each of these laws.
I was also part of enforcing North Carolina's strong laws against violators. I negotiated the largest state consumer protection case in North Carolina history, a $22 million case against a large subprime lender who tricked thousands of consumers into buying a useless product folded into their home loans. The Consumer Protection Division was part of two other national settlements with two other major subprime lenders that returned millions more to North Carolina consumers. The Division also went after dozens of scammers who tricked homeowners in distress out of whatever money the homeowners still have.
Even with all that we have done to fight predatory lending and to keep North Carolina's foreclosure rate to a minimum, there is more to be done, and I am ready to continue protecting families and their homes.
f. The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it's a mess. Now what?
Our mental health system indeed was a mess. In the name of "reforming" mental health over the past decade, the prior administration dismantled the old system without first ensuring a new system was in place and working adequately. As a result, families struggled to find services for loved ones with mental illnesses, and communities and emergency rooms were left grappling with the consequences.
The state has made some progress in the last couple of years. We must not stop until we can ensure that we provide quality mental health services both in our communities and in our state hospitals. To improve the community system, we must provide adequate care for people needing services by having enough beds in local psychiatric inpatient facilities or, if necessary, by contracting with local hospitals. In Wake County, I am very concerned about the possible closure of Dorothea Dix. There must be adequate, accessible alternatives.
The state must continue to focus on eliminating waste and abuse by private providers, which was estimated by some to be as high as $400 million in past years. We have taken steps in this regard by eliminating problem programs. Wasting mental health dollars on those who do not need it is outrageous when we need every available dollar to treat people with mental illness.
Finally, we must improve the quality of care at North Carolina's state psychiatric hospitals by paying staff more and, again, improving oversight. There are simply too many horror stories, patient deaths, and federal sanctions.
g. Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? Where else should the sales tax be applied? Should it be raised? What's your position on "combined reporting" for national corporations?
Our tax code is based on an early 20th century economy, designed during the Great Depression for an agriculture- and manufacturing-based economy. It is out of touch with today's more service-oriented economy. We must revisit and modernize the entire code to ensure that our system is fair, simple, stable, secure, and progressive.
We should close corporate tax loopholes and reward work by strengthening the State Earned Income Tax Credit. We should broaden the base on the sales tax to include more services so we can lower the rates and generate more stable revenues. Regarding property taxes, which like the sales tax is regressive, we should improve a refundable circuit-breaker credit for low-income homeowners and renters so they can offset their property taxes by claiming a refundable credit against their state income tax.
Energy: What steps, if any, should be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? What policies should be put in place to incentivize innovation in wind, solar and future energy sources?
I have worked to strengthen the clean energy economy in North Carolina and was honored that the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association awarded me its "Legislator of the Year" in 2009.
The clean energy economy produces good paying jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. It reduces our dependence on foreign oil. And it also helps us combat the climate crisis by reducing carbon emissions.
The first bill I introduced was an extension and expansion of the tax credit that rewards investments in renewable energy, such as wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric, and geothermal.
Had the General Assembly not passed this legislation, the state would have lost 100 businesses employing more than 3000 workers. But because the General Assembly extended the credit, in the next year alone, thousands of new jobs will be created and $700 million in capital investment will be unleashed in North Carolina.
The General Assembly also raised the cap from $100 million to $500 million on the aggregate outstanding amount of energy savings performance contracts state agencies can have with energy service companies, or ESCOs, at one time.
State agencies hire the ESCOs to make buildings and their systems more energy- and water-efficient. The ESCOs are then paid through the utility savings their efforts engender. The results are audited by a third party and guaranteed by the ESCO.
As a result of raising the cap, dozens of new projects will go forward, totaling $270 million in the first year, creating thousands of new jobs, and leveraging $100 million in stimulus funds for state universities.
Additionally, the state will consume less energy in perpetuity.
Finally, the General Assembly created a Green Business Fund to encourage green jobs and industries to grow in North Carolina.
We must continue to search for ways to help the state transition to a clean energy economy. This search involves identifying innovations in building construction, transportation, transit-oriented development, and energy production. I look forward to being part of this important search.
7. What local bills would you introduce and how closely will you work with local elected leaders in advancing their legislative agendas?
The Wake Legislative Delegation meets regularly with our municipal and county governments to consider their legislative agendas. Promoting public transportation and cleaning Falls and Jordan Lakes were important regional priorities. I helped Raleigh with local legislation to authorize certain clean energy projects and Cary to protect residents who have subscribed to the town's email distribution list from spammers obtaining and exploiting their emails through electronic public records requests.
8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights? Please address whether gay marriages or civil unions should be made legal in North Carolina; also, whether sexual orientation and identity should be added as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws.
See response to question #5.
9. Do you support women's reproductive rights, including the "right to choose" as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade? Given that North Carolina has the ninth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, do you support medically accurate sex education that includes information about birth control?
I support women's reproductive rights, including a woman's constitutional right to choose. If the United State Supreme Court were to overturn Roe, I will absolutely fight to protect North Carolina's current statute to protect that right here. I am proud to have supported legislation requiring a school reproductive health curriculum that includes both abstinence and comprehensive, medically accurate information on the prevention of STDs and unintended pregnancy. I am pleased that my steadfast support for reproductive rights has earned me the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of the Central NC and NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina in this election.
10. What steps will you take to increase transparency and outreach to constituents, and root out corruption, not only personally but among other General Assembly members?
I believe fundamentally in transparency and accountability. On a personal level, I routinely send out electronic newsletters updating constituents on my actions and requesting citizen feedback; I have regular meeting with individual constituents and groups; and I have community meetings in my district.
These values are not only personal to me, but I believe essential to the functioning of our state government. North Carolinians have to have confidence that their elected officials work in the public's interest, not to promote either their own private interests or special interests.
I am proud to have played an important role in the major ethics and campaign finance reform laws that the General Assembly enacted last year. The laws created substantially greater transparency in government; transparency leads to improved accountability. Elected officials who might otherwise consider taking official action for illegitimate reasons will now think twice.
We also passed a law to respond to the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which enables corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of their treasuries to advocate for the election or defeat of specific candidates. I disagree with the Court's decision, but because it is the law of the land, we enacted legislation to require greater disclosure by these third party corporate funders so the voters will at least know who is behind the ads.